Brand Manners

You may or may not have been brought up to write thank you letters for gifts bought at Christmas and birthdays but in my case, I remember well, my efforts to eke out a few meaningful words to aged aunts, about presents I was distinctly underwhelmed by – ungrateful little soul that I was. I‘m the ‘aged’ aunt struggling to buy meaningful presents now, so the boot is firmly on the other foot these days.

Now that thank you notes seem to be sadly disappearing, even in this age of text and email communication, I’m glad that I had this drilled into me at an early age and still try to remember my ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous’.

It’s actually amazing, what a difference those little words can make in business.

I’m sure that we all remember the letters and emails unanswered, when trying to get jobs/work/interviews. Companies can work hard at presenting themselves in the best possible light, but sometimes they forget that the way they respond to people, as either suppliers or job applicants, may ultimately impact adversely on their brand. The rudely ignored graduate could one day be a key player.

I can still clearly remember the time when, as a junior designer working on an annual report for the Bank of Scotland, a certain high-powered bank director made it obvious that he was just too busy and powerful to waste much time on us to be photographed, even though it had been scheduled in. The minute the banking crisis hit the news, his face rose to the front of my thoughts and you can imagine the level of my sympathy.

Some organisations have good manners drilled into all of their employees, treating clients and suppliers in the same courteous way. On the whole, we are very lucky with our clients, and the payback is that we go that extra mile for them.
Surely, this is good brand building at grass roots.

The way that individuals respond to emails, impacts upon both their personal and their organisation’s brands. We are all busy and can sometimes leave an email sitting unanswered. In my opinion, it really pays to review and pick up those emails that have slipped through the net.

It’s hard to control how your staff communicate day in day out but it’s a pretty essential part of a brand’s ‘tone of voice’. Well worth paying attention to, I would say.

The Co-op Gets it Right

Watching Peter Marks, the CEO of the Co-op, deliver his reassuring explanation that former customers of Lloyds TSB, will be happier with his bank, prompted me to write about a localised example of how the Co-op is proving that it can get it right.

I warmed to Peter Marks, not because of what he said, which was believable enough but because of his slightly nervous demeanour which made me feel that we might actually have a human being in charge of this newcomer to the ‘big league’ of UK banking.

Actually, Coldstream, in Berwickshire is the real focus of what has greatly impressed me over the past couple of years, about the Co-op’s application of its brand values.

There is a lady that works at the till in the Coldstream branch, who gives the impression that she has been trained, to the highest standard, in customer service. She makes customers feel good about the Co-op and themselves, she inspires trust in the company and entertains visitors to the shop with her jovial yet respectful attitude to her work and her customers.

People like me can create a brand for companies and document in great detail how the brand must be applied externally and internally to be effective. What this lady does, day in and day out, is to apply a brand strategy that I’m sure that the Co-op believes in, simply because she has the right attitude to her work, cares about her employer’s customers and understands how important her role is, in the success of this historic brand.

I don’t need to name the lady in question. The customers and staff know who she is. Perhaps Peter Marks should have a chat with her about making his philosophy and hers, meet in the middle of the Co-op’s customer-owned empire.