The Achilles Heel of Strong Brands: People
When I first came to New York City to live, the Village Voice was my weekly Bible reading. The publication had a recurring cartoon feature I quite adored. It carried a promise: "All dialogue guaranteed verbatim." This posting comes to you with the same promise.
The other night I was flying home on the incredibly glamorous 'red-eye' from Los Angeles. I was seated in First Class, phew. Still, we boarded the United Flight at 9 p.m. and were due to land at 5 a.m. The mission for me and all of my seat mates was the same: Get to sleep, stay asleep. There was one loud, penetrating voice, however. I couldn't really believe that anyone on that flight would keep talking through the night, but there you have it. There was one. I fell asleep to his drone. I couldn't make out the words, just the fact that there was a monologue in progress.
The cabin lights came on at 4:30 and I came to to the sound of the same voice: "So I told her, I want hard wood, not memory foam, you know want I mean?" It was the steward, talking to his female colleague about his wife's body, post-baby. Eeck! The female flight attendant looked at me, looked away, didn't really know where to look. The steward went on and on. Complaining about his wife's refusal to work out as diligently as he wanted her to. Comparing her to other women he'd slept with, other women who had also had babies. It was overwhelmingly inappropriate and as I left the plane, I found myself promising myself not to book United again. Which put me in a frame of mind in the cab ride home of debating whether or not that's fair. Do I count this as poor training on United's part. Bad hiring? No genuine supervision? Or just the ravings of one lunkhead? Perhaps the fault is mine: I should have done more than glower as I exited the aircraft?
But then I considered all the Brand experiences I'd had at apparel chains, 'brand name' restaurants and hotels and how one person can make the absolute difference. Such an amazing vulnerability. One guy upset with his wife changes my perception of an airline with which I've logged millions of miles. And, one whose advertising and reliance on Gershwin I've quite adored. Heads-up Brand ambassadors. And, Brand stewards.