Services are intrinsically different from products in one crucial way. While a product is always the same—consumer products strive for consistency—a service depends on human performance for its delivery, and is therefore subject to all the vagaries of humans’ daily inconsistencies.

This is significant for branding, because while a product can be branded once and then benignly neglected for a while, a service requires the constant training (and motivation, support, and correction) of the people who deliver it to customers. This is as true for top corporate consultants as it is for staff at the local Burger King. Internal branding is critical to service industries. You must sell to your own people before you can sell to customers, because without employees who believe in the brand, it’s impossible to get customers to believe.

The hospitality industry is enormous, including not only hotels, resorts, spas, and restaurants, but also, in a broader sense, every retail establishment on Main Street.

Every restaurant in the world should pride itself on its cuisine, but a great restaurant also cares about the quality of its service, the skill of its maitre d’, the stylishness of its architecture and decor, and little things like fresh flowers on the table. Attention to these other factors is what turns a good restaurant into a great hospitality brand.

What distinguishes a popular downtown bar from a deadly dull one? If you list the things that make the good bar better, they’ll mostly fall into the “hospitality” category: the friendliness of the bartenders, the coziness of the seating, the lighting, the music … and inevitably, the other patrons who are attracted by these factors. This is another example of how customers share the role of defining a brand.

When people are asked what business McDonald’s is in, many say “hamburgers.” Some will say “family entertainment.” A few smart ones will even say “real estate,” on the assumption that acquiring lots of prime business locations is where the fast-food chain makes its real money. Yet McDonald’s, like every other restaurant, is in the business of providing hospitality. Plenty of restaurants make a better hamburger; plenty provide better hospitality. But none provide the two so cheaply, reliably, and ubiquitously. That’s where McDonald’s has built its historic brand strength.