The New Interface – Walk the walk then talk the talk
In the Nineties, there was a well-known graphic called ‘The Brand Iceberg’. It showed that portion of the brand that was visible and the portion of the brand which was not visible as an iceberg with the usual ten or eleven percent above the waterline, and the rest submerged.
The graphic has passed from view, which is unfortunate. When it arrived it was an energiser for the industry and led to a lot of discussion about sources of the brand, the bit below the waterline. Now that it is no longer visible, the focus on delivery of the brand seems to have shifted to a different focus: the communication aspect, which is the visible bit above the waterline.
Here’s the first truth. You can advertise or communicate until you are blue in the face, and your budget is so depleted that it is as skinny as a cow six months into a drought, but if your communication is not supported by good delivery of the brand, that budget is worthless, and you will have a better chance of a return to that spend by putting it on 35 black on a roulette wheel.
In case you haven’t read one of these columns before, I will reiterate the core insight at this point: a brand is a relationship between a consumer and a product.
Let’s use an analogy here. The menu may be beautiful, the setting may be exceptional and the aroma from the kitchen may be good enough to wake the dead, but if the waiter doesn’t come to the table or gives surly service, the restaurant will not be visited again. The money spent on the menu and setting are wasted, the food doesn’t reach the table, so the ingredients, kitchen and kitchen staff are approach the status of non-recoverable costs, and the bottom line is obviously in jeopardy.
In the scenario above, the service needs to be trained and motivated or fired as a major threat to the viability of the business.
There’s more to it than that, especially with larger enterprises.
If the enterprise is brand-centric, it needs to consider the terms of service that the customer wants. It must not fall prey to the platitude that ‘the customer is king’, as this is a recipe for disaster. Instead it must look at what it can provide, how fast it can provide and the level of quality. This assessment also needs to consider the competition and pitch, if not on par, then slightly above that.
Once that is understood, the process must be examined with a holistic view of functions or departments. Each function will have a critical role to play and must be geared to the requirement in terms of speed and quality.
Different departments have different qualities. Some may be fast, some may be slow, some may be excellent and some may be slipshod. Although it is tempting to highlight excellence in one function, it is pointless to hold up a gem if a department before or after the point of excellence under-performs. The best customer service, for instance cannot compensate for an inferior product. All the offerings have to be in synch.
This illustrates the point about wasting spend on communication. There is no point in communicating good service, or the bigger aspects of the business, if the product is poor. Rather direct that resource to improving the functions that are not performing. Although communication may be seen as a stopgap measure, it will actually be destructive as it will lead to unhappy customers, the recovery of whom will be a far greater marketing and communication expense, than recruiting new customers.
Advertising and communication are often seen as cures for business woes, and problems are often blamed on these activities, however there is no way that an ad can hide poor brand delivery. Communication is a promise, and a broken promise is a source of anger for customers.
Before any enterprise can ‘talk the talk’, it has to be able to ‘walk the walk’.