Protecting Your Brand Investment

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United Airlines, Manchester City Football Club (MCFC), Amazon.com, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Premier Inn, and West Elm are just a few companies I’ve handed over hard-earned cash to recently. My experiences with them have been varied, and as an avid user of and contributor to online review services like TripAdvisor, Yelp, Yahoo! Local, and Urbanspoon among others, the chief executives and marketing professionals at these companies are eager to ensure I have a positive brand experience.

According to the Forbes Soccer Team Valuations list, the Premier League-winning football (soccer) club, MCFC has a team value estimated at $863M (£569M). Now, that’s a brand worth protecting. So, every consumer touch point with the MCFC brand should be a positive one. It’s more than highly paid players, expensive hospitality suites, and clever marketing spin that define the Man City brand. The customer ‘experience’ needs to be consistent across the entire operation as well – not just on match day, but every day. Loved ones (wives, sisters, mothers and daughters mainly) of Man City fans should be assured of quality product and customer service when they “try” to purchase merchandise, match tickets, or VIP Box reservations for special occasions. My own disappointing experience with the shop when buying a birthday gift for a family member (one of MC’s biggest fans!), as well as others I’ve spoken to, indicate the Man City brand image is let down because the club’s attention is solely focused on what’s happening on the pitch. Paying a little attention to other details will nail the customer experience and protect Manchester City’s marketing investment and brand value at every level.

I have always had a positive experience with Virgin Atlantic Airways, and my most recent encounter was no exception. Even though I did not get the result I wanted, their UK and U.S. customer relations teams effectively represented the Virgin brand – they responded in a timely manner, were extremely friendly and professional, and thoroughly investigated my issue. Everyone I encountered seemed to genuinely care that my “experience” was a good one, and they succeeded because I left feeling heard.

Other examples where the customer service and other parts of a business have delivered on the organization’s mission and brand promise are the Premier Inn, a rapidly growing, highly affordable (good quality/value for money) hotel chain in the United Kingdom, which did everything to help me retrieve a lost item; West Elm, an upscale furniture store and subsidiary of Williams-Sonoma, whose empowered customer service reps have the authority to make decisions to help please their customers, and who make good on their promise to take money off an item they were late in manufacturing/delivering; and Amazon.com, whose third-party vendor rushed delivery of an item at no cost to me to ensure it arrived before I left for a trip. Like Amazon.com, if you rely on third parties or franchises to do your business, make sure they are as committed to delivering the same level of quality product and service as you do, otherwise they’ll damage your brand and reputation.

United Airlines

Flying the Friendly Skies, indeed. United Airlines goes to great heights to protect its brand’s value

And last but not least, United Airlines whose pilot found an item under our seat after we’d disembarked the flight from Washington Dulles to Heathrow. Despite it having no monetary value, he determined its contents were of a sensitive nature (bank account and credit card details), so he took it upon himself to track us down in London (with some great difficulty) to hand-deliver the document to us, or personally shred it. That was above and beyond, and because of the effort he went to, we’re now committed to “Flying the Friendly Skies” with United – the airline we had such an unforgettable and positive experience with. Our personal experience with United Airlines affirms (to us at least) that the United brand is, indeed, “shaped by every aspect of their customer and co-worker experience.”

So, while it’s important to promote your company to establish and grow your brand, brand differentiation and loyalty will only be achieved when everyone in your organization understands their role as a carrier of the brand, believes in the brand, and most importantly, delivers exceptional customer service to reinforce the value of the brand.