Do You Live Up to Your Brand?

As California suffers from one of the worst droughts in recent history, it was recently reported that the chairman of the board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD), was among some of the worst offenders in personal water consumption—yet he recently launched an advertising blitz to persuade 19 million people to save water.

As California suffers from one of the worst droughts in recent history, it was recently reported that the chairman of the board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD), was among the worst offenders in personal water consumption—yet he recently launched an advertising blitz to persuade 19 million people to save water.

When confronted with the evidence, offenders offered excuses ranging from “I may have unintentionally over watered,” to “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how I can reduce my water rate.”

Forget all the hard work we marketers do to try and help companies like MWD build a positive perception of their brand among their target audiences. Those efforts are literally flushed down the drain by the ignorance of their senior management.

Edward Leaman, branding consulting for companies like California Closets, notes that, “Brands are extremely complex and have a central, organizing principle and core purpose that is resolute … brand values guide decision-making.”

For MWD, those core brand values (aside from the obvious mission of providing high quality water in an environmentally and economically responsible way) include some ethical ones, like striving to “incorporate the mission of Metropolitan in their daily work life.”

But brand blunders aren’t just limited to water officials; sadly, there are a host of other examples everywhere you turn.

Insurance companies hog the airwaves with promises of discounts and superior “customer care.” For State Farm, it’s unfortunate they didn’t articulate the importance of that brand value to their all their agents, as a recent experience left a colleague steaming after they discovered they were not adequately insured after a minor auto accident—evidently due to the agent’s inadequate review of a policy that was being transferred from another carrier.

Of course one less-than-ideal experience may not represent the most accurate KPI of their entire agent network, but the marketing team should be distraught to learn that its hard work on customer acquisition is negated by an agent’s laziness.

So whether you’re Starbucks looking to inspire and nurture the human spirit, one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time, or you’re the CDC seeking to protect America from health, safety and security threats, the process of building a brand experience model and a system that can deliver the brand promise at an extraordinary level is mission critical.

And if you work for a public agency like MWD, and your state is experiencing a drought, you’d best cut back on your water usage and lead by example, because your water bills are public record.

To put a spin on author H. Jackson Brown, Jr’s quote, your brand is always reflected in what you do—even if you think no one is looking.

In Praise of the Lowest Common Denominator

A few years ago, I was flying back from a client meeting via JetBlue. By the time I boarded the full flight, many of the passengers were already tuned in to DIRECTV. I glanced around and saw that I was in the company of a refined audience. Passengers were watching CNN, CNBC, The History Channel and an occasional ESPN News here and there. A fast 90-minute flight later, I looked around again. It was a different picture. Easily three out of four passengers (myself included) were transfixed by the much less highbrow “Growing Up Gotti.”

A few years ago, I was flying back from a client meeting via JetBlue. By the time I boarded the full flight, many of the passengers were already tuned in to DIRECTV. I glanced around and saw that I was in the company of a refined audience. Passengers were watching CNN, CNBC, The History Channel and an occasional ESPN News here and there. A fast 90-minute flight later, I looked around again. It was a different picture. Easily three out of four passengers (myself included) were transfixed by the much less highbrow “Growing Up Gotti.”

While we all aspire to spend our waking hours living the tippy-top “self-actualization” tier of Maslow’s Hierarchy, there are times when we just need a break from all that intellectual stimulation.

As marketers, you have an opportunity to make yourselves memorable by giving consumers an escape. It’s time to think beyond whitepapers and webinars and all the “good for you” stuff that you do for consumers.

Give Them Something to Talk About
We’re social animals by nature and love to share with others. Go to any website and take a look at the “Most Read” and “Most Emailed” list. I guarantee they look very different from each other. What we like to share are things that emotionally impact us in some way — whether it made us chuckle, surprised us or touched us.

Make Them Laugh
Speaking of laughter, if blender companies and insurance companies can be funny, you can too. If all else fails, make fun of yourself. Talk about the “unspeakable” and, if you’re brave enough, embrace the “ewww.” Check out Nasopure, a company that makes nasal wash devices, for an example of the latter.

Surprise Them With a Gift or Gesture
Who doesn’t like presents? Nothing makes an impact like a random act of appreciation. It can be as simple as mailing out a little “thinking of you” trinket (preferably without your logo on it) or a handwritten note to thank your customer for their business.

What are you waiting for? Channel your not-quite-so-evolved self and bring a “Growing Up Gotti” moment of pure delight into your customers’ lives.