Last week, in preparation for a client visit, one of our consultants nipped out to a nearby patisserie to purchase some celebratory cakes. Knowing that another consultant he was buying for has a serious nut allergy, he had assumed that this classy-looking establishment would be exactly the right place to source some lovingly-prepared pastries. This was his perception anyway, created by the high-end interior design, the smartly-uniformed staff, the reassuringly-French je ne sais quoi about the store’s branding and the delicate display of Danish delights. He asked the person serving if they could tell him if the cup cakes contained any nuts, only to be told, “sorry, we can’t guarantee what’s been made in the factory”. And there – in one word of just three syllables, the whole premise of a premium patisserie providing perfect pastry, hand-made mille feuille and macaroons was reduced to crumbs. Whatever efforts the central marketing team had made to build a brand which exuded quality, exclusivity and desirability collapsed right there and then like a disappointing soufflé. And all because of one word – “factory”.
It just shows you that you can spend all the money in the world on the icing on the cake: the interior, the uniforms, the cake stands, the doilies and the displays, but unless you spend the time and effort on engaging the very people who deliver the service and the product day-after-day to customers (the sponge that makes the sandwich?), making sure they understand exactly why this is ‘no ordinary’ macaroon’ (and therefore worth every penny of its eye-rather-than-mouth-watering price) then the brand experience will fall as flat as a pancake.
In comparison, on Radio 4 recently, there was a piece on the Charlie Bigham food range. During the interview, the conversation turned to explain that the production process was always referred to as ‘the kitchen’. Who wouldn’t want to eat a meal prepared in a ‘kitchen’ versus one from an industrial production line where your dinner is one of thousands being readied for ‘service’?
As consumers, we want it all of course – style and substance. At the very least we want to believe that we’ve made the right decision in our purchases, that we’ve come to the right place, because it’s giving us what we thought it would – a brand experience which lives up to its promise at every single turn.
From now on, we’re heading to the family-run bakery for a does-what-it-say-it-is doughnut.