Hotel Online  Special Report


Do What It Takes To WOW: Orchestrating
‘Branded Moments of Truth’
by Rick Hendrie, March 2006
“People are aspirational. Living well is everybody’s goal at the moment.” Malcolm Knapp, restaurant industry trend tracker as quoted in the Wall Street Journal article ‘Investors Crave Upscale Steak Chains’,  by Richard Gibson - 3/6/06
In recent articles, I’ve considered the prime importance of  ‘Branded Moments of Truth’. These points of interaction between your guest and your experience are the essential determiners of success, more so than price or physical appearances. If, as Malcolm Knapp suggests, ‘living well’ is everyone’s goal, then creation of that feeling and achievement of that ‘aspiration’ happens only through successful & powerful management of your ‘Branded Moments of Truth’.

When I ask audiences to define moments of truth in their industries, most often, they suggest various points of human to human contact that makes up whatever they define as ‘service’ in their business. In fact, service is a misnomer for a far more complex exchange. The crux of being a successful brand in the Experience Economy revolves around orchestrating  ‘Branded Moments of Truth’. Not only into an exceptional exercise in service, but also a seamless brand story built by the geometric progression of staged, authentic moments. It is here, through this ever deepening, ideal relationship, that brand loyalty is forged. As neuro science has proved, a brand’s power is embedded in the amygdala and other primitive, feelings driven and desire powered parts of the brain. Our feelings determine buying behavior and they are best stimulated by human to human interaction, hence the basis for theatrical metaphor. The counterintuitive truth is that great brand theater may be contrived, but it is always genuine.

To ‘put across’ extraordinary kinds of truthful, branded theatrics, we depend on our hourly associates and least experienced managers to handle most of the ‘ShowTime’.  In the words of New York Times reporter, Sandra Blakeslee, brand loyalty is created by “strong bonds with the guest…built one transaction at a time, involving face-to-face contacts” 

In a not so surprising coincidence, we see the preponderance of turnover in both those ranks. Blakeslee continues, “We rely on the lowest paid, least acknowledged, most vulnerable and most often abused associates…to create, or fail to create, the emotional connections that lead to Brand Loyalty” NY Times 12/7/204, Say the Right Name and They Light Up

If we must count on these front line actors, who are most likely to leave or, at the very least, not give a hoot about you and your brand, then strategy must be focused on the select few moments that are most crucial to the brand. Pick your spots and make them count.

As a differentiating tactic, I’ve talked about the value of an experience that is book ended by: “Hello.” “Welcome.” “Thank You.” and, “Goodbye.”. I can think of no buying experience I’ve ever had that included all four, let alone acted with appropriate ‘brand flavor’. Concentrate your actors on offering Four Brand Moments of Truth (as in hello, welcome, thank you and goodbye). Make it their daily mantra with every guest, then measure, reward and reiterate that behavior at every chance. You do this and you will be amongst the elite. 

The fifth Branded Moment of Truth, defined as ‘Doing What It Takes To WOW’ offers Olympian riches to those strong enough to risk the climb . This ‘moment’ incorporates every other moment of import between actor and guest, where you can move from merely pure bred to greatness.

I am reminded of shopping at Whole Foods, the supermarket chain which has seen the greatest sales growth in the category. An article in USA Today* stated, “…Call it a better for you food bazaar on organic steroids, Or the grocery equivalent of Disney World for food Junkies…could help to transform grocery shopping into interactive theater… For Whole Foods, WOW is “ shopping as Showtime…” 

While Whole Foods is hit and miss with my first Four Brand Moments of Truth, their associates have never failed to give me the sense that they will do whatever it takes to take care of me, to allow me to “Live well”. 

I know some people who are line employees and have been told of the extent to which Whole Foods indoctrinates its associates to have such passion. The spirit goes way beyond service to a kind of mountain top level commitment to me and my well being, whether to lead me to the product I seek, offer learned discourse about their section or beam a smile. These extensions of basic human generosity are performed within a highly theatrical environment, replete with elements to “make shopping fun, with pleasure woven into every crevice:

  • The Guy who hawks fresh hot doughnuts 
  • A walk in beer cooler with 800 beers
  • Lighting for produce used in art galleries
  • Music is classical
  • Hot nuts aroma fanned from the roaster”*
Where are your moments encapsulated within this Fifth Brand Moment? Is it at the front desk after the guest has checked in? What if you actually had a senior manager take the guest to the room? What if your server actually knew something about both the menu and your best brand attributes and shared it spontaneously with the guest? What about morning wake up calls? Are you offering a pre-recorded buzz on the phone or does a friendly human being do the work? How about the valet or concierge? I often talk about a Ritz Carlton in the Caribbean that not only went out to get a guest cold Guinness he craved during his stay, but ensured that his mini-bar was stocked with it upon his return the next month. WOW. 

Doing what it takes to WOW is more than just dancing the steps in a time honored routine, it’s envisioning what it would take to make your guest “Live well.” The most inexperienced actor, when operating with the spirit of ‘Doing What It Takes to WOW’, has the ability to create wonderful, memorable guest experiences, regardless the mistakes. We forgive the sins of those whose attitude is squared away. Where to begin? Start with , “Hello.” and build your show to WOW.

* Money Section of USA Today March 9th,  2005, by Bruce Horowitz

Rick Hendrie is President & Chief Experience Officer of Remarkable Branding, Inc. a Cambridge MA based consultancy which helps clients create and market memorable brand experiences. For a free brochure on 10 Guest Experience Marketing Strategies,  go to
Richard K. Hendrie
Chief Experience Officer
Remarkable Branding, Inc
Also See: Recognizing the Moments of Truth for Your Hotel Guests / Rick Hendrie / January 2006
Telling Stories: Your Brand is About You / Rick Hendrie / October 2005
Hear Me Out: Talking & Listening to Your Current Guests May Be The Best Way To Get More Of Them Through the Door / Richard K Hendrie / October 2005
Winning Brand Loyalty; Discerning Your Guest’s Tribal Loyalties / Richard K. Hendrie / April 2005
The Why, What and How of WOW / Richard K. Hendrie / March 2005
Creating Customer Loyalty: Beyond Food and Bed, A Good Relationship Is Your Best Marketing / Richard K. Hendrie / March 2005
Ask What Makes You Great; Questions for Hospitality to Ask Itself / Richard K. Hendrie / February 2005
Great Service Grows From Great Praise / Richard K. Hendrie / February 2005
Is it ROI, Return On Investment or ROL, Return on Loyalty / Richard K. Hendrie / January 2005
Brand Enhancement: Invite Surprise and Delight Into Your Operation / Rick Hendrie / November 2004
Your Experience Is The Brand; Good Hospitality, Food and Service Are Merely Entry Points into Being Competitive / Rick Hendrie / November 2004


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