Big companies ALWAYS shock me with how useless they are. Big companies pay a fortune for someone to come up with a marketing strategy, but forget to analyse who they are before hand. This results in me seeing massive banners, tv ads and sponsorships everywhere proclaiming one thing, then interacting with the actual company and experiencing just the opposite.
Take my favorite large company Vodafone for example. If you NEVER met anyone from vodafone, you would be under the belief that Vodafone was full of hip young things who are so clever and cool that while they are out skateboarding and surfing and at dance parties, they come up with super cool ways to help you make the most of now.
When you walk into a Vodafone outlet however, you come face to face with some angry young person who clearly doesn’t give two hoots about how you make use of your time because they wont even bother to look at you for the first half an hour (I was actually wondering today if a Vodafone store would be a good place to catch up with friends – all this space to sit in and you are invisible to the people actually working there).
And aside from the girls they dress in tiny little dresses at various events (and I’m only including them because I suspect the boys love them), you could hardly call the people you come into contact with as ‘cool’. I’m fairly certain none of them have EVER been surfing and the seeming inability to hold a conversation makes me think they don’t have many friends to practice on. This may seem really rude, but my take on the Vodafone marketing speel is that it relies on being the ‘cool’ company. Therefore it actually is important to have fun, approachable people in their shops – I have nothing against uncool people, but they simply don’t belong with Vodafone – this is the image they have built.
I don’t want to be accused of using ironic in the wrong sense like our friend Alanis Morrisette, but it does strike me as ironic that Vodafone shops are so full of high-tech gadgets and information about 3G and wireless internet and clever things you can do with technology these days, while in the middle of it all two bored looking people struggle to write your problem down in one of those tiny notebooks you use to write your spelling words in at school. Once again, using glass on your table tops and minimalist branding only gets you so far in convincing your customers that you are at the cutting edge of technology. When you are faced with a problem management tool that is not only decades only and inefficient, but surpassed by basically every low-tech company around, suddenly those big modern, open spaces just look as empty as the promises Vodafone makes about who they are.
My point is. Vodafone clearly doesn’t care (what are we going to do? Switch to Telecom?) But you should. If you can’t live up to what your marketing says about you, rethink your marketing strategy.
Once you have established who you are, EVERY INTERACTION ANYONE HAS with your company should reinforce that. Want to be seen as fun? Well have fun with your customers, chat with them, discuss awesome ideas you have for what you’re helping them with. Want to be seen as professional? Make sure no one within your company is ever rude to your customers and deliver everything on time. Want to be seen as cool? Hire people who are unique, have quirky clothing and interests and the ability to chat casually with random passers by.
Vodafone has the pleasure of my rant because they do this to me time and time again, but you do see it everywhere. While words CAN convince people about what you are for a while, eventually people will see through them and you’d better either have a monopoly on your market or ensure what’s behind them holds true. Otherwise, your customers WILL leave you, and they probably wont even bother telling you why. So don’t just go to a branding company and get them to decide who you are (not that any half decent one should let you do that). Put in the ground work, think about what makes you different and never swerve off that path.