Brand Consistency

at Grocery

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

19 March 2015

Brand consistency. Supermarkets brand communication.

Brand consistency. Pay attention

Brand consistency? If you have a brand of any value at all, you need to care for it and that starts with consistency in brand communication.

My business is all about identifying the highest emotional intensity available for a brand to own. Then we set up scaffolding for that ownership brand consistency and pay off that brand promise in ways in which the customer and prospect can SEE them and understand them as important.

We try our best to create an emotional image that feels as if the prospect is seeing themselves in the brand.

We want every brand to grow and become emotionally important to those we wish to influence. Brand consistency. Its how a brand protects itself from always having to represent the newest and best.

Paying off that carefully crafted work is always a challenge.

“I pushed the help button on my check out register. It took 10 minutes for someone to come help me”


At Stealing Share, we write a Brand Charter that identifies the brand’s human attributes and includes a series of the brand’s sacred promises that the brand solemnly vows never to forget. It hard to make this real. In many ways, brand consistency is the only thing that stands in the way of brand failure.

So today, let me tell you about how Harris Teeter, (a Grocery brand here in North Carolina recently bought by Kroger) failed me. And, most importantly, the consequences of that failure.

Supermarkets are not emotionally intensive and need brand consistency

brand consistencyNow aside from Wegmans, few grocery store chains command much brand loyalty beyond convenience, location, familiarity, and selection (which all should be givens in this category).

So, the level of brand attraction is small to begin with.

brand consistency self-checkoutBut this morning, I stopped into the Harris Teeter store that I pass on my way to work. I wanted to buy a few frozen lunch entrees for me personally, and while I was there, some specialty coffee and LED light bulbs for the office.

It was early (6:45 AM) and I quickly grabbed what I needed, divided it into two orders (one personal one business) and proceeded to the self-checkout lane to save me time (no one was operating a full service register at the time.

I started to scan my frozen entrees and the scanner messed up my first scan.

It did not record a price but instead asked me to weigh it.

I can’t believe this was happening

I pushed the help button on my check out register. It took 10 minutes for someone to come help me, and when she arrived and tried to scan it herself she realized the code was not in the computer.

“Do you remember how much it was,” she asked politely.

I did not. So she took my package and headed down the frozen food isle to investigate the price. She came back and said, “It was $3.95” and charged that to my kiosk.

Then she took off towards the back of the store as I finished my scanning.

Now I just turned 60 a couple of weeks ago and was quite delighted when the screen asked me (in a computer generated female voice) if I qualified for a senior citizen discount, to which I pressed YES.

Then the femme fatale uttered words that would come to spoil my day, “Please show your ID to the cashier.” There was no cashier. I pushed the notify the cashier button once again and waited. 15 minutes later, no one had showed up.

Brand Consistency? Saying Goodbye to Harris Teeter

So I went to another kiosk, scanned the business portion of my shopping, DID NOT SAY I QUALIFIED FOR A SENIOR CITIZEN DISCOUNT. I swiped my credit card and left.

brand consistencyLeaving my personal purchases in a bag next to my old and failed kiosk to defrost and ruin.

I wanted speed. The self-checkout promised speed. I got SLOW.

Very slow. Spending in total, 20 minutes in a failed effort to buy my goods and never saw a Harris Teeter worker again.Where is the consistency in brand communication?

It’s OK, however. As I will never go back. My time is my most valuable resource and the processes in their store do not promise that to me anymore.

The fragility of a brand and the importance of a promise are evident in my visit this morning.

Obviously Harris Teeter sees self-checkout not as a means of saving customers time, but as a means to run four checkout lanes without having to pay a worker.

So, be careful with your brand equity and mind the small details. At times, those little promises are all that separate you from everyone else.

 Read a bit more about Wegmans here


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