One of the most important - and challenging - requirements for maintaining a strong, successful brand is consistency. That consistency comes from being absolutely crystal-clear about your brand definition, what your brand stands for, your value proposition and ultimately your brand personality. (Or "persona" to use today's buzz word!)
That brand knowledge becomes even more difficult in a world of near-constant change, where customer perceptions are challenged by new and different media, celebrities of the moment, and the constant noise of technology. However, without that brand knowledge, organizations can easily miss-step in their marketing implementation.
Let's consider three recent examples:
First, Delta Airlines recently released a YouTube video of four simultaneous flashmobs presented by their employees. Of course, these are not true flashmobs, because they were practiced and planned by the flight attendants/gate personnel themselves, but none-the-less, a very interesting effort. Based in Atlanta, I find myself on Delta airplanes frequently. And I have to say I usually don't enjoy it. So I was intrigued by the "flashmob". Is Delta trying to humanize themselves? Do Delta employees really love to work there? What's the purpose of this? Comments on the video were very interesting - some people loved it and some hated it, some complained about Delta service, and many (former) employees complained about working for Delta. I think the idea of the flashmob is so alien to the Delta brand we are used to, that many people just didn't know what to think! We may need to evolve our brand thinking, but this effort for Delta just didn't work.
Let's compare Delta to McDonald's social media effort back in January. McDonald's encouraged customer to share their #McDStories on Twitter. As reported in Financial Times, "...the clickable hashtag ... was quickly high-jacked by less-than-satisfied diners, who used Twitter to vent about food-poisoning incidents and allegations of low standards of employee and animal welfare at the restaurant group." As blogged by Thom Forbes, when you serve as many people world-wide as McDonald's, there are bound to be a few bumps in the road. But perhaps you shouldn't give them a pen and ask them to write about it? McDonald's - or the brilliant marketing exec who thought up this promotion - just wasn't being realistic about their brand. Being realistic means understanding the good and the bad, the opportunities and the limitations. Anyone with a strong understanding of McDonald's brand, who had maybe looked at some of McDonald's marketing research, read customer comment cards or actually talked to a live McDonald's customer would have been able to predict what happened.
Finally, let's look at IKEA. Marketing blogger Tom H.C. Anderson reported, "IKEA recently decided to stop carrying Swedish food brands; about 150 products in total including Swedish brands from Abba seafood to Marabou Chocolate have been eliminated. These quality brands have been replaced with lower cost products all carrying they IKEA store brand name." Apparently many Swedish ex-pats and Swedish-Americans have been relying on Ikea to stock their home-grown faves. But with most consumers relying on IKEA for stylish, economical furniture, I have to say that I understand IKEA's decision. Why should they distribute these other brands? Why shouldn't everything in the IKEA store be branded IKEA? If a minority of customers wants to blog or tweet their dissatisfaction over this decision, so be it. The reality is that most US consumers will not even notice the change. My only question is why distribute food at all? I suspect that this is not the last we have heard about IKEA-branded food, but so far, they have not yielded to the court of public opinion that social media has become.
So, of these three examples, who knows their brand the best? I would say Ikea. They are willing to make the tough decisions needed to manage a brand in our constantly changing, social-media dominated world. What about you? How well do you know your brand?
What do you think? Who knows their brand the best? Please comment!