Carla Stratfold posted an entry on the Marketing News blog about brands - successes, failures, and revivals. The author makes some very good points related to leadership's role in the branding process. Most organization believe branding is all about what you will do for the customer and their needs. However, branding is almost totally about what you won't do, as it relates to the needs of the customer. Studies have proven how consumers prefer, in many ways, limitations and boundaries during brand experience.
From the leadership perspective within the organization, the pressure to render successful performance measures can often create a conflict with the brand strategy. For instance, it's virtually impossible to purchase a Pepsi at a Starbucks, but recent revenue challenges have opened the discussion about selling alcohol. We as marketing professionals love it when we see unexplainable growth as a result of a strong brand, but we quickly feel the confinement by the brand when the brand attitude suddenly turns bad in the marketplace, due to uncontrollable circumstances. In a way, Stratfold is calling this unfortunate experience a necessary part of the "Durable Brand" process.
Please don't get this twisted with a weak brand position of, "We are America's ____________". I'm referring to real brand attributes that consumers identify with your overall brand. If you are known for making bad products and having bad service, believe it or not, it's actually a strong brand. Everyone has a favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant they frequent, which offers horrible service, bad hours, and good food. The restaurant brand slogan may say, "The Best ___________ In Town", but that's not what you remember about the brand. You remember what they won't do for you as a customer. They won't treat you well, they won't make it convenient for you to patronize them, and they won't let anything come out of the kitchen unless it's the best you ever had in your life. Although the "Best __________ In Town" slogan may be a correct statement, as it relates to their brand, the other boundaries and constraints (bad service and hours) are in many ways more significant to the overall brand than the food. In fact, when you recommended them to your friend, you started the selling pitch by stating the obvious negative stuff, and then you finished with, "but the ___________ is so good, you will want to slap your mama".
There's a saying in golf when you are preparing to hit your ball, "commit to the swing", which means that whatever you have decided to do, considering the challenges, make sure you are fully committed to executing that plan. COMMIT TO YOUR BRAND!