Branding without integrity is just a marketing exercise and not branding at all!


Last week I attended the Customer Experience Summit in London – a chance to see and hear market experts talk about good and bad customer experiences and best practice.

Louise Cooper, Times columnist and blogger at started the keynotes with customer experiences at Primark and Tesco amongst others (read on her blog).
It was a great start to a day that left me thinking about ways in which to improve the experience for customers.
A few years ago I read a book about Virgin and Richard Branson. I remember the explanation of branding and the success of creating a brand. A brand has to be consistent across a business. By this I do not mean that everyone follows the same script, or even that every one looks the same. This may well be the outcome but to focus on this really misses the point! When I say branding with integrity I mean that the brand should have values, real true values, and everything should stem off this- take Virgin… Fun, sophisticated and customer facing in an approachable manner. Branson acts in a fun, open and yet playfully sophisticated way, the staff follow suit. Virgin trains have signs that are playful, take a sign in their toilet…


The brand colour is red, bright red- bold, expressive and out to take over the world. everything aligns.
Copy what you see on the surface of a brand without building a core and you lose the integrity.
I have an experience of a brand, in my eyes, focussing on the surface without building a core.
Last year I planned a bit of an adventure- a few days out to see a bit of the world, all combined with a marathon and family visits for Easter. My plan was to fly London to Bratislava, Ryanair, then get a coach to Vienna. After a couple of days with friends and a marathon, on a train to Venice. A couple of days in Venice and then a train to Bologna, a day there and off to Florence for the evening to stay with some good friends for a couple of nights. On Easter Saturday a flight to Birmingham, UK to meet my parents. I booked a Flybe flight with baggage so that I could buy presents to give on the Sunday. Easter Sunday a meal was planned- family that rarely get together.  My train was booked on the Tuesday to go back to London and then work on the Wednesday.
Granted, with all going on, a lot could go wrong, things did… I celebrated in Vienna after the marathon and nearly missed the train to Venice the next morning. When in Venice, the kitchen in the hotel I stayed in caught fire and the fire alarm system didn’t work properly (I was in bed thinking someone had set their alarm in the room next door as smoke filled the hallway!) Amazingly the part that frustrated me the most was meant to be the simplest part.
My friend lives near Florence Airport and dropped me there in the morning. My parents agreed to meet me at the airport in Birmingham- easy!
Customers value time and honesty, it is not just about financial loss.
So at the airport in Florence I learn all about the Flybe rebrand – new purple planes and staff dressed in purple.
Flybe Purple brings to life its core business of time-saving, punctual travel with the introduction of a vibrant, dynamic modern ‘look and feel’, a touch of fun and a world-first 60:60 On Time Guarantee for passengers.


Everything is more user friendly- tickets have been renamed so what you see is what you get. New Economy is not “Get More” and Plus is “All in”

You would imagine a smooth, welcoming customer experience.
Waiting in a long line at the airport I knew that the flight was already an delayed. Not a problem, I was pretty flexible.
When I finally got on the plane and found my seat I found a magazine telling me even more about this wonderful rebrand which more and more looked like a copy of Virgin but with purple instead of red!
Twenty minutes and the plane was still parked. For some reason not everyone had boarded. A flustered steward announced that because of the bad weather the aircraft was too heavy and either our bags had to stay or half of us had to get off. Ten minutes more passed and everyone was a little confused. Without another announcement more people boarded. People started asking questions and without being asked, our bags were taken off. When questioned about our bags the steward pointed at the aeroplane next to us and said that they would follow. We got off the ground and were on our way to Birmingham, without really knowing what was going on.
True to brand instruction, we were given a chocolate “with love from” and assured that the staff inside the building would be able to help us with our bags so that we could carry on with all our possessions.
So I alight the aircraft and it is Saturday afternoon. In my bag are presents for the family from the islands around Venice, from Vienna and Florence, all packed and ready to give out the next day, but not with me.
The passengers get to the terminal and the staff who can help us know nothing. I spoke to one member of staff who told me that the bags were on the next flight… another passenger had told her this a few minutes before based on the same knowledge that I had. There had been no communication at all.
Half an hour later some information- I had to leave my details and the bag would be at the airport later that evening and couriered out to my parents house in Wolverhampton. I had a contact number to call if I needed anything.
10pm and the courier had not arrived. I called the airport and apparently it would be returned first thing in the morning (Easter Sunday) – Not ideal but OK as my relatives were joining us in the afternoon.
I called in the morning- The flight will come in this evening… I called in the evening and they said Monday!
My relatives did not receive their gifts on Easter Sunday.
On the Tuesday I was to get a train to London. I called the airport and my bag had arrived. They were to courier it to Wolverhampton later in the day… Our paths literally would cross. I called to stop the courier. They were able to hold the bag at the airport and I took a detour topic up on route.
I got my bag back but the experience could not have been much worse.
Brand is another word for reputation. Brand association is just about matching an identity with a service or a product.
To me, purple Flybe is not time saving or punctual. It is quite the opposite. Mistakes happen and people have to think on their feet but clarity, honesty and communication would have gone a long way.
Many companies have “values” and many claim to be customer focused. Printing “with love” on a chocolate bar does not mean that you care for the customer.
Branding is about having a core and staying true to that core in everything that your company stands for.
Branding without integrity is just a marketing exercise and not branding at all.

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