For anyone born after 1980, it’s likely difficult to imagine that Washington DC football was once beloved. The team’s brand stood for consistency, positive outcomes, loyal fans, packed stadiums, proud players, supportive ownership, and exceptional coaching. Baby Boomers, you know what I’m talking about, right?! There were three Super Bowls in 10 years, and the waitlist for season tickets was 50,000 or more. Fast forward to today: What does Washington football stand for now?
Sadly, the brand represents inconsistency, poor leadership, losing seasons, empty stands, discounted tickets, and now a toxic and abusive work environment.
Be careful of your company promises
As 30-year season ticket holders, my family was fanatical about Washington football. These days, you can find me up the Beltway cheering on the Ravens. Before you call me a traitor, remember that the brand I loved is no longer that brand.
Many people believe that brands are only made up of all the visual stuff. Not so! Even though Washington football has had the same logo (I know… not for long), colors, touchdown cheer, licensing rights, etc. for the past 50 years, the brand today is completely different from what I fondly remember. In fact, it now represents all sorts of bad things and invokes negative feelings. Promises of the 80s and even early 90s have slowly, painfully been broken.
Brands are not owned by a company. They are formed in the minds of key stakeholders. They represent promises made and kept. Washington football didn’t keep its promises.
Align brand promises and customer experiences
Even if you’re not into first downs and touchdowns, you should care about this tale. It’s a good example of the importance of a brand and a reminder that companies can shape them but not always control them. Be careful with the promises your company makes in its communications. Ensure your messaging is consistent with the products, services, and overall experience you deliver. Focus as much on customers’ experiences as you do on pretty logos, slick websites, and promotional outreach.
When the Marketri team is working on a brand creation project, we ensure that the messaging we create is consistent with the actual customer experience. We do this by talking with our clients’ customers, looking at online reviews, and performing internal company-wide surveys to assess strengths and weaknesses.
We know that stringing together words that simply sound good is not the right answer. Over-promising on what you deliver is a “no-no,” too. While it might not backfire immediately, messaging that isn’t aligned with customer experiences could, over time, land your company in the same scenario as “fail to the Redskins.”
Measure, map, and adjust
Once your brand message hits the streets and the perceptions of your customers and prospects are being shaped, conduct surveys formally or informally to get feedback on customer experiences. Identify services that need improving sooner rather than later, then map out and deliver better ones that are more in line with your brand promise.
If Washington football had cared enough to get fan feedback and act upon it, I’d still be cheering them on and #HTTR would have remained the enthusiastic rallying cry in more feeds.