“Eat Me” says the sign outside of Crif Dogs in the East Village neighborhood of New York City. The tiny hole in the wall is packed and it doesn’t take long to understand why. The oversized hot dog that creates the outdoor signage with the provocative words “Eat Me” tells you what to expect inside and when you enter, the restaurant delivers. My favorite dog? The “ Spicy Redneck”, a house dog, bacon wrapped, with chili, cole slaw, and jalapenos. It was one of many menu items that could be described as a provocative execution of hot dogs. There were dogs with avocado, dogs with pineapple, dogs with cream cheese (in honor of Philly) and dogs wrapped in Taylor Ham. In its most simple form, this business actually delivered what it promised, outstanding hot dogs that are different than the norm. The delivery was “aligned” with the brand promise. A clear recipe for success.
I think many businesses today see their lack of business solely as a function of the economy or a shift in demand patterns. And while I am sure this is true in many cases, I think that many businesses neglect to examine their “alignment”, or the delivery of their products and services in in relationship to their brand promise. Like an aching back, the drop in sales profitability or morale for that matter could be a revealing symptom that can be fixed with chiropractor-like force and pressure. While it is not uncommon for a business owner or senior manager to misdiagnose their “aching back”, customers and employees know misalignment when they see it. So ask yourself, Do you WANT to be what your brand promise states, or ARE you that animal? Would your customers and employees say the same thing?
Take Verizon Wireless and Apple. In recent weeks I was in both stores. One was packed and one was empty. Now Verizon promised me, via their ads, a 4G experience. But when I entered their empty store, I hadto sign onto a kiosk before the three sales people would recognize my presence. And have you ever tried to get a problem solved in these stores? Hardly a 4G experience. Now contrast that to Apple. Their brand is illustrated by the nerd and the cool guy. Apple promises to make you cool! And when you enter their store, experts who can’t wait to help and greet you, the cool guy or gal. In fact, you will probably see 70-year-old women working side by side with their 22 year old Apple Genius. You can feel the vibe and at times are almost hoping you have a problem so that you can use theirservices! Guess which one’s policies, investments, training, and execution is better aligned with the brand promise. Guess which model makes more money?
Now in the airline world there is the story of two competitors who are both aligned with their customer service statements, but be careful what you wish for. If you were to visit Southwest Airline’s “Why Fly Southwest” statement, they go on to tell you that they …”get you there with a smile.” From their ticketing system, to the cushy seating in their waiting areas to employee attitude, I think you’d agree they are aligned. USAir on the other hand has a customer service statement that lets you know that they have a plan for anything that goes wrong. Lost baggage, late departure, and flight diversions. It appears as if USAir’s version of customer service is based upon problems. The good news is that they are aligned, because from my experience…they have problems! Guess which airline is profitable. Be careful to what you align yourself.
So go back to your shop and ask where your brand promise alignment is on a scale of 1 to 10 with marketing, operations, finance, sales, technology, HR, etc… Better yet, ask your customers and employees what would it take to get you to a 10.
And when you are as good as Crif Dogs, you can say….Well never mind.