Roy Rogers and ‘good’ brand incongruence

Delighted customers at fast-food restaurant.

Yes, even a fast-food restaurant can delight its customers.

I didn’t make it up—“brand incongruence” is an actual term. It’s when a company or organization does something that is incongruent with its brand attributes. To put it in the parlance of brand storytelling, your brand is acting out of character.

So if a high-end retailer known for its white-glove service fails to impress a customer, you’ve got some brand incongruence going on. Generally, you don’t want brand incongruence. You want to tell a consistent story that reinforces your brand promise.

But what if a brand does something out of character that is good? That’s what happened to me at my local Roy Rogers last week, and I’m still thinking about it. And that’s a good thing from a brand perspective.

Every Wednesday night, I take a guitar lesson at Music & Arts; then I stop off at Roy Rogers and have the #1 Meal. It’s a weekly ritual, and I’ve been doing it for over five years. (Did I mention that I’m a creature of habit?)

I’m already a big fan of this Roy Rogers franchise. The employees are friendly, and some of them have been there the whole time I’ve been going—which is amazing when you consider that it’s a fast-food restaurant.

Last week, one of the managers was walking from table to table, visiting with each of the customers. You really don’t expect to see that in a fast-food establishment.

I would definitely give him an A for his customer interactions. He was genuine, and he did three things that impressed me:

  1. He thanked me for coming in on such a cold night.
  2. He offered to take any trash that I had. (This was not an empty gesture; he had a tray in his hand already filled with trash.)
  3. He offered me an individually wrapped Roy Rogers mint.

Wow, an after-dinner mint at Roy Rogers!

I’m still thinking about that one because you just don’t expect a mint at Roy Rogers. It was definitely incongruent. But I remember it.

The question is, did this manager’s actions have any impact on the Roy Rogers brand? To answer that, I would have to consider the Roy Rogers brand promise, which for me is: convenience, fast, friendly service, cleanliness, consistency and value.

A Roy Rogers “suit” from the corporate office might be tempted to pull this young manager aside and say, “That’s a nice touch, son, but don’t forget why you’re here. Make sure the restrooms are clean and the tables get wiped.”

Or in brand-speak:

Exceptional customer service may get rewarded with high recall, but it won’t have any long-term impact if the brand promise isn’t filled.

But, on the other hand:

Exceptional customer service can have a lasting impact if you make good on your brand promise and then take it a step further. In other words, you’ve cleaned the restrooms and wiped the tables, and now you’re delivering pure delight.

It is the latter that was delivered to this customer last week at Roy’s, and I was delighted. Bravo!

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4 Responses to Roy Rogers and ‘good’ brand incongruence

  1. Kimberly says:

    Jay, I have to admit that I delightedly receive the same great level of service at my Roy Rogers as well. We lost our location a few years ago when they lost their lease but was delighted to have them come back recently in not one but two locations!

  2. savithoughts says:

    Jay – I have tried to counsel clients in this concept in the past – but you deliver it so eloquently. I tell them – this new idea or initiative is great, but your customers can’t even hear you or see you or enjoy this until you meet their basic needs. Thanks for this!

    • Jay Morris says:

      Sam, you hit the nail on the head. So often in our excitement to try something new, we forget about the fundamentals–the very reasons why our customers came to us in the first place. If we can’t satisfy those basic needs, we’re spinning our wheels. – Jay

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