Don’t Be Bigger Than Your Brand

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Recently having spent time in beautiful Palm Beach, Florida, it is not hard to believe I had an experience that would end up in one of my blogs. Or, rather, two experiences.

Worth Avenue. If you know it, you know where this is going. Pretty, palm-lined street full of beautiful people dressed in tan and gold, strolling in lovely shops of tan and gold, driving slowly by in cars of, you guessed it, black and gold.

While in Palm Beach, which I visit a few times a year, I love to take a walk along Worth Ave. The Island Company is home to my favourite t-shirts and dresses, and I will tend to splurge on something from a high-end shop. On this particular day that was going to be Kate Spade. I would love a new purse to go with a wallet my son gave me at Christmas.

The store is lovely, easy to navigate, and immediately I spot the perfect handbag. I know what I’m looking for. The young woman clerk, let’s remember she is a clerk not your fifth grade teacher or matriarch of your family, wants to know if I am sure. Hint: I am in my blue jean shorts and I am not wearing any gold.

Scott and Alison Stratten, best-selling authors of several books, UnBranding, UnMarketing, etc. put it best when they explained that “Branding isn’t in your hands at all. Your brand belongs to your customers - it’s what they think of when they hear your name and how they tell your story.” Simply stated. And, oh, how I do love The Story.

So what if that image, that attitude, that characteristic that is, technically, your ‘Brand’ is a negative one? Back to the young woman assisting me. I had not opened the purse to check the price before I handed it off to her, I know what they run for. The Clerk pulled out her iPad and asked my name. I explain I will likely not be in her system. I don't give my personal information. I ask politely “Oh, and how much is that bag?” Mid stance she stares pointedly and proclaims that the price IS inside the bag (I know) and it IS necessary to have my info, it’s for the warranty.

Is that so. And what is it exactly she needs? My full name, email address, cell number….. Not going to happen. What I do know and she surely does not is that is precisely so I can be bombarded by this company, literally. I decide to leave the store, I can get back to Toronto and purchase said bag there, without giving my first born. I explain and turn to leave but not before I see her toss a telling glance, ‘raised eyebrows’ and all, at the other three patrons. She isn’t going to care, she isn’t going to address the issue. I take my Untan&gold self and my wallet down the street.

By comparison, I am experiencing pure customer service joy, while staying at the Four Seasons Hotel in Palm Beach. Because to them it matters not what I am wearing, it matters not how strange or difficult my request may be, and it matters greatly how I prefer my food to be served, my bed to be made……What matters to them is that I am a client, one who has invested in them and what they have to offer. Now, lets face it, they do own a reputation for exceptional service but it is quite evident to me how much time and energy and respect is given to maintain it. That’s the key. They don't stand on top of their brand, they continually manage it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the point. There is a difference. EVERY interaction matters. It doesn’t always mean you'll achieve success, but great outcomes usually follow giving your best, for your customer’s sake.

Create your Brand, Live up to your Brand, Take care of your Brand. Never be bigger than it. When there are the inevitable missteps along the way, be the one who acknowledges. Everyone makes mistakes it’s all in how you address it. Today’s lesson. Huge, but simple enough to fit right into my new Louis Vuitton Handbag.