Stale bread and the brand conundrum

By Ed Bowler
February 2019
Stale Bread And The Brand Conundrum

I’ll start on a tangent. This is probably a fib, but it’s a good one.

A few years ago a brand consultant told me he was asked to present his credentials at McLaren Racing. In an effort to make a case for himself, he thought he’d try a bit of car park research. There was a chap sweeping leaves. When asked what he was doing, the leaf sweeper replied:

“I’m helping Lewis Hamilton to win the world title”.

Interesting. Sometimes unwavering focus can be a bit unnerving. And that story - if true - probably does stray into feeling a little cultish.

But it can also be very powerful when every person in your business believes in your brand and your mission. Because it means your people become ambassadors. And your customers experience exactly what you want them to. Every time.

Back to the title then. And for the record I’m not a baker and I’m not a particularly patient cook either.

I like artisan bread. Freshly baked. Preferably with berries or olives in it. And as a hypocrite, I get it from Tesco most Saturdays. There isn’t an artisan bakery within walking distance.

From my spot at the counter every loaf looks delicious. Whether it’s been out of the oven for an hour or sat on the shelf for a week. But behind that crisp crust there’s no hiding. Fluffy warm doughy bread can become stiff, stale sponge. But you’ll only find out once you’re actually inside. By which time you’re £1.89 poorer.

The resulting experience can contrast from sheer delight (and weight gain) to utter disappointment. Especially if you’ve invested in other areas on the assumption that the bread inside isn’t stale. Pâté anyone?

If you’re anything like me then you’re probably getting confused. And hungry. But the upshot is - if your people aren’t behind your brand, promises and beliefs, then your customers probably aren’t getting the experience, product or service that they expect and deserve. Your business is stale inside… despite the external image you’re projecting.

And that’s an issue. Because nobody likes stale bread… especially when it’s been sold as freshly made.

So what’s the answer? In our world it all boils down to internal branding and an aligned team culture. At least in my opinion. If your team isn’t behind your beliefs then maybe you haven’t listened to them. Or worse still - maybe you haven’t asked.

And no matter how you present yourself, that first impression won’t last long if your customers don’t get the experience you’ve sold them. And that will rarely happen if your people don’t believe in it.

Once a customer gets a taste of your business, does the expectation match the experience?