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Got reputation, got brand

September 24, 2009

I was going through a stack of mail at work yesterday when my eye caught a colorful flyer. “Let us do your branding for you!” it said. “We distribute flyers and put up banners at a good price!”

Branding = flyers and banners?

Good grief. And you wonder why so many companies struggle to justify returns on branding expenditure.

If you believe being well-branded means having your logo or catch phrase splattered all over town, let me ask you a question. Can you think of a well-known logo that you swear never to buy from? I can, lots – from restaurants to budget airlines. Visibility’s never the issue for me. Do you know what is?

Genuine, real life reputation.

Reputation is why you swear at phone companies and internet service providers that provide you crappy service. Reputation is also why you tell your friends about that humble street vendor selling food you’d drive miles for.

How are reputations built? Certainly not by promises on a maildrop or banner, which reminds me of how I got conned by this campaign by a famous premium-brand ice cream recently.

It all started when I saw a nice big banner in the mall one afternoon. $1 promotion – single scoop, any flavor you want. Now who could refuse something like that so I queued up, picked out my flavor, took a bite, queued up some more and happily handed out my dollar to the cashier.

He looked at me and my $1. “$11,” he said. “What?!!” I asked. “Isn’t this the $1 promotion?” He pointed to a sign on the counter. There it was in very small print: Buy one at regular price, get second one at $1.

Curses. I had already taken a bite out of the cone in my hand. Should I… nahh… I’m not going to spoil my afternoon. So with a sigh I went to the back of the queue again, picked out another cone which I didn’t feel like eating anymore, and reluctantly shelled out $11 just to get the $1 special. Felt like a complete idiot.

Okay, you can say its my fault for not noticing the fine print cleverly hidden underneath a giant “buy me” sign 100 times bigger but that’s just it – you don’t embed deal conditions under a rubble of icons and graphics and expect people to believe you’re an honest brand. What kind of reputation do you suppose they gained out of that campaign and would I ever trust this brand again? Hah, in their dreams. 😛

Yes imagery and communication are important in the brand process and I’m not saying you don’t need them. I’m saying that if you dream of becoming a long term player, leaving reputation out of your branding formula would be a big mistake.

Maybe these top 100 global brands of 2009 can teach us a thing or two.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 24, 2009 10:29 pm

    Just say my business is playing by quantity …
    statistically speaking , out of 100 deals , there will be 1 or 2 screw ups that will leave a customer unsatisfied .

    I know that is not a reason to stop trying , but situations like this isn’t easy ..
    Sometimes i wonder , how the hell companies like Toyota , IBM etc does it ..

    Any tips ?

    If you achieve 1 or 2 dissatisfieds out of 100, that’s a 98% satisfaction rate. Dude you should be consulting for IBM and Toyota, not the other way round! 😀

    You can’t please everyone so you will never get 100%. In the service industry, a majority of unhappiness is caused by the businesses themselves – by setting unrealistic expectations. Selling people a 1Mb line when you only deliver 384kpbs for example. If you got that covered, half your problems disappear. The other half – solid products and visibility. You seem to be doing a fine job in those areas.

  2. September 25, 2009 8:30 am

    Toyota and IBM have their shares of complaints…even from their own people. 😛 So no company is perfect. But if you can achieve > 8 happy customers out of 10, then you are good enough. Also, it’s important to know who you please. Complaints spread faster than compliments. But as long as you please the right people …those that really matter and those that will spread the words for you, then your brand will definitely grow.

    At the end of the day, I believe companies should stop ‘cheating’ the customers into buying from them and focus more on the core issues – the quality of their products and why are people not buying from them.

    For Damien…eh, you should’ve read carefully. Guess you were craving for ice-cream that day 😛

    I can’t live without ice cream. 😛 Yeah, my mistake for not reading the promo carefully. I also think it should be against the law to put promo disclaimers smaller than one-tenth of the size of the actual offer message. I think many people got caught off guard in that promo. The guy behind me argued with the cashier about the same thing.

  3. September 29, 2009 8:48 pm

    I wonder what happened to that ice-cream vendor in the mall since then… any idea?

    I understand, they measure how well automotive brands do by the number of complaints per car as one of their criteria. Toyota, as I remember, stood around 2-3 complaints per 5 cars. Some of the worse ones went above 5-6 complaints per car.

    It’s not a perfect world but when you don’t take care of the minute details the numbers add up. And if it’s bad numbers, then it’s a bad name for you. And in a highly competitive market like autos, the only way to survive is to depend on ‘national protection’. When that happens it’s the long-suffering not-so-well-off citizens who get the raw deal of working like slaves to pay off their cars all their lives…

    It was those numbers that did in the patriotic “Buy American” campaign for autos. The chevies and jeeps didn’t have a prayer against the Jap & Euro imports. Unfortunately for American automakers, patriotism didn’t do a thing to enhance an already battered reputation and it just took one excuse – tight credit – to sink the whole ship, with a sad history of quality problems heaped on top.

    The ice cream brand… its still there, operating as if nothing happened. They’ve lost one customer for sure, probably for good. There’s a saying, a happy customer tells 6 others. An unhappy customer tells a hundred.

  4. October 1, 2009 8:09 am

    hmmmm. Actually I would have automatically thought there was some kind of “deal” to get the $1 icecream, I guess I’m just more world weary that way.

    I normally do too but a few going-out-of-business sales with unbelievable prices sort of reset that thought. Guess I was wrong.


  1. Why can’t people keep their appointments? « Damien Tan

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