Seinfeld & Branding Schizophrenia

Dana and I could hardly believe our ears.

The site supervisor responsible for the construction of our new home was insisting the closing date was November 30th.

We politely pointed out that the actual date was November 24th, which as anyone planning a move to a new home knows is not something you want to mess around with. Imagine the chaos that would ensue from having wires crossed on a six-day discrepancy.

As we walked away from that encounter knowing full well the legal documents we had signed off on (and exactly where they were located) it was crystal clear this was just another common example of “Branding Schizophrenia”.

We looked at each other, laughed and remembered the classic scene from Seinfeld.

For Jerry and Elaine that day, it was simple transaction at a rental counter; not a 6-figure lifetime commitment with a three-month timetable, complete with cement foundation, bricks, mortar, custom cabinets and airtight legal documents.

But, this far too common disease (where people inside companies are NOT on the same page) can strike any organization in any product/service category anytime, anywhere.

In medical parlance, schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by erratic social behavior and failure to understand what is real. Common symptoms include false beliefs, confused thinking and a lack of motivation.

In organizations, “Branding Schizophrenia” surfaces when it’s painfully clear the left hand (operations) doesn’t know what the right hand (marketing) is doing.

The result is a much less than desired impact on the end user and a severe dilution of any potential for brand equity. In other words, how likely are you to recommend any provider that displays great difficulty executing simple fundamentals that would have everyone in the company singing from the same song sheet?

This scene from the third season and 28thepisode of Seinfeld illustrates “Branding Schizophrenia” in all of its far too common glory.

If you watched the video closely, you will notice that not only was the car rental company disconnected operationally, the person responsible for customer service (lady behind the counter) didn’t actually seem to care.

Do you see the Problem or do you see the Opportunity?

“Branding Schizophrenia” occurs every time otherwise intelligent business owners and senior execs think of marketing, sales, customer service, HR and operations as separate departments within a company.

It starts at the very top and filters through every part of the company leaving many customers with the feeling that this firms has a split personality; that the external branding messages don’t align with the internal culture and what is experienced at the front counter.

One of my very best friends, Ray Seggern of Wizard of Ads and One-Man Brand radio fame out of Austin, TX often refers to a simple formula, he has dubbed THE BRANDING VORTEX. Besides being an astute observer of the machinations of commerce, Ray is a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan who has identified three distinct, intangible forces that generate varying degrees of energetic turbulence and emotional flow.

  1. STORY = What You Say (communicated through external messaging).
  2. CULTURE = Who You Are (internal practices driven by management).
  3. EXPERIENCE = What You Deliver (and how it feels to the customer).

If any of these three components are out of whack, the side effects are predictable.

But, when all three converge like a magnificent symphony, your customers will take to social media and give you rave reviews. Team morale will be high and you will be viewed as an “employer of choice” where top talent will be anxious to join your band of merry minstrels. The cash register will sing and the entire enterprise will march to a new beat of profit and growth.

Everything hinges on recognizing that the customer’s perception becomes your reality.

In the medical world anywhere from 0.3–0.7% of the population is affected by schizophrenia during their lifetime and the average life expectancy of people with this disorder is ten to twenty-five years less than the norm. But, I am willing to bet the business numbers are much higher and therein lies the opportunity.

Story + Culture + Experience = RESULTS

Like any good football team, companies need the kind of cohesiveness that allows a top quarterback to mesh with skill position players and a motivated offensive line to be able to march down the field.

When was the last time you stepped away from your own operation and assessed the level of “Branding Schizophrenia” in your category? Are we talking isolated cases or a rampant, widespread epidemic? Where does your firm stack up against your competitors and what could you do to change that?

Could there be an opportunity for your firm to reinvent from within?

What would happen if you took deliberate steps to rewrite the script and create a brand story that everyone inside your company could understand, tell and live fully in such a way that customers would find compelling?

Could a higher level of internal alignment and well-being inspire external reactions that translate into more touchdowns?

Or would you prefer to enter 2017 hoping that your competitors will keep fumbling the ball more than you do?

“There are no traffic jams along the extra mile”
 
ROGER STAUBACH

p.s… one of the featured guests on the most recent edition of “One Man Brand” radio on NewsTalk KLBJ in Austin, TX is the man featured in one of the most creative political ads in recent decades. Join Ray Seggern and discover the story behind this video with Travis County Commissioner Gerald Daugherty.


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Originally published at gairmaxwell.com on October 31, 2016.

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