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Brands look good but what about the Experience?

It’s been a busy 24hours. First Dubai, then Riyadh, then London, then Manchester. A major contrast experiences. Right now, sitting on the filthy train in Manchester, after British Airways lost my luggage, I can think of many places I would rather be.

It’s been an interesting trip because I have experiences Brands I do not normally interact with – British Airways, Dixons and Northern Rail for example.

When I talk about Brands, I tell my clients and audiences that Branding is no longer about a Logo – it’s all about experiences. Ask yourself, ‘how does it feel?’ The mark of a great brand is one where you have a profound connection to everything it stands for and it has a profound connection with you. It can be as simple as a smile after a long flight, a helpful customer service representative, or a sweet smelling train.

Let’s compare for a moment the arrival and departure experiences I have had over the past 24 hours:

  • Dubai is serine, smooth, calm, personal, friendly and professional. Everything is clean, gleaming and shining with plenty of happy Filipino works ready to help with a smile and a giggle (thank goodness for Filipinos).

  • Riyadh by contrast is filthy, smelly and edgy. The passport control officers are often seen smoking or chatting on their cell-phones while checking papers. Outside the airport there is chaos, crowds of people laughing and curiously trying to find their way to their destination. You never feel in danger in Riyadh, only a little unfamiliar.

The arrival experience in the UK is something I am ashamed of. There are buildings with glass walls and low ceiling, that give the appearance of newness and modernity, yet there is something missing. The airport staff are rude and short tempered. The environment is filthy, there are loud lewd youth rampaging through the airport drinking heavily, there is a sense of tension when I walk down a covered pathway to the station. Everything feels unloved, the people, the environments and the quality of service.

It has been a very interesting experience indeed. I would expect Dubai to be as it was, I would expect Riyadh to be as it was, but would I expect Manchester to be as it was? Absolutely not. In UK it is true that there are some beautiful looking Brands, everything has a clever slogan or tag line to explain what it is – messages are easy to grasp. Design quality is high and production is excellent. However, when I compare the Brands here in the UK, with those in Dubai, there is a crucial element missing. The Experience. What makes Dubai’s departure experience so special are the people, the environments and the promises made and kept by every single brand at every single touch-point. I wonder why it is that this cannot be a promise kept by Brands in UK. As I sit here after my long flight, on a filthy train, with British Airways having lost my suitcase surrounded by sad looking people, I wonder to myself, what happened to my country (I am not a UK basher), we have the creative talent, we have the volumes, but we just aren’t connecting and we need to. Every visitor to UK is an ambassador for the country. Treat them as such and always go the extra mile – understand what your brand means, write it down in a pledge to each and every customer and deliver, deliver, deliver – or the new world will blast you away.