A post on Facebook recently caught my attention.
A well-liked pizzeria in a local town had been sold to new owners. The previous owners had close ties to the community and had generously donated gift certificates to the local school’s gift auction. The person who won one of the certificates went to the pizzeria a while later to use the certificate. The new owner informed the prize winner that he would not honor the certificate.
[Let’s take a moment of stunned silence.]
Word got back to the school’s PTO president. She called the new owner and explained that the school had ordered food from that pizzeria often in the past for school events. She hoped he would reconsider honoring the gift certificates as they were given to help support the two schools in the community in which he now runs a business.
The pizzeria owner started to bad mouth the previous owners. The PTO president politely stopped him, saying it was really none of her business. She said she was hoping to speak to him later about a pizza party for one of the grades, and that she hoped they could resolve the gift certificate issue. The pizza shop owner then got very nasty with her and told her he didn’t want or need her or the school as a customer! And he then hung up on her.
[I think another moment of stunned silence is called for here!]
The PTO president ended her Facebook post saying that she had no plans to support a business “that is rude and will flat out say they don’t want my business or even our school’s!”
In the spirit of fairness, I did look at the pizzeria’s social media. There is no mention of trying to support the local community. Their posts are full of boasts about their many years in the food business and how great they are and how many customers they have. Then there was the video of the owner showing off the lights he installed in the restaurant’s front window and bragging how no one else in town has lights like these.
Pretty jaw dropping.
The lesson here is that your brand is who you are. Your brand is also how others perceive you and your business. You need to control your brand and let it reflect your authentic voice, your core values. (And if your core values aren’t in the positive range of human aspirations, maybe that’s where you need to start a reexamination of what your brand is.) If something goes awry with the perception of your brand, you need to quickly resolve the issue to keep on a positive track so your present customers will want to continue doing business with you and so you can attract future customers.
For all I know, this pizzeria makes the best pizza in the world, but its brand—at least in the minds of everyone associated with the local school—is that the owners are nasty, mean-spirited, and have no interest in supporting the community in which they are located. That negative perception trumps any good word of mouth about the food. People are not going to support a business that doesn’t care for them.
Indeed, I checked the Yelp ratings for this restaurant, and nearly all of them slam this pizzeria for rudeness and poor service. There also appears to be a boycott going on by all the school’s supporters. Sadly, there appears to be no effort by the business to respond to this fatal condemnation of their brand.
I think the late, great Maya Angelou perfectly summed it up: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”