Why Brand Continuity Matters

For years I’ve argued that brand continuity is important, and for years franchisees have told me it isn’t. Here are two recent examples that illustrate why brand continuity matters.

Example #1 :: Sobeys

I lived in Winnipeg for two years and shopped at Sobeys because 1. I could walk there, 2. it was a clean bright store,  3. my father-in-law recommended it, and 4. it also had a pharmacy. I came to look forward to my frequent small shopping trips. Better yet they had a number of products that I came to love. I’m not a foodie, but Sobeys did it’s best to make me one. So now I’m back in Toronto – missing my local Sobeys and some of those special treats. I drove to the nearest one, only to find it small, dingy, unfriendly and worst of all – the treats I loves to buy in Winnipeg were nowhere to be found in the Toronto store.  The result: i will not go back to Sobey’s in Toronto and I’ll share my brand disappointment with others.

Example #2 :: Days Inn

Charlie (my dog) and I used to drive to Winnipeg and back a few times a year. When my wife came along we made it a road-vacation. we set a leisurely pace and overnighted 4-5 times enroute. Over the years and miles we’ve found that some hotels and motels had no-dog policies, others charged as much as a 2nd (or 3rd) human occupant, and others put you up in their ‘smoking’ rooms. Then there was Days Inn. So far no matter what route we have taken from Toronto to Winnipeg and back, Days Inn was always happy to put up Michelle, Charlie and me for a $10-$20.00 premium in a non-smoking room. Given the rooms are large, comfortable and equipped with wireless internet and a desk, they’ll continue to get my business and my referrals.

As Holiday Inn used to say in their ads: “The best surprise is no surprise”.

Go for lunch in Hixton Wisconsin


  We’re 1/2 way home. Neither here nor there. And I love it. For the last 30 years now I have been a holiday traveler. At first it was odd to be going just when most everyone seemed to be coming. But then I got to talking to those who I met on the road. Year after year I found the same thing. And I suspect that if I had a time machine I could go back to the original Christmas Story and find the same results:

1. There are two kinds of people out there as we speak: those who are coming or going, and those who help us come and go.

2. There are two kinds of people helping us come and go: some are just putting in time, and some are ‘Transition Experts’. They help us along the way with everything from communications and transportation to food and lodging. For them its a calling – no less that this is mine and being a minister is my brother’s.

Today my wife and I refueled our vehicles at a truck-stop that’s on I95 on your right when heading into Hixton, Wisconsin.  Given the size of the truck parking area and the number of trucks there, we decided to see what the main attraction was. My years on the road told me that there was a lesson to be learned here. There was.

Here’s a summary. They give a shit. And the fact that they do permeates the entire environment. It’s a testament to my mantra: All we say and do tells your customers that they have come to the right place – or the wrong place.

:: Super clean, neat & tidy 60′s diner environment.

::  Lunch was served by a genuinely cheerful \ quirky waitress.

::  They use real Fiesta ware and complimented by heavy, matching cutlery.

::  $3.95 bought Michelle a home-made meat-loaf sandwich.

::  $3.95 bought me a cup of home-made chili and a grilled cheese sandwich on home-made bread.

We stayed much longer than planned because I need to drink it all in. Clearly the owner of this establishment gets it. S|He understands the hallmarks of great service, customer retention and how to get referrals – from the very 1st visit.They make it look easy in Hixton – but it’s not. What I found there is genuine and rare. If I weren’t hurrying ‘home’ for Christmas, I’d stay there a few days to better understand how they weave their brand magic.

Here’s what they did NOT have:

::  A great logo, nice business cards, identity kit, website, etc, etc. And that supports another of my brand theories.  A lot of brands get screwed around by Agency guys like me who think they can make the good better and the better best with more sophisticated packaging. NO TRUE. The Brand Owner in Hixton would loose most of his business if he allowed his brand to be Managed.

This is why I love the road. There is so much to learn.

In the meantime – check them out. Sorry they don’t have a website.



My father and father-in-law both served in WW2. My father was in the German army and my father-in-law was in the Canadian Navy. They didn’t see each other much because my family lives in Toronto and my wife’s family lives in Winnipeg.

I remember the 1st time they met. They talked about a lot of different things for a long time and about the war for a short time. I remember them agreeing on the stupidity and the futility of that war, the one that preceded it – and all of those that have followed.

My father came to Canada with his wife and five children (and me on the way) to escape conflict and conscription – and to give Petra, Henry, August, Martin, Barbara and me a better life.

My wife, Michelle, and I went to the Winnipeg Legislature Buildings this morning to remember Heinrich Wilhelm Wehrmann and Robert Bernard Convey as well as all the others who have stood on guard for us for all these years.

If we’re really as smart as we think we are – why can’t we figure this out?


Paradise Lost


This gorgeous $400,000 sport fisherman ran aground on a reef off the coast of New Zealand en route to Fiji a few weeks ago. The picture on the left is before and right after.

By the next morning ‘Paradise’ was a complete write-off. Here’s why the loss of the Paradise is a powerful and visual metaphor for poor business management. The Captain and crew of the Paradise laid in the course for Fiji on her auto-pilot and turned in for the night although they were traveling through turbulent seas, flowing tides and crossing some of New Zealand’s busiest shipping lanes. While all passengers got to shore safely, the owners will have a long court battle given they were literally ‘asleep at the wheel’ in International waters.

No matter how well you think you’re doing and how safe the ‘passage’, your business needs your guidance, vigilance and diligence to keep it afloat and make it to the next safe harbor.

It’s why a good captain (of a ship or industry) has always been invaluable.

And always will be.

Travel and Re-invention


Later today I’ll be boarding a plane that takes me to Wanganui, New Zealand to spend a few weeks with Enid - my very best friend in the world - who I haven't seen in years!

I’m pretty excited about it because of all the unknowns. For lots of reasons I have not had the time to make any plans of any kind. What a rush!

When we come to understand that change is not an enemy but a new friend that increases our knowledge, perspective and abilites, change gets easier.

Even if change means leaving stuff you think you can’t live with-out behind.

Change is good.