What is brand voice? It is the unique language, tone, and word choice a brand uses. Establishing a clear brand voice is more important than ever, thanks to the constant social media conversation between customers and companies.
But brand voice isn’t just heard through social media. A brand also needs to establish a clear, consistent voice through many channels including blog posts, newsletters, advertisements, in-store communication, internal memos and communication, promotional materials, direct mail pieces, sales pitches, and networking introductions. A brand without a defined voice can be viewed as schizophrenic across communication channels, leading consumers to view the brand as less trustworthy, inferior to competitors, and less memorable.
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There are few industries where the decisions of one company greatly affect every other company within the industry. Bank of America charging the $5/month debit card fee is a current example of one company changing an industry. After the announcement, some banks publicly said they would like to do the same; others refused to engage in fees for debit cards. The auto industry is another industry that is affected by decisions of one company – competing for better gas mileage, lower emissions, and higher class with every new model year.
One industry in particular that we want to focus on is the airline industry. Time and time again, the industry as a whole shifts as one company makes a decision. This has impacted the brands of individual companies and the airline industry as a whole. We’ve outlined three major events in airline history that illustrate these impacts:
1. Southwest Airlines is founded in 1971. Flights are only within the state of Texas, and can therefore bypass federal regulations regarding air travel – including regulated pricing.
Before: If you wanted to fly, there was no “shopping around,” the price was set. Because airlines couldn’t compete on price they used the in-flight experience as a selling point. Free cocktails, good food, and great service were differentiating factors. Just the uniform of the flight attendant could heavily influence an airlines brand.
After: The deregulation of airlines occurred (1978) and airlines could begin to compete on price. Southwest quickly expanded outside of Texas and dominates the low cost market.
2. American Airlines announces they will charge for the first checked bag in May of 2008. While Spirit and Allegiant had this policy before American, American was the first major airline to instate the first checked bag fee. Within months, most major airlines followed suit. Now only JetBlue and Southwest offer your first bag free.
Before: Checking a bag is normal, airlines still offer in-flight amenities like snacks, pillows, and non-alcoholic beverages.
After: More people use carry-on bags. Consumers feel airlines are nickel and diming them. Purchasing based on ticket price becomes more popular, as brand loyalty to specific airlines decreases. Airlines start charging for more things that used to be free – meals, headphones, and blankets. Spirit even started charging for carry-on bags!
3. JetBlue becomes a social media rock star.
Before: Long hours of customer service phone calls, and long lines at the gates. Airlines connected with travelers primarily through face-to-face interactions, and because most people don’t fly everyday, their perception of one airline could be determined by one interaction.
After: More airlines develop and improve their customer service efforts through social media. Delta created @DeltaAssist to help customers using Twitter. JetBlue is still the clear leader in airline social media, but more airlines continue to adopt social media and engage in real-time conversations with travelers.
If you’ve been in the restaurant industry for an extended period of time, you’ve likely heard of the “secret” or “mystery” shopper. The shopper or shoppers come in and grade a restaurant on everything – from the host’s friendliness, to whether a manager stops by the table, to whether the server is knowledgeable and tells them their name. After their dining experience, the shoppers turn in a form relaying their experiences to the hiring company. The company then processes the information, and sends it to the restaurant, which in turn reviews the form (which itself can be a long process down the chain of command from corporate to district managers, to store managers to shift managers) and then contacts the staff member that served the shoppers. This process is drawn out to unnecessary lengths.
A few questions to ponder: Is this timeline acceptable? Is a secret shopper program even worth it, when the majority of experienced servers can pick out a secret shopper within the first 5 minutes of interaction? By the time the feedback returns, does the employee in question even work at the restaurant anymore?
Enter in 4G mobile phone networks, high speed internet, and social media, and the timeline for customer feedback is much shorter. A guest can write a review from the table on Yelp from their phone, or they can be tweeting or updating their Facebook status about everything that is happening. The best part is that restaurant managers and staff have an opportunity to correct a potential problem as it occurs, and establish a personal relationship with guests by monitoring these forms of media.
The key is to utilize the instant feedback available, and stand out from the crowd in your social media responses. Don’t just type a response – when someone checks in on Foursquare, find them in the restaurant and thank them for dining with you! Monitoring the correct channels also enables managers to address issues with staff (positive or negative) immediately or at the end of the shift in which they occurred. Events are still fresh in everyone’s mind, and ways to correct or compliment are relevant.
1. Be polite. No one wants to be the owner/manager/employee who lashes out at an unhappy guest. There are countless examples of letting anger take hold, but the results are always the same: it’s embarrassing, gets bad PR, and can ruin your brand image. The best thing to do when someone has a complaint, but has already left the restaurant, is to take the conversation offline, and privately message them and resolve the situation out of the public eye. If someone is still at the restaurant, approach the guest and see what can be done to rectify the situation.
2. Respond. It’s very easy to set up a social media account, use it for a while, and then ignore it for long periods of time. The problem with ignoring social media platforms is that guests can still be interacting with an establishment, and feeling like they’re being ignored. This result is the opposite of what social media should be! Try to always respond to check-ins and comments, even if it’s just a quick “thank you!” It’s a small step to lasting relationships with guests.
3. Consistent communication. When a company decides to set guest expectations with a Facebook or Twitter promotion, front-of-house staff members must know about the promotion. Brand equity is damaged at the customer level when a server is not knowledgeable or the kitchen is not prepared.
4. Facebook is not Twitter. Don’t use Facebook as an extension of Twitter or vice-versa. Take advantage of Twitter’s fast moving feed and Facebook’s new 5000 character limit and the ability to post photos and videos.
5. Last, be aware of current events. Understand trending topics and the purpose of hashtags. Do not be the next Kenneth Cole #Cairo debacle.
Social media is essential in promoting businesses and engaging with customers and guests. At first glance, social media may seem like a waste of time. Below we’ve outlined the 3 most popular sites for restaurant goers – Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare. We’ve also included Yelp, because we’ve noticed that the site is a growing concern for owners and managers of restaurants.
What it’s used for: interaction and conversation, real-time taste of consumer attitude, promotion
Overview: Twitter is a great resource for real-time interaction. Correctly monitoring Twitter results in a better understanding of the marketplace. Twitter allows users to search for topics and see what trending topics are in a specific area. It is a great place to interact with guests and join conversations that relate to the type of food or drinks served. For example, a sushi restaurant might search for #sushi, and find someone that is craving sushi in the area. They can then invite them in, establishing a connection with the guest. Restaurants can also use Twitter to announce and promote specials.
What it’s used for: relationship building, loyalty rewards
Overview: Guests can use Foursquare to check-in to businesses. Businesses take advantage of this by setting up specials, like free chips and salsa for every check-in or a free drink for the mayor. Restaurants can take advantage of Foursquare by monitoring check-ins and welcoming guests that have checked-in. Making a guest feel welcome and special increases the likelihood of them coming back again and again.
What it’s used for: promotion; conversation, photos, events
Overview: Facebook for business is helpful in promoting specials, posting images, and conversing with guests. One major benefit of Facebook is that restaurants can post things that people can look back on for months, like photos and comments. Facebook also allows users to create events and invite guests who “like” the page.
What it’s used for: reviews from guests; research from potential guests
Overview: Of all people who dine at a restaurant, a very small percentage post reviews on Yelp. It is important to monitor a brand through Yelp, but more valuable information about the way a restaurant is perceived can be obtained by talking to guests while they are dining. If a guest has an issue while dining and it is not corrected before they leave, they are leaving unhappy, and any review they write will reflect that. If a manager talks to the table and corrects the problem before they leave, the guests leave satisfied.
Do you need help making social media sites branded? Contact us, we’d love to help!