As you go through your professional life certain quotes or sayings can become as much a part of your personal make up as the football team you support, your politics or your religion. The one embedded in my psyche, and all of us at Brand Vista, was presented by Nick Varney, CEO of Merlin Entertainments, from a book by Michael Eisner at a brand visioning session 15 years ago. It goes like this;
A brand is a living entity, and is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures” Michael Eisner, CEO Disney 1984-2005
It’s very good isn’t it.
It just about sums up what branding is all about nowadays and you could say that it is an early version of the current sporting and business mantra of ‘the aggregation of marginal gains”. In its time though thinking about brands this way was seen as visionary as for reasons only known to themselves, many people believed that brand building was solely about advertising. Nowadays, whenever we put up the quote people nod sagely, “Surely everyone knows that, can we move on please?”
Yes, it would be nice to move on. It would be great to say everyone now accepts that the skills needed to build brands have changed and that we are all busy aligning our customer experience to our brand vision and values as a matter of course. But my experience tells me otherwise, it appears that lots of people agree with the theory but they don’t put it into practise.
We need some evidence. ‘I present ‘toilets’ m’laud’.
For 25 years I have studied satisfaction data and listened to guests and consumer focus groups in the leisure and retail sectors and I don’t need convincing that great loos boost NPS, overall satisfaction, VFM and Intention to Return. I once conducted a very intensive statistical analysis of satisfaction data for a client and discovered that the best correlation amongst 120 different variables was between recommendation and satisfaction with the state of the toilets. The evidence was compelling and we concluded that ‘good loos are good for business’ but the evidence was ignored. No investment in the loos. Doh! Satisfaction, recommendation and revenue stalled. Co-incidence? Possibly but the connection cannot be ignored, especially if you believe in the 1000s of small gestures argument.
There are many other elements of a customer experience that are proven to drive recommendation, VFM and overall satisfaction. They are not big things, they are part of the 1000s of gestures and some people would call them ‘marginal hygiene factors’. You could call them ‘the basics’ but making the basics brilliant can be the difference between success and failure.
More evidence. We recently ran a customer experience session for a famous British brand. The session was designed to align the brand vision to the experience and together we developed a set of brand aligned magic moments that would brilliantly differentiate. But when we tested them we found that whilst people loved the magic moments they wanted the basics delivered brilliantly and doing so would be enough to steal share from their major competitor who, at that time, was marginally better at the basics. So we changed approach and 90% of the resource is now being spent on the brilliant basics and success has followed. Hats off to them.
This last example proves the point. It is sexier and more exciting to develop new and exciting things that align with the brand and often the huge gains to be made by simply doing the basics brilliantly pass companies by.
I will leave you with one last example: my daughter is choosing which University she wants to go to and we have looked at every statistical table, student forum, prospectus and newspaper pull-out that exists. We have discussed the merits of old universities and new universities, combined honours versus single honours and science versus social science. We have visited 10 universities the length and breadth of the country and whilst at Lancaster, and in the middle of a ‘I don’t know what to do!’ type meltdown she asked me; "Dad, what are the loos like?". "Horrible." I replied. "That’s them off the list, they don’t care." Nuff said.