Back to the issue of brand authenticity.

Three of the big takeaways from the Ad Age cover story from a week or two ago are:

  • That any attempt to portray your organization in a way that is fundamentally at odds with how you are will backfire.
  • That while it is incredibly important to know what your target audiences think feel and want, simply telling them what they want to hear won’t work.
  • And that you communicate your brand every day in 1000 different ways, and your audiences’ perception of you is the net impact of all those touches large and small.

The article makes an example of McDonald’s. I don’t know about you, but my experience of the personalities of counter staff at McDonald’s runs a spectrum that begins with vacant and descends to surly. Evidently there are enough folks who agree, so that when McDonald’s ran their “we love to see you smile” campaign, the whole world laughed in their face.

Remember “United Rising?” That was United’s campaign to tell the world how devoted they were to me their beloved customer, pretty much exactly at the time their customer service was heaed down the toi-toi. My two word answer to “United Rising?” Jet. Blue.

Often it really is the little things that communicate the brand, and not necessarily the brand you want to have. Last week I arrived at a Hyatt hotel the night before a big presentation. It was 11 pm, i had an hour of work to do, and i was parched. So I reached for the bottle of Dasani water Hyatt had thoughtfully put on the dresser, only to discover they were charging SIX BUCKS. I don’t remember whether the bed was comfortable, I don’t remember whether the wifi worked, I don’t remember if the shower was hot. All I remember is that Hyatt is the hotel of SIX DOLLAR WATER.

Do a quick audit of your direct mail, or your email newsletter, or your boss’s stump speech. Check out what happens when you send a complaint email or a change of address to your own organization. We all have six dollar bottles of water lurking to sabotage our brand. What are yours?