Finding Your Style
Finding Your Style and Wearing It Out
How your style, or lack there of, can create a bad brand experience Style is more than a personal statement, it is an essential indication of how a business operates both externally and internally—and ultimately can be the beginning or end of its success. Be it traditional, retro or cutting-edge, the main thing style needs to be is consistent and true to the brand experience. If those two things are accomplished, success might occur, and if not, hey at least you looked good while trying.
Many individuals who venture into business don’t really give much thought to their brand style either short or long term. Some let it evolve organically—much like the architect who put in the sidewalks last by paving the paths that people left naturally. While others try to paint the picture they believe the public wants to see, like Britney Spears—and end up with a huge disconnect and the eventual unraveling of a brand. Don’t get me wrong, styles, images and enterprises have every right and are encouraged to change with the times like Super Target and McDonalds Bistro. The best brands evolve with their target and have specific styles and messages to appeal to multi-generations. But the one common denominator is consistency of messaging and its style and the all important, brand experience that serves as the follow through or promise.
Why it’s important:
I think the best way to answer the question, “Why is it important, is to answer the inquiry, ‘What will happen if you don’t waste your valuable corporation’s time worrying about style and just move forward, well, doing business’”?
The top 13 reasons why “no style” hurts you, using Moe’s Southwest Grill as an example:
- Confusion. Let’s say for example, you walked into Moe’s and they didn’t shout the requisite, “Welcome to Moe’s,” you might be quite confused. So much so, that you might ask yourself, “Have I accidentally stumbled into some other taco stand?”
- Fear. After the onset of confusion, fear might actual take over. Your animal instinct may actual smell a stick up or hold up, not just burritos.
- Inconsistent messages and/or brand experiences from venue to venue. What’s going on at my favorite neighborhood southwest grill? The one near work is always spot-on consistent. Without even realizing it, your impression is becoming negative—and you’re not even up to the beloved counter yet.
- Error prone. Upon arriving at the counter and greeting your favorite Moe’s burrito bro, you determine that a simple mistake or oversight has occurred and they’re not actually being held at gun point. But hey, if they forgot to say, “Welcome to Moe’s, will they also forget my much-needed extra guac?
- Unprofessional. Yes, a fun place can still be professional, it’s all in delivery. And the lack of proper deliver, even if said delivery is a shout out, it’s unprofessional to omit a greeting.
- No brand affinity. Risk losing share to competition who has it all wrapped up. If by chance all the Moe’s associates lose their voice for weeks on end, the brand affinity will deteriorate and leave a gaping hole for a competitor to fill. And they just might fill it with, “Welcome to Joe’s!”
- Lose potential customers. So, voice or no voice, the Moe’s associates might not even be able to welcome their potential customers because they are now dining somewhere else (remember this is all hypothetical, we’re sure they’re still dining at Moe’s they can’t tell us for certain since they’re mouths are full with Joey Bag of Donuts).
- Wasted impressions if all styles and messages vary greatly—or even a little. If one Moe’s says, “Welcome to Moe’s,” while another doesn’t…and this sort of inconsistence continues in all aspects of their marketing initiatives, each impression is an optimized opportunity lost.
- Instills apathy/indifference internally and externally. These impressions will instill a sense of indifference. No longer will potential clients even care that their betrothed Moe’s has totally gone two, three and four-faced. They will fondly remember the good ol’ days, but look to someone else to break tortilla with tomorrow.
- Didn’t deliver to pre-determined or previously experienced expectation. Even if the food was wonderful, as it always is at Moe’s, the failure to shout the expected greeting tainted the entire experience and in effect didn’t deliver on the customer’s pre-determined or previously experienced expectation. And what did this do? It left them empty, not full.
- Time/money waster (fixing errors takes away from the business at hand). Even if you take the guilty Moe’s associates aside, backing up the line of customers, and gently remind them that it is customary to greet each and every person who enters Moe’s with a friendly, “Welcome to Moe’s,” you have just wasted so, so much more money and time than even reading this White Paper. The actual calculation is hard to determine, but it encompasses the guilty party, times the customers waiting in line, to the power of everyone they tell.
- Lack of credibility. If the brand promise isn’t delivered even in what might seem like a minor aspect, the credibility of the entire corporation suffers. Obviously, this takes time, but a little erosion here and there will make for an eventual landslide, avalanche or collapse.
- Suspicion (don’t trust them). Let’s say, you go to Moe’s and instead of shouting, “Welcome to Moe’s,” they accidentally say, “Welcome to Maurice’s.” After all, Moe is an accepted nickname for Maurice. You would be suspicious of who they really are and what you can expect from their service, products and overall brand promise.
The previous 13 reasons why inconsistent style hurts you can easily be fixed—and the existence of a few will not kill your business, but it’s important to know what could happen if such things are allowed to occur, again and again. Once is acceptable, but twice is onetime too many.
Trends show companies doing internal training to create a unified brand experience: This concept has always been popular with quick service restaurants, but is making its way into more corporate environments like healthcare facilities, learning institutions, resorts and financial institutions. Consistency is key. One bad experience with a brand or one of its ambassadors can not be repaired with all the marketing efforts in the world.
Where to begin:
Create a simple (or elaborate) brand and style guide. Like most entrepreneurs do when they’re about to dive off the deep end of “Open for Business,” get your hands on your prime competitor’s brand and style guide (or business plan) and see what they’re doing. Think I’m kidding, I’m not. Look at things like their common acronyms to their long format boilerplate text for the bottom of the press release, and the key attributes to the font package they use on said computer keyboard. Each element of your style—written or graphic communication—or even the feeling the prospective consumer takes away—are all pieces of your whole picture, your brand is the perception, not your campaign.
In the mean time, here’s a good place to start:
Your name, no joke, but any recently married woman who changed her name can tell you the expense and confusion (or quite frankly identity crisis that can follow). Or ask the 408, aka the East West Expressway what happened when they went numeric-only. Or what “lack of forethought” Universal Escape/Studios/Orlando would recommend.
Next, decide on a simple greeting that is consistent among departments, locations or divisions. A great example is, you guessed it, “Welcome to Moe’s.” Select office and/or associate attire (Target – I always know who to ask for help). Email signature (nothing worse than those personal sayings like “My office is hell with florescent lighting—really, and you think I should do business with you Sunshine, why?) Mission, Vision, Values and 5-year business plan.
Determine your style 101:
- Name and abbreviations
- Contact Information Phone Number (dots or dashes) and Address (use of punctuation)
- Email signatures
- Greeting (phone and in person—keep it consistent—call any JCC nationwide and you’ll hear, “Shalom, thank you for calling the Jewish Community Center, how may I help you?”
- Slogan and tagline
- Font Package (font usage in various places – headlines, body copy, etc.)
- Color – Owning a color: UPS Brown, Pepto-Bismol Pink , Victoria’s secret owns Pink too!
- Correspondence (style guide – pick one, share the selection with all associates and circulate a style guide to those who will be sending out internal and external correspondence)
- External style and/or correspondence
- Words that you associate yourself with (key attributes, personality or adjectives or emotions that describe you/your business)
- Words you WILL NOT use (hotel vs. resort or customer vs. target)
- Photos OR Drawings, black/white OR color, product OR lifestyle
If you want people/ associates to represent your company how you would, you need to tell them exactly what to say and how to say—hell, even tell them what to wear while doing it. Remember, your style can evolve with your brand, but determining a few key graphic and text style guidelines is key to establishing a consistent, memorable and successful company, brand and image.