The essence of marketing is to create and sell a product or service that better meets the needs of a set of people, for profit. The essence of brand building is to make a promise to this set of people – the targeted market – about the product or service’s features and benefits, and then come good on this promise repeatedly and consistently.
It naturally follows that the biggest test for all marketers or brand owners is to articulate their brand’s promise convincingly, and then rally to deliver on this promise – for every single customer, every single time. Anecdotal evidence however suggests that whilst brand owners often excel in the first half of this challenge – convincing articulation of a persuasive promise – they tend to fall a bit behind when it comes to the second half.
Telephone companies promise high-speed 24×7 network availability, but many customers complain of persistently poor coverage. Online retail store promise the convenience of shopping from home, but customers often complain of wrong orders delivered, delayed deliveries, or even orders cancelled without a reason offered. The consumer’s experience when buying a new smartphone, refrigerator or car is often several degrees removed from the experience that she gets when the product in question develops a snag and needs to visit the service center.
Why do marketers who otherwise excel in crafting fine stories for their brand’s promise struggle to deliver it? Many lines of defense are offered, but essentially their argument boils down to the fact that whilst the articulation of the promise is within their control (they exercise control over the ad or PR agency), delivering on it is beyond it, as other departments such as sales, operations, logistics and services get involved.
It is a fine argument to consider, and it is also telling on the organizational values and internal structures than on the ability or competence of the brand owners. However, it is upon brand owners to rectify this situation. They must figure out ways to rally other functions to deliver on the promise. For inspiration, they need not look beyond the hospitality industry.
Possibly, no other industry has internalized the concept of ‘delivering’ the brand promise as hospitality industry. All major chains make excellent use of a tool called touch-point analysis; which helps them identify all opportunities to make good their brand promise.
The Indian Hotels Company for example identified 155 touch-points for them to deliver the ‘Vivanta by Taj’ brand promise to their guests. These touch-points range from the car sent for an airport pick-up to time taken for check-in; the fluffiness of pillows, the shower pressure, and so on. The focus then shifts to making sure that customer experiences everything that the brand stands for; at each of these individual touch-points.
Good hotels are known to effortlessly deliver their brand promise, but great hotels are known to go to inordinate lengths to deliver the promise – the innumerable stories around The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company are a case in point.
How does the hospitality industry manage its brands so well? A simplistic answer is that their organizational framework ensures that every single ‘department’- from reservations to F&B to even housekeeping – is charged with the responsibility of the hotel’s brand custodian. It is a powerful enough lesson for a large number of industries, but it needs to reach the top management to make a difference.