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Whether you live in London, Hong Kong or in the New York Metro area, like I do, brand images and slogans are everywhere. Not only are they in magazines, on top of taxicabs and plastered across billboards, they’re dominating the digital space. And we’re mostly okay with that, as consumers, because it’s how we relate to brands. A company’s logo and its tagline can tell us a lot about their business at face value. 

Unfortunately, a logo and a tagline only go so far to capturing our attention, and most importantly, earning our loyalty.

Any brand can create a compelling promise, but the best brands have a proven track record of delivery on those guarantees. As the former VP of Virgin Management, I've seen first hand the power of brands that not only "talk the talk" but really "walk the walk".  

All Virgin brands share the common promise of delivering something different and better than the competition. The successful Virgin businesses bring this to life, not just in clever campaigns, but in customer experiences that feel, well truly different and better.

Don't let the toilet flush away your brand

Sounds obvious and easy right? But delivering on your brand promise consistently and in every touch point (big and small) is one of the hardest, and most important, things a business needs to do.  Take for example a place the majority of brands overlook: the bathroom.

Companies often spend millions or billions of dollars on advertising quality, commitment, focus on the customer only to have customers walk into their store (or restaurant, or even airline) and have bathrooms be unsanitary. One dirty restroom can undermine millions of dollars of advertising in 30 seconds flat. 

Bake your brand strategy into your operations

Virgin America promises a “A breath of fresh airline,”  and they use this brand promise as an operational north star leading them to make product development choices (mood lighting, a touch screen in-flight entertainment system, crystal-clean bathrooms) that deliver.  Virgin Atlantic has also chosen to take three revenue generating upper class seats out of the plane and put in a bar for added relaxation and socializing mid-flight. Now that’s service. It's one that carries and operational trade-off, but is felt to be important enough because of the distinctive halo it gives the brand.

You don't have to be a big brand to get it right. You just need to take the time to really think about your brand promise up front and then make sure you deliver. Take the traveling deluxe food truck  Rickshaw Dumplings, for instance. The dumpling truck  travels throughout New York City, bringing its chilled edamame and chicken and Thai basil dumplings piping hot and ready for tasting. I’m hungry already.

And bingo – that’s the thing my fellow dumpling darlings expect. Disregard for a minute the stark and identifiable red lettering that is Rickshaw’s logo. Rickshaw Dumpling isn’t just claiming delight for its customers, it’s creating a business model that delivers delight. Literally - all around the city.

Your brand is your business. Don't make the mistake of separating them

It doesn’t matter if you’re a startup founder or Larry Page. You can’t create a logo or spout a brand promises and expect it to carry your brand if you don’t deliver on what you say you will. If Virgin Airlines stopped offering the high level of customer service they do, I’m sure their Twitter feed, Facebook page and emails to customer service would reflect that almost instantly. Excellence is what people have come to expect – and fortunately for its brand, excellence is what shows through. 

Live up (and deliver!) to your brand promise, or risk losing your  audience and customers. And no one wants that – even if you’ve got a shiny logo, because a bright thing fades. Brand memories, though, they last. 

Food for thought: How is your brand walking the talk and bringing the promise to life in business? 

Julie Cottineau

Published 5 December, 2012 by Julie Cottineau

Julie Cottineau, founder of the brand consultancy BrandTwist and the new Brand School, has been an executive at Interbrand and VP of Brand for Virgin. You reach her at Julie@BrandTwist.com or follow her on twitter @jcottin.

5 more posts from this author

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Mac @ 36creative

I love this post. I speak to many people that forget how much branding opportunity exists in the online space. Forgetting to think about branding is like leaving your coffee on the roof of your car in the morning. No bueno!

over 3 years ago

Julie Cottineau

Julie Cottineau, Founder at BrandTwist

Thanks for the comment. I love the analogy. And we all know how useless we are without coffee in the morning. At least I am!

Julie

over 3 years ago

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Ben Hall

Great post. I think generally digital marketing tactics can be guilty of ignoring the brand. The brand experience online is of paramount importance - the problem is that there still seems to be a gap in knowledge at a lot of agencies about how to develop an online brand and what it is made up of.

It was a bit of a no brainer taking the Virgin Atlantic experience to domestic flights in the US. Not much competition!

I wish that Rickshaw Dumplings would do the same and bring their food to the UK!

over 3 years ago

Julie Cottineau

Julie Cottineau, Founder at BrandTwist

Ben

I agree that often the digital brand experience still consists of putting the logo on the website and not really thinking about how the brand promise should permeate the user experience on the web. Maybe you can reach out to @rickshawtruck and get them to consider a Uk road trip.

Thanks for commenting.

Julie

over 3 years ago

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Eirini Pan, Sales & Marketing Executive at Outbrain Uk Ltd.

Very interesting post with great examples of how "details" can change the brand experience. Totally agree about the bathroom example. People say "If this is how the toilet looks, imagine how the kitchen is"..

over 3 years ago

Julie Cottineau

Julie Cottineau, Founder at BrandTwist

Thanks Eirini. Great point about the kitchen. Now I am going to be even more put off by the implications of the dirty bathroom!

over 3 years ago

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Sandra Pickering, Founding Partner at opentoSmall Business

Hi, Julie,
I'm just catching up with this great series of posts from you.

As a former head of global marketing at The Body Shop, I couldn't agree more with you on "creating a business model that delivers...(your brand promise)."
Every customer experience decision should be driven by the brand. For example, The Body Shop was a high street pioneer in recycling, taking up 'valuable retail floor space' and defying the standard rules of the game at the time.
And this isn't just for big businesses, every startup founder can act like Anita Roddick or Richard Branson and make sure that their business does things that are 'truly different and better'.

over 3 years ago

Julie Cottineau

Julie Cottineau, Founder at BrandTwist

Hi Sandara,
Great example. Brands need proof points, and to be willing to walk the talk to bring their promise to life - even when it means taking the more challenging road from an operational stand point. I did not know that Body Shop example. But I am glad I do now. Thanks for sharing.

over 3 years ago

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