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Mercedes Benz

Mercedes-Benz World is a brand centre par excellence as befits a world-class automotive brand. SME’s may not have the same resources but can benefit from the same virtues of hospitality, attention-to-detail and experience by gaining a better understanding of their brand.

You can’t judge an apple by looking at a tree. You can’t judge honey by looking at the bee, sings Bo Didley in the opening lines of his 1962 hit, ‘You can’t judge a book by looking at the cover’. Potential candidates for a new job may make their mind up about your organisation before you get a chance to meet them. Pre-judgment is something we are all guilty of and our first experience of a potential employer may prove hard to change. As the saying goes ‘you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression’.

According to the government, small and medium sized enterprises (SME’s) employed 14,424,000 people in the UK in 2013. The trading estates of Britain are the heartland of the UK’s SME’s and my experience as a Brand Consultant is that these estates are often uninspiring locations. They can be dull, unimaginative places, but millions of people work in them. These businesses can have a great product or service but their presentation and hospitality lets them down. If these organisation’s were hotels, they would turn guests away in their droves, an issue that the Hotelier and TV documentary presenter Alex Polizzi understands in her business programme ‘The Fixer’.

A significant number of SME’s in the UK do not pay enough attention to their brand and the experience it provides. They may have a great offering, but this is not always reflected in how they engage with the outside world. I have frequently met business owners and senior management teams whose eyes glaze over when you mention branding. They are proud that they have had success through their networks and personal contacts, and they maintain that customers buy from them personally and that the business brand is not an issue or priority. Their own personal branding is typically good, but they do not follow this through to their corporate identity and employee experience. They may drive a prestigious car and take care of their appearance but they pay little attention to their brand. The brand ethos should be reflected in every aspect of the business and its employees.

If a potential employee has no previous knowledge of a business their strongest feeling will come from their first experience and as the saying goes, ‘you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression’. That ‘gut feeling’ has an important part to play in positioning a brand and if the experience is found lacking then the perception of the brand will flounder.

How good are we at judging character? The rise of the talent show as a popular entertainment format has been a phenomenon throughout the first decade of the millennium. Shows like Pop Idol, The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent have been compelling viewing for many people and have catapulted unknowns into familiar household names. In April 2009 the ITV talent show Britain’ s Got Talent clearly illustrated how first impressions can be so spectacularly wrong. When Susan Boyle took to the stage, many people in the audience were cruelly mocking her. Susan Boyle did not match the stereotype of a successful female singer. She wasn’t young and glamorous. As Susan Boyle began to sing ‘ I dreamed a dream ’ from the musical Les Miserables the smirking expressions present in the audience changed to open-mouthed shock and awe.

The panelists Piers Morgan, Amanda Holden and Simon Cowell were clearly impressed. History was made and Susan Boyle’s remarkable singing voice attracted international attention and was one of the most viewed clips on YouTube and a successful recording career beckoned. The media at the time described the moment as a modern parable, teaching us not to judge by appearances. Are we not all guilty of judging a book by its cover? Is your business a Susan Boyle brand? There are many businesses that have a fantastic product or service but their branding lets them down. A business may not get the opportunity to prove itself like Susan Boyle did and its image becomes a stumbling block to success. The audience was obliged to listen to the contestant but if the singer had been a business brand, would the potential customer or job applicant have given the organisation a chance? Estate Agents speak of curbside appeal, but would a prospect have opened the door or would they have taken one look at the exterior and moved on?

Potential employees need to ‘get ’ the brand or how can you expect new customers to understand its premise. You need to make sure that everything you believe in and stand for is communicated clearly. It is not easy to do this, as branding is so much more than a logo – people, hospitality, environment, design, colour, imagery etc. all play a part. Your brand connects with the senses and should be mirrored in every aspect of your organisation, from the product or service to the environment, people and culture.

Everything that a potential employer does to attract a prospective employee should be part of a consistent brand experience from an applicant’s initial awareness of the employer, through their application process, interview, selection and induction. The whole procedure should be viewed as a critical experience that tests the mettle of the brand at every touchpoint. An unsuccessful or disappointed job applicant will carry away an insight of the brand that could prove to be harmful to the brands reputation.

Ask yourself:

  • Is the recruitment process from awareness to on boarding, consistent with the brand and does it enhance the brand experience?
  • Is the recruitment procedure simple and easy to understand and information freely accessible?
  • Are your candidate facing employees ambassadors for the brand?
  • Are recruiters properly trained and aware of the recruitment procedure?
  • Will candidates be kept up to date with their application process?
  • Are all communications in keeping with the brand?

Touchpoints are the myriad of interactions between a brand and its audience that tests the brand’s integrity. Collectively these touchpoints form the brand experience from which the audience appraises the brand. The audience includes employees, suppliers and customers. Brands are only as strong as their weakest link. Find out more about how a deeper understanding of the brand can create richer experiences. You are invited to join me for my new Brand Experience Workshop designed to help you get to the heart of your brand.

Other courses include Employer Branding and Core Values



Speaker, author and branding guru, Paul Hitchens, will share his key insights into how your employer brands can be managed and enhanced at this workshop

Paul Hitchens is the Author of ‘Create the Perfect Brand’, a ‘Teach Yourself’ guidebook to branding. He has extensive experience in branding, including manufacturing and service brands. He has created and implemented many brands for new business ventures, start-ups and established organisations. Following a successful agency career that included an award-winning recruitment campaign at the PA Consulting Group and Automotive Branding at Wolf-Olins, he became a founding partner of the Brand Consultancy Verve Interactive Ltd.

Paul is a course director with the Chartered Institute of Marketing and has lectured at The Henley Business School, presenting the brand module for the MSc in Strategic Marketing Leadership. He has contributed articles on branding to business journals including Management Today and Start Your Business Magazine and has been interviewed on both Television and Radio regarding brands.

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