Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Tesco. Every little bit of communication helps.

Tesco’s status as the biggest and most successful retailer in the UK is attributable in no small measure to its instantly recognisable brand. One of the vehicles it uses to promote its brand is the Tesco Magazine. If it wants to make the most of this publication and actually communicate with its customers, however, it might be an idea to first promote the magazine a little closer to home.

When I was in one its London stores recently, I asked one of the staff for a copy. I was amazed when none of the staff knew that Tesco even produces its own publication, let alone whether it might be available in store.

This is where corporate branding comes crashing down. If the staff of this retailing behemoth don't know anything about their own company’s magazine, all the hard work that the brand puts in to create sub-brands, or spin off products, is wasted in one fell swoop.

Even if it’s only a small percentage of its 250,000 staff[1] that know nothing of the publication, it has undoubtedly a missed trick: think of all those unaware staff who could be promoting the title – and the brand – to customers.

Which begs the question, ‘Why do so many companies fail to acknowledge that their customer-facing staff are, quite literally, the face of the company?’. These employees should be treated as the first priority – over any other corporate message vehicle, including media – when communicating brand messages or company news.

Obviously, Tesco isn't going to suffer because I couldn’t get my mitts on a copy of the magazine. But what if I had been the author of a very popular blog and this wasn’t my first negative experience of Tesco?

In the old days, people could share their negative experiences only with friends and family, which effectively limited the potential damage to a brand. But the situation is very different today. The proliferation of blogs and forums means that word-of-mouth PR and the endorsement of a friend or trusted peer has never been more important. Unfortunately, if a respected blogger has one bad encounter with a company, he or she has the means and influence to rubbish the brand far and wide.


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