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  Packaging Services   Packaging Services  Randall Frost  
         
 
Packaging Services He continued, "I think the levels of confidence people have in service brands are infinitely lower than the levels they have in product brands."

In Brand Engagement (2008), management consultant Ian Buckingham profiles unsuccessful attempts to relocate call center services to India, a practice that resulted in soaring numbers of customer complaints and extensive damage to corporate brands, not to mention India’s national brand. The author suggests that these kinds of problems could have been avoided if the employees had been engaged in activities that fulfilled their higher order needs and if they had worked for organizations that shared their values.

According to Buckingham, the way to achieve this is through brand engagement—ensuring the alignment of organizational policies, people and activities with brand values and gearing them toward meeting customer needs. A lack of clarity about values, behaviors, strengths and expertise within an organization, he says, results in significant problems.

 
The disconnect between personal and corporate values leads to employees trying to protect themselves by adopting on-brand masks, Buckingham says. Instead of delivering authenticity, they present the prevailing culture with what they believe it will find useful. Meanwhile, if the culture doesn’t resonate with their core values, they exhibit defensive behaviors.

Packaging
The problems facing service brands today bring to mind the role that product packaging played in the late 19th century in helping product brands gain the trust of consumers. Prior to the 1900s, most products were sold in bulk from bins at the point of sale. By the beginning of the 20th century, packages had established product boundaries (limiting the possibilities of product adulteration), even as they associated manufacturers’ names with guaranteed levels of product quality.

But, as historian Thomas Hine notes in The Total Package (1995), one element of early packaging design was also part of a larger social revolution. According to Hine, the practice of putting faces on packages in the early 1900s, for example, was characteristic of a social transition from judging people based on their personalities to judging them based on the masks they wore. These masks or personae allowed strangers displaced by the social dislocations of the late 19th century to interact with relative anonymity. Consumers could get information from package labels that they had previously relied on shopkeepers for.

But in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, package design increasingly reverted to being an expression of brand personality and, in the process, became nearly synonymous with branding. Driven by creative geniuses like graphic designer Walter Landor, package designs resonated strongly with consumers in post-WWII America, whose economy was mainly driven by product manufacturing.

 
By the early 1960s—as America’s economy was becoming more service-based—the restaurant chain McDonald’s had proved that services could be branded by successfully delivering on promises about service quality. The company’s staff was trained to be friendly, polite and courteous in a way that was completely in alignment with the brand’s promise. In the process, the restaurant chain demonstrated that the trademark, name and design were just elements of the brand that also included an experience.

As the number of service brands grew, expectations about what could be packaged began to shift. Hine said in 2005, “The people who are doing the design aspect of packaging have all in the last 15 years or so tried to cast themselves—recast themselves, as brand experts because they realized that an awful lot of what had to be packaged was in many cases not the physical product.” According to Hine, this included services.

Richard Westendorf, executive creative director at Landor Associates in Cincinnati, shared the following anecdote: “A few years ago, we had a local wireless company [as a client]. When you’re selling services with wireless, there is nothing to sell. All the switching is going on over the wire. But you have to have something tangible to scan. They literally sold it in a box on a peg in a store. It’s an opportunity to express some kind of brand promise in a structure of some kind. It feels like people have that innate desire for [that]—rather than simply enjoying the service. There are all kinds of different ways a package can manifest itself.”

Service Brand Promise
The financial crisis that erupted in the US raised lasting questions about our ability to trust financial service institutions. Buckingham explains, “Reflect on how many financial service brands project brand values like integrity, trust, heritage, customer service and professionalism. Employees understand that this is a marketing stance. Too many, however, also understand that the prevailing internal culture is increasingly characterized by winning, eliminating competition, survival of the fittest and short-termism.”

In his book, Buckingham draws on Spencer Johnson’s Who Moved My Cheese? to illustrate how people can successfully change outmoded behavior. Johnson’s book tells the story of four personable critters who have to navigate a maze to find a new supply of cheese when their old source vanishes. The tale underscores the notion that brand engagement is about changing behavior. According to Buckingham, the CEO and local line managers are responsible for teaching their employees these new behaviors.

Herb Meyers, co-founder of Gerstman+Meyers (now Interbrand) and the co-author of two books on package design, apparently agrees. “It’s really the leadership that sets the tone and thereby selects how their ‘brand’ is perceived by the public,” he says. “Employees follow only what they are instructed to do by the company leaders. If the leaders teach them to be honest and ethical, they will ‘fit into that box’ or they will be fired. If the leaders are not following an orthodox behavior pattern, the employees will not ‘fit into that box’ either.” Meyers, however, does not rule out outside help in getting people on-brand. “It could be a psychologist, or someone trained in behavioral counseling, who develops a ‘package’ to translate the corporate philosophy to the staff,” he adds.

Brand value, after all, begins at home.    

[14-Sep-2009]

 
  
  

Randall Frost is a freelance writer based in Pleasanton, California. He is the author of The Globalization of Trade. His work has appeared in Worth, The New England Financial Journal, CBSHealthWatch, and a variety of educational publications.

     
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Brand Engagement: Packaging Service Brands
 
 Randall, I love your article. I whole-heartedly agree that engaging stakeholders in the brand building process is essential to creating a sustainable brand strategy. Not to mention, mission and core values. I think the economy is forcing organizations to go through a self-analysis and realize what it important to them. Unfortunately it often takes a financial crisis for organiations to realize that their most valuable asset is their employees. Now is also the time for all organizations to understand that a brand is first a noun. 
Rex Whisman, Principal, BrandED Consultants Group - September 14, 2009
 
 a wonderfully insight of service brands in relation to product brand. service brands need continous coomuncation, a innovative culture working positive towards the brand image and identity . it requires continous research and set measures to achieve success. service companies must walk the talk and stick to the brand values of companies . 
jackson mutebi, chief executive officier, smart independent worldwide consultancy - September 14, 2009
 
 This is an excellent article on branding 101; worth sharing with employees. 
Yolanda Perez, Director, Customer Relations, American Heart Association - September 16, 2009
 
 Great article. Particularly interested to see you quoting Buckingham who is being increasingly acclaimed as someone who foresaw the problems FS brands now face and his book Brand Engagement is an enlightening read - especially on the human aspects of brand development 
- September 17, 2009
 
 This article/book demonstrates so clearly how brand is really a constant co-creation of the company and the customer. And further, that brand is a journey and not a destination. To Herb Meyers point about outside help being required to help in getting people 'on-brand', a brand coaching model is useful. This approach facilitates the connection between brand values and personal values. Thanks for the reviews and thoughts Randall. 
Cheryl Sylvester, President, Your Brand Coach - September 17, 2009
 
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