how to screw up a brand

i like a good marketing disaster story as much as the next guy, whether it's re-formulating a classic product, mis-translating a tagline, or just deciding to build a huge popsicle on a summer day in new york city.

but what no one writes books about are all the little things brands are doing to disappoint customers. to wit:

yesterday, i was running down bloor street in toronto, past a high end jeweler that i won't mention by name because 1) i don't want to embarrass them further and 2) i forgot the name. as i looked in what appeared to be the front door, there was a sign that said "please use other door." obviously, the space used to be 2 retail spaces. now it's one, but with two front doors. no biggie. but if you're trying to deliver a luxury experience, there should be 3 choices: 1) remove the unused door; 2) revise the layout to make people feel welcome, regardless of which door they entered; 3) find a different space. (option #4 is to put up a sign that's funny or charming about the wrong door, but they just didn't seem to be that kind of brand.) instead, the first experience they're delivering to their customers is inconvenience.

as i returned to my unjustifiably snobby hotel whose name i do remember (SoHo Metropolitan), i headed up to the business center (or "centre") to print an email. the business center is on the 2nd floor, and is open 24 hours, according to the various signage in the hotel. but when i got there, i found a sign that told me to walk back across the hotel to the elevator, and either go down to the lobby or dial 7-8840. (that's the actual number. not sure why the dash. i'm guessing they just wanted to challenge guests' brains at 7 am.) i did, and a woman eventually answered the phone and said she'd be right up to let me in. when she arrived, i told her, "i thought this room was open 24 hours." "it is," she replied without a hint of awareness.

stories like these make for poor-selling books (and apparently infrequently viewed blog posts). but in a time when there's not a substantial difference between brands A, B, and C, the little things really can be as damaging as a popsicle melting all over a city block.

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