May 01, 2004
Big brands, as the world's most costly communications systems, serve when they simplify knowledge of how to connect hundreds of small details in ways that compound human relationship integrity. Communications is where the reality of all organisational systems begins and ends every cycle, and so builds or destroys its future. You can tell whether the future of a brand is growing or destroying by how beautifully the details fit, a living jigsaw that comes together or has been force fitted by a messy 4 year old. For example, service brands depend on detailed actions and learnings of the staff as well as their emotional buzz. Being always on in an 8 hour shift, day after day the organisation of these emotions can only spin one of two ways. Positive buzz with such energies as helping each other, good humour , pride in the whole. Or the opposite passiveness of doing the minimum and at best a false looking smile as they serve you. Ironically many companies spend so much of their brand budget on the 10 details being frothed up by their current advertising campaign that the best insurance against brand destruction is to hire an independent mystery customer (indedpendent of the ad agency and the brand manager who chose how to execute the budget).
Nowhere is this more the case than when a brand's campaign is desperately seeking different (additional) customers. Currently two of the UK's biggest ad campaigns show Marks & Spencers & McDonalds doing just that. The accident of such desperate executions showing back to back each night being one detail an independent observer might question the efficacy of spotting. In M&S's case we are treated to conversations between people who are far from M&S traditional customers saying stuff like if I could come back to earth again I would do so as a M&S fish platter, and telling us smugly as the final punchline of how smart they are to converse in puns such as having a wahle of a time. A patronising style that I feel is highly likely to cause once loyal M&S customers to give the shop a wide birth the next time they sail down the high street. Meanwhile McDonalds is even more explicit in its proposition. Its new salads will bring in smart "new faces" whose presence will make the whole McDonalds experience more stylish. As accidents would happen just before this campaign broke, I had an hour to kill in London. It was raining so I rushed into an M thinking I would have some coffee and work on some file notes. The first 10 tables and chairs I walked around were as sticky as if four year olds had been the previous customers. McDonalds is nothing like the clean ship that Ray Kroc used to run where every employee however temporary was welcomed to a first experience in communal pride by being given a small booklet signed by Ray on why cleaniliness is our crew and customer's dna. The new McDonald's sticky mix of loud propositioning and not exactly clean to your clothes will not attract smart new custom, and maybe the old faces will feel slighted too.
As the previous post also showed, today's extreme irony is that brands are being put most at risk by their ads with nobody auditing whether the customers money is being burnt on disconnecting image-making from reality-serving. Of course this weakness and threat in a competitor's behaviour can be turned into your strength and opportunity. All you need to do is introduce a living script process of the brand. It is the smallest budget and greatest trust contribution a brand mix can systemise into all its stakeholders' lifestyles.
Never in business history have corporations been so measurably in conflict with their greatest purpose. Of course, unless you are a McDonalds shareholder or earnest young worker who wanted to learn in a service industry, nobody needs cry for a McDonalds that loses its way -with its top living in a land of dreams and the bottom-up being trained not to dare question the top's commands. The whole is misfitted by governing only by short-term numbers in a relationships world where the future's value is measurable but not the way tangible accountants monopolise by extreme separability. Numbers rot sets in by disconnecting every way in which the brand needs to live its unique whole and abuses the soul of today's consumer goods namely the service people who need to be invested in rather than booked down as costs to milk and shake. Tragically, the compound consequences of numbers rot were seen last year in NASA's weak ("management culture's") branding of safety, and apply to dozens of other organisations we're mapping for societies concerned about the compounding risk of having organisations in their midst whose biggest system purpose should be safety but whose short-term measures are eroding deep context and whose frothy communications proposition all by divorcing the learning of purpose and emotionally losing all that grows out of the pride of relationships branded in trust. If you need more evidence, or feel in any way concerned about this why not contact us. Seeing the details is believing in all our tomorrows. email@example.com
or you are welcome to join our egroup on designing games around "seeing is believing" permalink
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