A business woman was on her way to the airport to catch a plane across America for a meeting. It had been a manic day as always, but she just needed to grab her business suit from her regular dry cleaners. “Good morning” said the owner, “your suit is ready for you. I hope it is OK but I noticed one of the buttons was loose so I sewed it back on for you”. The woman was extremely grateful and immediately said a very big thank you. She asked how much extra she owed. The shop owner would not accept any payment for the button, simply saying “you are a regular customer, it was no trouble, it was the least I could do for you”. The woman was even more impressed saying she would be back in very soon. She left with a big smile on her face.
Running a little late she just made it to boarding on time, sat down and took a deep breath. A little while later the air steward walked down the isle with hot drinks and a free packet of peanuts. The woman asked the steward if she could have an extra packet as she had not had anything for lunch. The air steward replied that it was company policy to only give one packet per paying customer, so unfortunately no.
You can guess the woman’s reaction. She sat for the rest of the flight stewing about the airline that she uses frequently. She reflected on the day, and how a dry cleaner was happy to sew a button on for free when she spent just $10 but an airline begrudged a packet of peanuts after she had spent several hundred dollars.
The woman exited the plane, vowing never to travel with this airline again and the big smile was gone. It would be nice to say ‘only in America’ but of course this is a universal issue to brands all over the world. Or at least it should be!
Our expectations from one brand comes from our experiences with other brands, and the big change in today's world is how this expectation crosses over sectors. No longer are brands compared just within their sector. Our expectations for customer service may be inspired by shopping at John Lewis but we will sub-consciously expect the same level of service from a car dealership or a florist.
Our expectations for a brand experience cross not only sectors but also price points. In some ways, rightly so, a smile or hello does not cost anything. What some brands have to be particularly careful of, as in this story, is if a brand or sector operating within a lower price point, delivers a much better pound for pound service or product. They have raised the bar of expectation. This can lead to frustration at the very least, if not real anger towards the perceived money grabber. Acumen Design have refined our Brand Positioning tools to allow for this cross sector brand expectation. When researching the Brand World our clients exist within, we look at the competition but also related industries and sectors that interact with the same customers or clients, consciously and sub consciously affecting their expectations and buying decisions.
This can affect ideas on values and any brand expression we create. It also affects the visual Brand World landscape we research. Again we look beyond the sector, and see what we can learn from brands in other sectors that may be doing a better job of portraying a shared value or personality.
Brands need to step out from their bubble and see the bigger picture. It may be a big challenge, but it can’t be ignored. Working through a strategic approach as described can help you challenge your existing sector, perhaps even helping you differentiate your business.