Pinky Swear: My Brand Will Honor Its Promise

Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny – all brand promises gone awry.  But our parents had it right. These major disappointments were merely preparation for the big stage; preparation for our move into the real world where companies and their brand promises often disappoint.

Broken promises, whether expressed or implied, can destroy confidence and loyalty. Worse, it can create general apathy.

Take the current Washington debacle known as the “Sequester.” A CNBC.com article, “Sequester Snooze? You May Not Be the Only One,” asks and answers the question: “Why doesn’t anyone seem to care?”  Perhaps people just don’t believe the cry of wolf anymore. With the constant inability to deliver on their promises, Democrats and Republicans alike have damaged their brand and lost credibility with the public.

Then there is Best Buy. For years, consumers flooded the store purchasing quality products at presumably the best price.  But with the advent of online buying and price comparisons at the touch of a finger, consumers soon realized that Best Buy was no longer the “best buy.”  Late to respond, the company went into a tailspin. Sales slumped; market share contracted. The company was not delivering its promise and consumers noticed.

And who could forget the disaster that was Toyota – a brand synonymous with quality, safety and customer care.  In 2010, the company faced a series of major recalls that severely damaged its reputation.  Worse, allegations implied top executives knew about the problems and were either slow to report them or tried to cover them up.  The brand, once a J.D. Power & Associates’ favorite, took a major tumble as it spent millions to recoup its reputation.

In each of these cases, these organizations did not fulfill the promises to their customers.

While organizations can rebound, it takes tremendous expense and effort to regain loyalty and reputation. It requires the alignment of an organization’s mission and strategic plan in support of that promise and the involvement of the entire company.

Yes, Virginia, finding out about Santa was tough, but for most of us, we were able to work out our frustrations under the loving tutelage of our families.

Companies don’t often get this chance.  As we all learned in our youth, promises are important. If you are not true to your promises, people – your consumers – will no longer listen or believe. Fool me once, fool me twice and then I’m done.

Image Credit: “Pinky Swear” by Aimless Brooke.

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