Frictionless Brand Alignment

The golden arches convey dollar cheeseburgers and fake shakes. Target’s bulls-eye reminds you that anything you could possibly need is displayed just steps within their automated doors. And Whole Foods has become the de facto destination for all things natural and organic.

Brand – that difficult to define yet easy to recall mysterious blend of visual identity and carefully chosen prose –  is a promise. It means I’ll find what I came for; it also means that the experience of browsing, buying and working together will be consistent with the expectations that your brand set forth.

When good brands go awry – and there’s ample evidence in the marketing textbooks – consumers stay away. Even worse, they switch their powerful loyalty to another brand. And every good marketer knows that the cost of acquiring a customer in contrast to retaining the ones you’ve already engaged is staggering.

Whole Foods’ focus is now commonplace; pretty much every supermarket chain carries organic produce and products. Other specialty stores such as Trader Joe’s deliver a far more engaging and mirthful customer experience. In my opinion, the one reason to visit Whole Foods was to buy coffee. For years, my beloved preference was their Sumatran, the quintessential Indonesian roast.

Yet, over a prolonged period of time, week after week, the Sumatran bin was empty. Mysterious new coffees such as “No. 4” (which sure sounded like a bunch of beans got dropped on the floor of the storeroom) appeared in the bins previously reserved for Sumatran.

You see, my brand definition wasn’t aligned with my new Whole Foods experience. It was the coffee that motivated me to the extent that I would drive to Whole Foods and fill my shopping cart with other items. Yet, when the coffee cupboards were consistently bare; my behavior was modified. Brand loyalty was gone, a customer lost.

Recently, a small coffee chain named Booskerdoo opened down the block from Whole Foods. They have great coffee. And when I go there, they always have great coffee. It’s organic and certified fair trade. Take that, Whole Foods!

Brand alignment means happy customers. Happy customers spend money. Increased revenue equals marketing nirvana. Plus, I’ve always been a sucker for the little guy.