After the perm, it’s still a dog

The corner restaurant near this office has been through five tenants in recent years. Each spends money on a new name and new fitout, but these don’t stop the venture from failing.

We’ve had a Mexican, Turkish, contemporary, Asian, and one I can’t remember.

In each of the formats, there’s been nothing wrong with the food or service. But the floor size of the premises is enormous and would need a lot of diners in order to be profitable. Many of the tables are empty during the week. The two-highway exposure must also push up the rent.

BLIND FAITH

And this is on a high street that’s already overserviced with casual restaurants.

What startles me is the faith that each new operator has in a fresh concept, as if this will be the one to break through into profitability. A revamp is seen as the answer.

You can dress up these premises any way you like and the business fundamentals aren’t going to change much. A dog remains a dog, regardless of the color of its coat.

The invisible mouse mat

Pens, diaries, key rings, coffee mugs, juggling balls.

We’ve all been showered with these promo giveaways that are emblazoned with the name of the supplier. The brand is in your face each and every day, so the advertising must be effective.

Or maybe not.

Back in the era of the mouse-mat, there was one on this desk promoting something or other. No idea what. After just a few days, the unchanging copy became unseen wallpaper.

Some giveaways such as t-shirts, baseball caps and pedestrian backpacks are undoubtedly effective. The brand names walk the streets and get in front of fresh sets of eyes every day.

They’re like newspaper billboards and headlines. Do we glance at them as we walk past? Of course.

FRESH WISDOM

A pawnbroker near this office has a whiteboard on which is scrawled some cock-eyed piece of wisdom that he refreshes every morning. Clever.

This leads to the question of how often we should change our marketing messages. Maybe a further question is needed, which is how often do your customers see them.

Daily exposure creates the need for frequent change. Which is something you can’t do with a coffee mug.

Brands with two faces and not a leg to stand on

We’re all encouraged to promote ourselves as brands, and this is facilitated by the self-publishing vehicles of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Products, including personal ones, plug their positive side and show themselves in the best possible light. This can create a disconnect between image and the real thing.

On a personal level, so-called friends will expose and denigrate you online, if they believe your online story is not an honest one.

At worst, this can result in the destruction of morale and even a total mental breakdown.

Businesses face the same danger, when the gulf between image and day-to-day actions stretches the trust of the public. Here in Australia, the banks and other financial institutions are under fire for exactly that reason. Chairpersons, board members and CEOs are resigning, while share values are plunging.

PERFECTION NOT NEEDED

Of course we’re permitted by cultural convention to put our best foot forward, and this applies equally to commerce as to personal life.

Neither are we expected to be perfect. A frank admission of faults or weaknesses in areas that are not crucial to the main offerings can usefully deslick an image and lift credibility.

Problems arise when this honesty is withheld from the sharp end of the operation – for fear of losing customers, hurting profits or shedding fans, as the case may be.

When the public finds out, we’re treated to the ritualised apology, managed by the publicist or PR consultancy who’s in charge of the reputation of the celebrity or company.

These days, the public are so inured to these standardised grovellings that they no longer appease.

By watching for a disconnect between image and reality, we can save ourselves from the pain of rejection and humiliation. And guard against becoming a two-faced brand.