Building a brand is hard. It takes many, many positive actions to establish a unique position in the marketplace. But despite all the macro efforts to create and sustain a brand, it is sometimes the micro mistakes that chip away at its effectiveness. Here are a series of brand goofs that I have personally witnessed, most of which could be fixed in minutes, if only someone would notice. Yet, left untouched, they send a highly undesirable message.
A lighting store with several bulbs out in its main sign. Riddle me this: How many lighting store managers does it take to change a light bulb?
A funeral home with a large sailboat parked behind it named the Grim Reaper. Well, I guess if you’re going to flaunt your success, you might as well double down with an inappropriate joke in the process.
A manufacturing company that bragged about their streamlined systems during their plant tour as we passed stacks of unprocessed paperwork in their offices that went from floor to desk level. Anybody can work fast if they skip a few steps along the way.
A lobby with dead plants in it. Do your customers get the same kind of attention?
A bank with a poster at the front door selling vehicles they had recently repossessed. We just want to let you know upfront that we will take your car away from you the second you’re late on the payments. Now how much did you want to borrow?
A dental association that misspelled “fluoride” on a statewide education pamphlet to educate families. That don’t mean it ain’t good for you teeths.
And here are some better-known examples you may have heard of.
The university that erroneously sent false acceptance letters to 800 applicants for its computer science master’s program and blamed it on a computer glitch. If I enroll in your program, will I learn how not to make this mistake? Oh, that’s right, I didn’t get in after all.
The church whose outdoor sign bore the message, “Don’t let worries kill you. Let the church help.” I hear heaven is great, but I’m also not in a big hurry.
The school that posted signs announcing, “Quite please. Exams in progress.” Maybe it was a trick question.
The hotel with an outdoor sign that advertised, “Welcome! Free Wife.” No thanks, already got one. But I would like free Internet, if that’s available.
All of these errors, oversights, and poor judgments appear relatively small on the surface. But they are more than just the average typo because each one makes a much bigger statement about their subject than simple lack of attention to detail. And nearly every one can be attributed to being caught up in the daily grind of doing business and not noticing or thinking out the issue. The manager of the lighting store may enter through the back door each day and never bother to check his store’s appearance from the road. The bank’s manager wants to get rid of those repossessed cars as quickly as possible. The funeral home director is a little too accustomed to death to see the harshness of his boat’s name.
What is missing is a little extra attention to detail, which can be as simple as developing a routine the same way a flight crew checks a plane before takeoff. Put yourself in the mind of your customer or prospect and do a figurative walk around your brand. Encourage your employees to do the same. You may be surprised what you find and how many dings and dents in your brand can be caught before they do lasting damage.
As published in the Central Penn Business Journal and Lehigh Valley Business.