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I know it has been said many times before but I seem to have been inundated recently with examples of how increasingly a brand is all about its people – they can make or break a brand and are often the only point of differentiation vs. rivals.

It therefore astounds me that there are still companies who are: casual in recruitment, lax in training and development, negligent about brand immersion and skimp on wages, benefits and perks.

Let’s start with a good one.

My niece recently applied for a job at Lush simply for part time Christmas cover.

They were not looking for staff who had retail experience, no, they wanted young people who reflected their brand and had a background in musical theatre!

After completing a lengthy application form she was invited to join the three stage interview process: a group interview with tasks, if she passed that then an individual depth interview and if she managed to continue to impress them then a two-hour stint on the shop floor (with an hour’s training beforehand) at the end of which the staff she was working with would make the decision.

I am delighted to say she got through and now has a week of two-hour, paid for training stints in the shop after opening hours before being let loose on Lush’s discerning customers.

She has been impressed throughout by the professionality and friendliness of everyone she has met and is really excited about being part of the Lush experience.

Many companies would not even be that rigorous for a full time employee.

Sports Direct – I won’t dwell on this but will just say that, having walked out of a Sports Direct 6 months ago because I wanted to look at a coat that was hanging about 6 foot above my head and simply could not find a member of staff that was interested enough to even get it down for me, I was not at all surprised to hear about the dreadful way they treat their employees.

Similarly, I understand that the staff of a large supermarket who are in difficulties are not even shopping there themselves. The reason being they only get a 10% discount and their biggest rival is 15% cheaper than they are! Surely if the staff working in the shop cannot help, advise and recommend products to a customer then all is lost!

People are often the only differentiator in our increasingly homogenous world, so I was not surprised to see Monarch’s latest ad is all about its people.

Perhaps they have learnt from Virgin who bravely, back when the norm was to push schedules, punctuality and reliability, put the ladies and lads in red at the forefront of its communications and have consistently delivered on it ever since.

I have not travelled with Monarch for many years so cannot tell you whether the reality matches their advertising but really hope that they aligned their recruitment, training and incentives to deliver the desired customer experience before promising it in the advertising.

Sometimes though it is not possible for your people to adapt enough to deliver your brand so you are left with the decision to re-staff or design the brand around the people you have.

I recently did some work for a large restaurant chain who wanted to reposition itself. There were some great positioning options that tested really well with customer but some were simply not able to be delivered by the very able, but culturally introvert staff. The solution was to simply pick one of the options that tested really well but did not need extrovert staff for its implementation.

So ensure your teams are the right ones to deliver your brand, ensure they understand it and are equipped and incentivized to deliver the outstanding and differentiating customer experience you want.

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