Working in market research means you spend a lot of time on the road (or on the train). Don’t get me wrong, I love that part of my job.

The face-to-face interactions with clients, whether they’re meetings or collaborative workshops, really help me understand how the research will be valuable once it’s finished, and add an extra layer of depth to analysis and really help us to ensure any recommendations or findings can be plunged straight back into the business and used.

The groups, depth interviews and product tests with research participants feed my addictive inquisitiveness – there’s nothing better than hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth. I wouldn’t want to give any of that up.

Of course, travelling around does have its drawbacks – a major one of these for me is having less control over what and when you eat, and where you sleep. If you know me, you’ll know that a large part of my life revolves around food and that if I don’t get enough sleep I turn into a werewolf. It’s happened, and it’s not pretty.

Normally, in my favourite Northern city of Manchester, I’m all for the independent cafes and will always vote for going somewhere independent over a large chain. When I’m on the road however, my preferences almost do a full U-turn, and I tend to favour the larger chains. Yes, I would prefer to be helping Mr. Jones-from-down-the-road keep his business, but by going into M&S, it means I can pop in, grab the same thing as I do every time, and be gone again in a matter of minutes. I know what it will taste like – it’ll be the same as it was last time I had it. I know where it will be on the shelf. I know how much it will be. No surprises.

This is even more of an issue when you start looking at hotels – there’s nothing worse than finishing your evening groups late at night, and only then finding out that the “hotel” you’ve booked into down the road looks nothing like those pictures you saw on TripAdvisor. We’ve all been there.

With these awful experiences in mind from my early days in the industry, I reluctantly booked a room in a Travelodge for a recent visit down South. I wasn’t expecting anything grand – I was expecting it to look the same and feel the same as every other Travelodge. No surprises. Or so I thought. The hotel was dirty, small, way too hot, and my fan made sounds that could only be compared to J.K. Rowling’s banshee.

This particular Travelodge has permanently changed my attitudes towards chains. Delivering perfectly aligned customer experiences is something we take seriously at Mustard, and in this instance, Travelodge was way off the mark. Before this experience, they fit into my “no frills, no fuss, trustworthy” hotel box. Now, they will always have that red flag there – definitely not fitting into the trustworthy box anymore. Travelodge now pose more of a risk than Mr. Jones’ B&B down the road.

Aligning your brand is so important – every touch-point and experience should “tick the right box” of what the brand stands-for, believes in. The thing that makes the brand famous has to be consistently delivered – and believed – by your customers, your prospects, your customer-facing staff, your cleaners, your CEO.

Brand Alignment Monitor

If you want to let me know of any good independents in your area so that I can feel better about helping local economies while on the road, I’m on Twitter and would love to add them to my collection!

Bethan is a Senior Researcher at Mustard.