I am a creature of habit when I travel.  I tend to frequent many of the same restaurants, hotels and airlines as I value brand consistency (service).  I am extremely loyal to my brands and I expect a consistent experience much like others.  My favorite airline is Southwest.  Like a comfortable pair of shoes, the airline just seems to work for me and I appreciate many of the nuances that define the Southwest experience.

Close encounters

Recently, I had a close encounter with the brand and this time, I walked off the plane extremely disappointed with the experience.  Keep in mind; I am not one of those people who boards a plane angry looking for reasons to complain about something.  I am actually very low maintenance, at least I think so.  On this particular flight from Las Vegas to Orange County (CA), I asked the airline attendant three questions.  That is it, no more and no less.

photoQuestion: What time will the plane land?

Answer:    I have no idea.

Question: Are the peanuts salted or honey flavor?

Answer:    Who knows?

Question: What kind of hot tea do you serve?

Answer:    Beats me, I don’t have a clue.

All three questions were fairly innocuous but they mattered to me.  The attendant’s responses were not only surprising but actually bordered on indifference.  It was not so much what she said but how she said it.  It was a complete disregard for my needs and comfort.  I am a Rapid Rewards (frequent flyer) member, how dare you treat me like that? I did not say it but she could probably read it all over my face as I grabbed my Kindle in disgust.  The gent across the aisle looked at me after hearing her responses and attempted to comfort me after the verbal backhand.  How is it that an airline attendant would not know the answers to these questions?  It is not like I asked for the serial number off the engine or the pilot’s grade point average in high school.

Every employee is the brand

Take away: If you are business owner, manager, or team leader, it is incumbent upon you to create a culture of brand congruence.  The strongest brands are those that are meaningful, consistent and involve its employees.  Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, said it best, “every employee is the brand.” He’s correct as in many cases that is the customer’s only connection to the organization.  As you begin to roll out your brand strategy, take some time to include the folks on the front lines who will be its ambassadors.  Most customers don’t really want that much but they do want to know that you care.  Good thing my flight was only an hour!


Devin Hughes is a former college basketball player, sales and marketing aficionado, keynote speaker, part-time academic and frequent eclectic thinker.  He draws on a variety of ideas, disciplines and trends to inspire “Big Thoughts” and facilitate conversations.  He is an avid storyteller who has the unique ability to connect with audiences by inspiring them to be the change they wish to see in the world.  A graduate of Colgate University, he lives Carlsbad, CA with his wife and four daughters.  You may contact him via e-mail at devin@devinchughes.com. His website is: http://www.devinchughes.com/ He is also a featured blogger on http://www.upstartnation.biz.