When does a good brand get shrill?
Last year in one of my interactive sessions on corporate branding, I had asked a group of learners to cite some examples of cohesive corporate branding. The kind of examples, which knit the corporate brand story together smartly, have a certain discipline in the narrative and demonstrate a purposive usage of the symbols and other elements associated with the company brand. Top of the heap was the airline brand Indigo. The group had a lot of good things to say about the brand.
Simplicity in the communication, consistent usage of the brand colours and the visual element of the dots, the endearing way they refer to boys and girls in their inflight announcements, departure time of the flight when it is early is Indigo Standard Time. Their inflight magazine 6E too is ideated with the brand coming across clearly. Needless to say the actual service features that were added like the fast baggage drop and more. Efficiency came across in the way the journey touch points were handled from check in to boarding to the journey and getting out. Seemed enviably seamless and well coordinated. In fact Indigo’s media- shy leadership added to the brand’s positive perception.
All seemed so good?
But with some events which have happened in the recent past – a passenger being manhandled etc., and my own understanding of branding both as a traveler and a practitioner I believe, Indigo seems to have changed. Here are some thoughts I shared with the corporate branding learners in a round two.
Indigo seems to smile less behind the counters. The staff would like to first finish what they are doing, only then address the guests. Possibly guests can wait. The announcements before boarding and in the aircraft feel more like a class monitor addressing the students and less on making the flying experience pleasurable, memorable and ‘Indigo cute’. Even the manner in which you are asked to straighten the seat and push the table in, is more a chide and less of a safety instruction. Overall it seems the service trait and passion has been lost and over confidence has set in? Yes the flights are more punctual than many other competitors, but are less welcoming than the others?
When does a good brand get shrill?
- When an entity forgets that they are a ‘brand’, which perforce means that it needs to constantly create the right kind of associations about itself. Across all the touch points. More important perhaps for a service brand.I quote Jan Carlzon the legendary President of the SAS Airlines who took over when the airlines was in a bad shape and successfully turned it around (1981 -1994), coined the phrase ‘moments of truth’:“A moment of truth occurs whenever and wherever there’s a customer contact, because that is the moment when the customer forms a perception of the organization and its products or services. The challenge for any company is to manage these moments of truth so that the perceptions are positive.”
- When the fundamental reason to be in business is to serve the customer in more ways than one is forgotten. Let me qualify by saying in more endearing, more memorable and more differentiated ways. A brand can pick and choose how to do these given their line of business, perceived branding priorities or market situation. Whichever be the path, the customer is at the centre. Profit, media rankings, image leadership are outcomes of the customer-centric philosophy.
- When success overtakes service and passion. Service is an ongoing narrative for a brand. From the voice on the phone to the announcement, to the one to one interactions and the overall experience, everything is recalled as a service. Sometimes success blinds the brand to doing the obvious. And mission, culture, values and mottos are reduced to boardroom artifacts. Service disappears and business (‘dhanda’) checks in.
- Lastly, when the brand overpowers the customer. In tone and voice. It is no longer in sync. with the expectations or rather the previous experiences with the brand.
With these few thoughts, I ended my interactive session with a simple question- so when a brand gets shrill what happens? Brand gets vulnerable, loyalty starts fading, stickiness comes down and lapsed users kick in.
Am sure Indigo will not allow that…
p.s.: There are lot of observations from various practitioners about how brands get impacted only when there is a high frequency of negative experiences, customers will separate the individual experience from the brand experience and mature markets react differently. And so on… Possibly all of them may be right in varying shades.
But should a negative experience have ever happened in the first place when Indigo believes that they have an enviable ‘brand’? Could the situation/s have been converted into brand – reinforcing opportunities by handling the ensuing narrative in a much more conciliatory and welcoming way, rather than in a judgmental manner? Has the passion to build, nurture and protect the brand and its perceptions fatigued? Or is there no value for that moment of truth?
Competition to Indigo hope you are taking notice…
Illustration : Ramya K Tella