Brand keepers and brand breakers

Dr. Timothy Clark discusses the impact of emotional intelligence on brands at a recent BlueEQ™ workshop.

How emotional intelligence affects the promise of your brand

Brand Breakers cost organizations billions each year

Employees keep and break brand promises every day. Do you know who your brand breakers are? Do you know why?

Here’s the bottom line: When an employee breaks a brand promise, 90% of the time, it’s due to a lack of emotional intelligence. This research finding is based on our two-year study in which our research team has classified patterns of brand-breaking and brand-keeping with customers and consumers across a multitude of industries. The pattern of brand breaking is astonishingly consistent:


  • He didn’t listen.
  • She treated me like I was invisible.
  • He was impatient.
  • She was rude.
  • He didn’t ask me any questions.
  • She assumed she knew what I wanted.
  • He wouldn’t stop talking.
  • She wouldn’t focus on my needs.
  • He was forceful.
  • She was indifferent.
  • He wouldn’t make eye contact.
  • She looked bothered.
  • He was too busy texting.

Emotional Intelligence and Your Brand Promise

Can you deliver your brand promise without emotional intelligence? No way. The connection between keeping a brand promise and emotional intelligence (EQ) is overwhelming. And yet organizations consistently send their employees to the front lines to interface with customers without a clear understanding of the brand promise and the EQ skills to deliver it.

Then there are those who understand it perfectly.

The other day I was working with a client in Indianapolis. I stayed at a Marriott Courtyard outside the city and called a taxi to take me downtown. No taxi came. I waited 35 minutes. No taxi. The hotel desk attendant called the taxi company twice. No taxi. Now I was running late for an important meeting.

The hotel manager overheard the conversation and came over to talk to me. This pleasant gentleman listened carefully and then said, “Give me a second. I’ll pull my car around front and take you.”

Needless to say, I interviewed this hotel manager as he drove me to my client. Why was he doing this? You know what I learned? This guy knows he’s a brand ambassador. His mindset to be a brand keeper runs deep, and he has the emotional intelligence skills to deliver his brand every day. When booking a hotel, I start with Marriott every time, in contrast I will never use that Taxi company again.

Do Your Own 72-Hour Experiment

Think about the brands you have personally interacted with in the last 72 hours. I mean the times you’ve had a live conversation—face-to-face, by phone, or via the internet--with a real person who represented a particular organization and its goods or services.

In the last 72 hours, I’ve had a personal interaction (face-to-face, phone, or internet live messaging) with Marriott, Delta Airlines, Walmart, UPS, Chick-fil-A, Kroger, Hertz, Chevron, Costco, and few local businesses. As you can guess, I interacted with some brand keepers and some brand breakers.

How Do We Experience Brands?

We experience brands either through a human interface, a non-human interface, or both.

  • I tracked a UPS package yesterday online (non-human interface)
  • I ordered a chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-A in the restaurant (human interface)
  • I picked up my Hertz rental car (human & non-human interface)

We Rate Every Brand Experience

Whether consciously or not, we rate every brand experience we have based on an expectation and personally constructed brand promise we have in our heads. And what do we rate? First and foremost, we rate the person we interact with—the brand ambassador. We also rate the non-human interface with the good or service.

Every Employee is a Brand Ambassador

Like or not, we all represent two brands--our own and our employer’s. We are all brand ambassadors and there’s no escape. You can’t wake up one morning and say, “I don’t want to represent the brand today.” Being a brand ambassador is inherent in being a member of an organization. To those you interact with, you are the face of the organization. You are a living, breathing embodiment of the brand.

To put it simply, every human interaction we have with a brand is either humanizing or de-humanizing. Based on the way we are treated, it either affirms our commitment and deepens our loyalty to the brand or it doesn’t.

Emotional Intelligence Consists of Five Critical Skills

To consistently deliver the human side of any brand promise, employees need to develop five basic emotional intelligence skills:

  1. Self-Regard: Respecting yourself and having confidence in your abilities. If you don't respect yourself, you'll have a hard time respecting others.
  2. Self-Awareness: Recognizing your own personality, disposition, and behavioral patterns with others.
  3. Self-Control: Controlling your emotions, especially under stress.
  4. Social Perception: Recognizing the emotions of others and the social dynamics around you.
  5. Social Effectiveness: Acting wisely and effectively in social interactions.

These five skills are the basic building blocks that deliver high emotional intelligence and allow employees to consistently keep an organization’s brand promise.

At this very instant, someone is likely breaking your organization’s brand promise. What is it costing you? What will you do about it? Might I suggest you start with increasing the EQ of your brand ambassadors.

Do you know your EQ? Spend 20 minutes to advance your career and your life.

EQ can be more important than IQ, especially for business leaders. We've partnered with the makers of BlueEQ™, the emotional intelligence self assessment, to oer a FREE edition of the BlueEQ self-assessment that can help you strengthen your EQ.

Timothy R. Clark

Co-founder at BlueEQ
Timothy R. Clark, an Advantage thought leader partner,  is founder and managing partner at LeaderFactor, as well as co-founder and co-creator of BlueEQ™, the emotional intelligence self-assessment.

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