Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Branding Game: Playing on the Same Team within a Company

If your employees were sent an anonymous “off-the-record” survey, what would they say about your company? Would your employees know your company or organization’s mission statement? Would they speak highly of your brand, or would they lack loyalty?

According to, a “brand ambassador” is someone who not only buys into your brand, but also promotes it and carries forth its message. You would think employees of a brand would be among its most devoted ambassadors. However, not every company is set up so that employees take on the role of a promoter. This problem happens when a company’s management is not accessible, corporate values are not preached in everyday work manners, or the company (team owner) makes drastic changes without consulting employees (the players).

Let’s make an analogy. It would be most beneficial for all the members of the team to not only know which sport they are playing, but to be playing for the same purpose. Imagine if the quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings didn’t buy into the team? What if, during press conferences about a win or a loss, he sang the praises of another team . . . let’s say the Green Bay Packers? Wouldn’t that seem disconnected? In this instance, inflammatory?

(Note: This is not a personal shot at Brett Farve. His career in playing for these two teams sets up an interesting dynamic that can be translated into the corporate world.)

Take a corporate brand for example. Starbucks trains its employees thoroughly. They even coach per their Green Apron Book how employees should treat customers so that the customer’s experience from store to store is pleasantly consistent. The employee not only promotes the brand, but carries the message of quality products and services.

In his book, The Starbucks Experience, author Joseph Michelli, Ph.D., describes just how well the Starbucks strategy works. The employee is motivated. The employee buys in. You get a better
experience from the happy employee. The brand thrives.

When you order your next caramel macchiato or skinny cinnamon dolce latte, think about your employees and how you promote brand ambassadorship in your company or organization.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rebranding: Changing Your Logo? Research, Research, Research

Poor Gap. They were so excited about launching their new “ throwback” logo. The stage was set; press releases went to the media; stories launched all over the Internet. Then, it happened. There was an outcry against the logo from customers; an online campaign opposing it went viral, and the logo crashed faster than a rookie NASCAR driver.

Headlines across the nation showed no mercy: “ Gap Logo a No-Go” (Montreal Gazette); “ Gap Scraps Logo After Just One Week” (AOL DailyFinance); “ New Gap Logo, Despised Symbol of Corporate Banality, Dead at One Week” (Vanity Fair Daily).

This Gap marketing malfunction begs several questions: If Gap’ s fans were so outspoken post release, did the company seek their customers’ opinion beforehand? What exactly made the logo so unacceptable? Was it the color? Was it the font? Was it the placement of that little blue box?

Belk, on the other hand, just introduced their new logo into several of its primary markets with successful unveiling ceremonies and grand re-openings across the region. This was the first time in 43 years that the company launched a major rebranding effort. The new logo incorporates elements of the company’ s history and also gives a nod to the future.

Belk talked to their customers first. In fact, they researched customer sentiment about the logo with extensive focus groups and market studies. The company invested the requisite time and money to make a logo well received. Headlines this time: “ A Brand New Look for Regional Retailer Belk” (The Birmingham News); “ Belk Chain Reinvents Itself with New Logo and Identity” (The Florida Times-Union).

The customer may not be sitting in an office at your corporate headquarters, but they are an integral component of the success or failure of your company. After all, where does brand loyalty reside? With the customer.

Monday, October 11, 2010

When the Media Comes a-Calling: Part 3 (Final Installment)

Text at Your Own Risk: Top 3 Things not to Text When Your Company’s in Trouble

No one sees a text message but you and the person you send it to, right? WRONG! I once accidentally left my phone at a friend’s house. When I got back, I discovered that her young daughter had not only gone through my text messages, but my pictures, contacts, and everything else she could access on my phone. I didn’t have anything worth talking about on my phone, so nothing was made of it. But, the experience had me thinking, “What if?”

According to an AOL Small Business story, incriminating text messages are “all the rage.” While the article looks at how text messages that were sent before a crisis is made known can be used as evidence of fault, in the same vein, texts sent once a crisis has already broken out can also be condemning.

Just because we use “smart phones” doesn’t mean we always use “phone smarts.” What I mean is, as a company owner, president, CEO, or manager, any communication that is exchanged during a corporate crisis must be meaningful and wise.

What not to text:

1. “I’d like my life back.”
During the BP Oil Spill, The Huffington Post reported footage of company CEO Tony Hayward saying he wanted his life back. Many found the statement insensitive. While his comment was vocalized, a text message saying something along these lines would have had the same affect.

What to text:
“We’re going to work to get everyone’s lives back in order.” This statement doesn’t exclude the company owner, but does take into account all those who have been affected by an unfortunate corporate crisis.

2. “Guess we’re having our Tylenol moment.”

The phrase “Tylenol moment” has been popping up all over the internet. Anyone who know’s anything about corporate PR crises is familiar with the Tylenol recall of the 80s. Johnson & Johnson is heralded as having handled the situation expertly and deflecting potential damage quickly. Each crisis situation is to be handled as a separate instance and should be taken seriously.

What to text:
“Let’s handle this with care.”
Acknowledging that a crisis situation can be fragile is perfectly acceptable. It let’s your customers and stakeholders know you’re not blowing off the circumstances and that you plan to take action wisely.

3. “Send someone over to talk to the media.”
Sending the right person to speak to media, a town hall of concerned citizens, or group of stakeholders is just as important as what is said. According to a New York Times article, sending a low-ranking official, as was done during the Exxon-Valdez spill, causes people to think that a company is downgrading a situation.

What to text:

“Get our spokesperson prepped for the media.”
Having someone who is well-schooled in handling media or public speaking situations that can speak on behalf of a company CEO or president shows preparedness and consideration. This person can field questions and provide peace of mind by providing much needed information and a corporate presence.

Monday, October 4, 2010

When the Media Comes a-Calling: Part 2

The Email Trail: Top 3 Things not to Email during a Crisis

Think about the e-mails you sent this or last week. Were there any bad jokes or funny quips that could possibly be taken the wrong way? Did you disclose any personal information? What about any private information about your company’s goings on? Now, think about the media getting hold of these . . . .

Want to make a crisis situation even worse? Just e-mail an unmeaning comment to a fellow associate, client, or even your assistant. Placing a message in your recycling bin doesn’t mean it’s gone away. Digital paper trails never truly disappear—there are ways for IT specialists to access deleted email.

On the flip side, being mindful of e-mails you send and receive and the context of your written words, especially amid an undesirable situation, can make all the difference in turning a crisis around.

What not to Email:

1. “It’s not that bad.”

What to email: Your company’s view of a situation from the inside and the public’s view from the outside are two completely different perspectives. Never belittle a situation—you belittle your customer’s feelings.

According to the Wall Street Journal, during the Toyota massive recall, the company President emailed Japanese employees: “to explain the U.S. recall, asking them to work together with him to regain customer trust and ‘work on building great cars’ through mutual effort.”

This email just looks and sounds good. Whether he meant it, we don’t know, but, it put out a vibe of commitment, dedication, and customer service.

2. “I wouldn’t buy stock in this company myself.”

What to email: When a company’s stock goes up and down like a roller coaster, the temperature set by communication inside and outside of the company is critical. Conveying the idea that the situation could get worse will only create more angst.

Instead, when Apple’s stocks were fluctuating, according to (quoting AppleInsider), company CEO Steve Jobs sent an email to employees to “hang in there,” in hopes of garnering morale. This small token of reassurance is priceless.

3. “Let’s keep this quiet.”

What to email: Let’s make it plain—nothing is ever kept quiet, and a phrase like this has a connotation that screams “cover up.”

Instead, an e-mail pointing everyone to your company’s public relations manager (who can then be quoted on the record about events), shows strategy and is not incriminating.

For more, check out this NPR story—but don’t email it.