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In 2008 a new Target store opened up in a nearby town. As a dyed-in-the-wool design geek, I was ecstatic. I had been waiting for the opportunity to check out some of the beautifully designed products that Target had been promoting. Among the design collaborations they were known for, a partnership with Michael Graves Design had Target selling products from his Art of the Everyday Object capsule collection (see ad above). Things like toasters, can openers and tea kettles were raised to a whole new level of beauty. I couldnt wait to turn my home into the design mecca that I imagined it would be once I brought home my new treasures.

Alas, the visit was a disappointment. I quickly noticed that the store seemed to be in disarray. Products were not lined up neatly on the shelves and displayed in all their glory but seemed to be strewn about and haphazardly organized. The beautifully designed product packaging was, in many cases, torn open and boxes were lying in and around the shelves and on the floor. To top if off, many of the products I was expecting to see were nowhere to be found.

What a complete disconnect with what I had been anticipating. What a letdown. And the bottom line is that, in this scenario, Target didnt live up to its branding. The clever television and print ads didnt match my actual in-person experience at the store.

Maybe it was because the store was new and the employees hadnt quite gotten their act together. Maybe there had been a mad dash of geeks like me who were excited for this new experience and tore through the store leaving this mess in their wake. Whatever it was, it left a bad taste in my mouth and I never forgot the experience.

In the end I did continue to shop at Target and yeah, Im still a sucker for their clever ads. But it taught me a lesson I havent forgotten and it’s one I often share with my clients. In order to run a successful business or deliver a successful product, your branding has to be consistent with the actual customer experience. If it’s not the customer will notice the disconnect and the result may be that you will lose their trust and perhaps their business.

The bottom line: Your brand’s messaging must be consistent with your customer’s experience. Is yours?