I was tasked to do a brand audit for a very well-known wine estate recently. My key task was to determine why all the retail spaces were not making money. I was very excited about the project and auditing their customer journey seemed to be a very interesting process. I left my office very early with the tablet, camera, measuring tape, hat, sunblock, water bottle and all the tricks needed to look like just another tourist.
As I walked from one touch point to the other I had so many flashes from my past experiences when I was still doing strategy and spending long hours in board rooms to discuss now-so-last season concepts like brand loyalty, aspirational brand positioning, who is my target market bla bla bla.
Here I was selling myself to brand owners as a brand engineer who can help you to realize the importance of aesthetics in your customer journey but just identified a big no-no when building a brand – the ever so important “do you understand the LIFESTYLE of your target market?” For the first time in my 5 years as a consultant I was part of a customer journey that was too pretty, so stiff, so not user-friendly and ready to alienate the average tourist, local wine lover and picnic fanatic. So often brands allow very creative agencies to take their brand positioning to the ‘aspirational’ level and no-one around the designer table has the guts to shout “STOP, your customer will not be comfortable with this experience!” So yes, I had to conclude with a report of my findings and needless to say that they did not agree with me. Also important to note that their retail spaces are still border-lining white elephant status but looking oh so pretty, ready for the Conde Nast Traveller’s photographer.
So I stick to my key symptoms when to call the brand doctor:
• When there is a lack of meaningful differentiation
• When there is an attempt to be all things to all people
• When there is failure to promote distinctive differences
• When there is an unwillingness to own any selected attributes
• When there is a deep seated desire to run with the pack, not out front
• When there is an irrational fear of alienating anyone