Upholding brand integrity
“We are the competition” (Ferrari)
Brands are typically aspirational — they motivate and draw you to the product or service. This is certainly the case with Ferrari, an Italian luxury sports car manufacturer founded in 1939 by Enzo Ferrari from the Alfa Romeo racing division. Throughout its history, the company has been noted for its participation in racing, especially in Formula One, where it is the oldest and most successful racing team. Ferrari road cars are generally seen as a symbol of speed, luxury, and wealth — a perception that has developed over many years of consistency in the niche top-end sector of the sports car market. The “prancing horse” stands proud and represents the brand’s stature.
How does a brand gain its prestige and desirability? Brands are based on values that the company holds dear. It takes many years to build these values into products and services and just a few seconds to break the brand through bad behaviour, poor service, and quality defects. Upholding a brand’s integrity builds the company’s brand value and ultimately the brand equity. Some of the values that many companies attempt to build into their brand dynamics are as follows:
- Quality — the perception of fine craftsmanship, excellent manufacturing processes, or personalised service that goes beyond the norm (e.g.: Rolls Royce).
- Consistency — whatever the company makes or whatever the service that it delivers, you will get greatness every time that you do business with the company (e.g.: Apple).
- Accessibility — you can get their products or services anywhere (e.g.: Coca Cola can be bought almost anywhere in the world).
- Responsiveness — this relates particularly to sales and service staff who attempt to meet the needs of customers exactly (e.g.: some hospital chains).
- Value — although you must pay for the products or services, even if a premium rate, you are going to receive the best value for money related to the relevant market (e.g.: Ferrari).
- Fashion relevance — our products and services are trendy and relate well to the perceived fashion desires of the population (e.g.: Nike, Reebok, Addidas), etc.
While a company may have all the above brand characteristics embedded in their brand, to develop a perception of brand authenticity, employees need to experience the same values. In other words, an environment needs to be created within the company where all employees experience the exact brand characteristics:
- Quality — you can’t serve well in a five-star hotel if the staff dining area has broken chairs and plastic cutlery.
- Consistency — you can’t deliver consistent greatness if managers are inconsistent in their behaviour towards employees.
- Accessibility — you can’t ensure that your products and services are easily accessible when managers are exclusive and invisible on the shop floor.
- Responsiveness — you can’t expect swift employee responses to customers’ concerns when employee concerns seem to be largely unheard.
- Value — are employees rewarded as best in the industry or do their salaries and other benefits pale into insignificance in relation to others in the sector?
- Fashion relevance — are employee uniforms or general dress codes fashion-relevant, comfortable, and do they make employees feel proud?
Employees will treat customers well if they, themselves, are respected, cared for, and recognised. As Dr Stephen R Covey (7 Habits of Highly Effective People) once said: “Treat your staff in the same way that you want them to treat your best customers”. When we treat employees well, they will aspire to greatness.