Brand Less Experiences

Seems like no industry is immune from the brand-customer experience disconnection: not local restaurants, nor even utilities. Eric Karlson recently lamented the branding of public utilities, saying that, “My spin on the brand is the accumulation of person’s experiences with the organization.”


Then Added a critical insight

“Simply put, consistently delivering positive experiences helps create positive feelings, builds trust, and ultimately builds the brand.“

My comment to Eric’s brand wisdom was:

“The important thing about having a brand is that the owner of the company, or in this case, the utility, identifies up front what they want that brand relationship (or gut feeling) to be. Then they design those experiences you mention to deliver the brand. My guess is that PG&E has not done this (and maybe no utility has), therefore they aimlessly deliver a brand-less experience, leaving the customer to define the brand.”

Widespread Brand-less Epidemic

It happens in all industries. This past Sunday after church my wife and I took my mother out to eat at a local El Chico Mexican food restaurant. The food was fine, the price was fair, and the service was good. But the experience? Bland and brand-less. The restaurant had the typical Mexican decor that you can find at dozens of Mexican restaurants in any Texas town (hey, we love our Mexican food in Texas). What was different about El Chico? Nothing. But it’s not El Chico’s fault. They’re making the common mistake that businesses in all industries make. They’re basing their experience on their product. They think people come to their restaurant for the food. That’s what customers get, but they’re really hoping for an experience. By contrast, my wife and recently spent the weekend in Austin and had Sunday brunch at a vegetarian restaurant. My guess is that there are more than a hundred vegetarian restaurants in Austin. But, check out the Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse about page.

They don’t mention their food until the end of the second paragraph. More important to Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse is a “creative, laidback, open-minded, and conscious space.” How did they do? We were greeted not by a cute, 19 year-old college student, but instead by what could only be described as an aspiring bohemian with multiple piercings, wearing a hat he must have borrowed from the Mad Hatter. The food was tasty, the service was good, and the price was fair. But the experience? Branded and awesome. It wasn’t just the decor or the food. It was the atmosphere, which delivered the Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse brand promise of creative, laidback, open-minded, and conscious. It’s no wonder there was a line of eager diners waiting out the door on a dreary, drizzly Sunday morning. Customers were waiting to pay for the experience. A business really doesn’t have a brand unless customers experience the brand. Crafting a brand promise is one thing. Delivering that promise in the form of an experience is the important part.

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