Brand Mismanagement 101

March 22, 2016

Killing a Brand

When I go to McDonald’s, I expect the Big Mac and fries to taste the same whether I am in New York or West Palm Beach. Generally they do. I am not arguing whether they are good or bad, but they are consistent.

Which brings me to American Airlines. It is a wonderful example of how NOT to manage a brand. I flew from Buffalo to Miami on American and checked my bags with great ease. Miami to Buffalo was a different story. I got to the bag check area and there was little signage to tell you what line you should be standing in.There was also no airline representative to ask. But eventually, I made it to the front of a line only to be told that I had to leave to line, go to the kiosk and print my own baggage claim check. I did that and finally got back to the front of the line and the same agent said, “Well put the baggage claim checks on your bags.” I asked what her job was and she said, "I just check you in and put your luggage on the belt.” I asked, “When did American become self-service? She replied, “I don’t know but it is and it is not my job to put your claim checks on your bags. You have to do it yourself.” She was rude. I asked to see a supervisor and she went off to find one, never to return. Another agent checked me in.

Okay, so there is a terrible employee at every airline who should be fired. But that is not the point. Yesterday I called customer service (a misnomer) and was told that American has different policies at every airport. That is a design for disaster. Basically it tells every passenger to fend for themselves. It is what American Airlines' own commercial does, too.

This commercial received  a lot of criticism from the print media. Forbes said quoting,

“They know their mood contributes to the mood of the flight,” ad copy reads. They also bring noise cancelling headphones in case their (sic) are babies. “They always ask before they raise and lower the window shade,” the 30-and-60 second ad spots continue. Titled “The World’s Greatest Flyers,” the ads also note, “They know they have a limited time on earth.” (Hmmm?)

The premise is a bit like Clorox running a commercial telling moms, “If the stain doesn’t come out, don’t sweat it. At least you have a washing machine, and kids don’t notice stains.” Social media feedback perhaps wasn’t surprising…" end quote.

So, if we come back to McDonald’s and applied the American Airlines Brand Strategy, one Mickey D's would serve you the standard Big Mac, but another would tell you to go to another store because it is not their policy to make them.

Successful brands are Unique, Relevant and CONSISTENT and their messaging is clear. Finally, great brands have terrific Customer  Relations Management (CRM). Without constantly addressing the customer experience, brands eventually die.

 

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