...goes a long way, especially when I'm thinking about brands, brand management and the power of brands to build successful organizations and careers.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Does your brand smell funny?

First story: A few nights ago, I wandered into the kitchen for a little late night snack and some unfamilar, unpleasant odor hit me. When I asked my wife if she smelled it, she said she thought she smelled something earlier, and that it might be in the refrigerator drip tray. Now I didn't even know the refrigerator had a drip tray, so I proceeded to remove the little grill at the bottom of the fridge as my wife instructed, and then slowly pulled out the most disgusting puddle of hellish liquid this side of The French Quarter. Holding it as far away from my face as possible, I carried it outside, to the curb and then flushed it with the hose for a full five minutes. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect something that vile to be within feet of the food I eat. When I returned, my wife informed me that the water comes from the self-defrosting fridge and that she has to empty it two or three times a year, particularly with the humidity is up and the water doesn't evaporate.

Second story: I walked to lunch the other day, and at a fairly busy intersection on my route, I waited for a light. A guy on a nice looking motorcycle approached the red light and I thought to myself, "now there's one of the good motorcyclists. He's wearing a helmet, long pants, good boots: he's representing us motorcyclists." No sooner had I completed my thought did he blow right through the light and make a right turn without even the slightest pause. In all 50 states of the union, it's legal to make a right turn on red after a complete stop and yielding to all oncoming traffic.

Both stories are very representative of what happens in many organizations: the marketing or sales or management staff think everything's going fine, everybody understands the brand and everybody's living it. Then something starts to smell or someone blows through a stop light: someone ignores a rule, cuts a corner, shuts down early, blows off a customer and all the goodwill goes down the toilet. This is not an ongoing, low grade fever of failure that the zombies bring on: that kind of defect in the brand is pretty apparent. I'm talking about the occasional blip on the screen that goes unnoticed and unchallenged.

I like employees are your first line of brand defense, brand warriors unwilling to give an inch when it comes to protecting the reputation of their brand, unwilling to go to sleep on the job, unwilling to let the drawbridge down after hours.

And when one employee doesn't do the job, it's up to the others to let 'em know, hold them accountable. If employees are fully versed in the brand, are trained how to support the brand, tested to ensure they can protect the brand and empowered to defend the brand with every ounce of their being, they shouldn't be surprised when a co-worker holds them accountable.

Without that level of commitment by everybody involved, a little stink can bring down the brand.

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