Let’s start with the story of Katie: Katie is a 33-year-old mother of two and is having a terrible start to her day.

This morning she hits literally every red light on the way to work.

Then she barely misses the elevator (and she is convinced Sue from accounting deliberately didn’t hold the door for her).

Next, finally settled in behind her desk, she spills coffee on her keyboard, and while heading off to lunch, receives a note from her child’s school that her son is sick and she needs to come pick him up right away.

On the way to the school, Katie receives a text from her bank notifying her of insufficient funds in her checking account. Her husband must have forgotten to transfer the funds from savings!

Now she’ll have to call the bank and argue over the fee… one more thing to do on top of a mountain of work at home and the office.

What else could go wrong today?!

After strapping her ailing son in the backseat of the car, she’s finally on her way home when what comes on the radio but an advertisement for a relaxing spa treatment. Ahh! If ever there were a perfect time to reach Katie with an ad for a spa treatment, this is it, right?

The answer is, “Maybe. Maybe not.”

Based on the type of frenzied day Katie is having one would assume that the marketer (the spa) is reaching her at just the right moment. But in actuality, she angrily turns the radio station to another channel, murmuring under her breath that she wishes she had time for such frivolous luxuries. The marketer caught her in a state of mind that led her to build resentment toward the spa, instead of a desire to call for an appointment.

Unfortunately, Katie’s day (and her current state of mind) is something that the marketer (the spa) had absolutely no control over. The spa intended to convey an image of relaxation but instead it resulted in resentment.

So the statement, “You have a great brand, but I hate you!” rings harshly true in this situation.

This reality is not something most marketers ever hear about, unless you are a global giant such as Walmart or Monsanto or McDonalds. But it is something that is quite possibly happening to your brand without you even realizing it. Why?

It has to do with your image (just a part of your brand). Let’s dissect the word “brand” for a moment. This term has as many definitions as there are people in a given room so we need to set some common ground. I utilize Philip Kotler’s texts in the MBA graduate marketing classes I teach for a reason: he makes sense without over-complicating things. So we will use Kotler’s definition: a brand is a name, term, sign, symbol, design, or a combination of these that identifies the products or services of one seller or group of sellers and differentiates them from those of competitors.

Simple enough, right? So why do folks love some brands and hate others? It has to do with their personal experiences with each brand as well as impressions from external sources. These experiences and impressions make up the “image” they have of that brand. It can be positive. It can be negative. But the image in one person’s head is the most difficult thing for a marketer to control.

The point: we cannot control the individual image that prospects form about our brands. All we can do is control the other part of our brand, our identity. This includes all the messaging we convey each and every day in an attempt to build up an image (hopefully positive) in the minds of our target audiences.

So what could the spa possibly do about Katie’s bad day?

Plenty.

We’ll discuss that next time. If you can’t wait, contact me at paul@yankandlimey.com.