Branding: What happens when the action does not match the talk

My colleague Karen Utgoff’s post the other day on implementing your brand got me thinking about what happens when you fail to walk the talk of your brand. Or as my friends in Texas would say, when you’re all hat and no cattle.

We witnessed a prime example of this last summer with the oil spill in the Gulf. Previously, as I recall, some of BP’s ads touted their commitment to the environment. As the people in the Gulf learned the hard way, that commitment was pretty shallow for a company that was drilling deep ocean wells.

Less catastrophic examples of a company not following through on its brand promise abound. Just this week, I went to a local oil lube place that shall remain nameless. They have been running TV ads touting a special low price for oil changes that is available only on Tuesdays. And if you go to their website, it’s all about value; there are all kinds of money saving offers. Clearly, value for the buck is a huge part of the company’s brand.

When I got there, the place was the busiest I had ever seen it. Clearly, this oil change was not going to occur in a jiffy. But the wait was worth it since I was going to save $12 on the oil change.

But there was a hiccup. When it came time to pay, I fortunately noticed that the amount that came up when I was asked to sign for my credit card was not the special price. It was the regular price! Where was my $12 in savings?

When I pointed this out, the man behind the counter said, “Oops, I forgot to key in the right code.”

Now, you’d think that in a place that, according to one worker, had been jammed since early morning, it would be easy to remember why all these people were there. They wanted the bargain they had been promised in those TV ads. I left wondering how many people had been charged the regular price instead of the special price. Surely some people just signed on the dotted line without noticing the error. If you were in a rush to get out of there because your oil change had taken far longer than usual because of the crowd, it would be easy enough to not notice.

And if I had been one of those people, is it likely I would ever have darkened their doors again?

I know this was a small error, but every customer interaction matters. Making sure the people on the front lines dealing with customers are doing the right thing and fulfilling your brand promises takes work. Not everything is always going to go perfectly, yet that, indeed, should be your aim and the aim of everyone who works for you. “Oops, I forgot” simply does not cut it when it comes to your brand promise.

Here are Karen’s posts on branding in case you missed them:

Brand building basics: Part 1

Brand building basics: Part 2

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