Touching the Void across the Pond

In recent weeks I’ve had my eyes opened to a whole new challenge for savvy brand management: democratic government.

That’s the problem that so many of our public servants fail to see. They’re faceless, and nobody cares. People are conditioned to file their tax returns every year and pay their taxes. Other than a directionless resentment, there’s no emotional bond that ties them to the investment they’re making. In brand terms, there’s no there there.

This calls for a dramatic corrective. Someone who was really going to shake things up would have to reach into that brand void and catalyze that connection.

Perception is our internalised response to reality. Identification with the external starts from within.The brand vehicle must reflect the core values and experience of the customer. Put simply, they are the brand.

It’s an open secret I’ve been talking to the folks at Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs in the UK. They’ve heard what I’m saying and are ready to embark on a new adventure with me. For so many years, HMRC has talked the talk about customer service. Now that the light has dawned, we’re gonna walk the walk.

 

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What we can learn from Hamburger U

When you look for companies that have gained global recognition for quality, service and value, one of the first names on that list has to be McDonald’s.

Aside from a great quality product that is loved around the world as a symbol of freedom and self-empowerment, McDonald’s is renowned as one of the best talent developers of people around. Its people totally buy into the core values and in term, the company repays that trust by equipping them with the skills they need to run successful, multi-million dollar restaurants around the world.

How do they do that?

I paid a visit recently to see what I could learn at the McDonald’s Hamburger University in Oak Brook, Illinois. They are all over empowering every person to understand and maximize their impact. Here are just some of the ideas that I found:

  • Competency and loyalty cards

  • Team bonding

  • Combining personal growth with talent management objectives

I was humbled, excited and stimulated to see how they put these ideas over to their people. Wouldn’t it be great if we could take that can-do, entrepreneurial attitude and transplant it into the decaying, demotivated public service sphere?

Brand Shock

I committed the ultimate heresy in 2008 when I challenged the belief systems of Christianity in my book, ‘Rebranding Jesus’.

But it had to be done. In an increasingly divided, secular society the church had to reorient itself to the challenges it faced to make itself relevant again. The results, I think, speak for themselves.

The same is true in wider commercial circles now with the increasing power of social media.

Organisations that cling to static branding values have been paralyzed by the dynamic intercourse of online engagement. Clinging to outmoded marketing paradigms can diminish the value of assets that once were core to the proposition.

Perception is not fixed. With multiple media touchpoints, brand values are virtual. They represent the essence rather than being the essence themselves. This is something we are all comfortable with viewing moving pictures, where the retina retains an image for an instant after it was actually seen.

In a branding context, we strive to foster a consistent perception based on a sequence of interactions across the engagement spectrum. Maybe you have already experienced this, for instance when watching a master execute the three-card trick. She may have moved temporarily, but for you the Queen will remain in the middle.

“How can shock enhance a brand?” a sceptical marketing vice president asked me in Palo Alto recently.

It’s kind of like watching a scary movie. The audience needs to identify with your characters. The mood of the music must change. And when you supply the jolt, they are more deeply engaged and relieved that the bad stuff has happened to someone else and not them.

If the product or proposition has entropied, administering a short, sharp shock can crystalize market perceptions and revive its competitive edge, just like like 100 volts of CRP.

Believe it. The readers of ‘Rebranding Jesus’ did.