Off-Brand ExperienceMark Gallagher and Laura Savard
We’ve all experienced buyer’s remorse. However, sometimes the experience isn’t just poor, it’s painful. Whether it’s a restaurant that botches a special occasion or a camera that fails to capture a once-in-a-lifetime moment, a truly awful experience only needs to happen once to affect consumers’ beliefs for life! If you’ve ever had food poisoning, you know what we mean.
Brand experience is personal. When we first brought up this subject with friends, family and even colleague’s (who we incorrectly assumed would have a professional opinion on the matter), literally everyone had a personal horror story. It is important to recognize that brand recommendations are not about people’s love for the brand, but rather their love for their friends and families.
Branding is not about pushing out a message, but about creating a connection. When a brand betrays its audience it doesn’t only break its promise, it breaks the hearts of those who once advocated for it, who stood behind it, who recommended it. And, the introduction of social media has given word-of-mouth a bullhorn.
Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and a host of other social media outlets have created a situation where consumers not only have a voice, but an audience that extends far and wide. Their negative brand experiences will fall upon the ears of friends and family, co-workers and followers.
So, what’s a brand manager to do? The simple fact is that sooner or later your going to see an error. It may affect ten consumers or ten thousand. Some of these issues will be small, others catastrophic. Either way someone could be physically or emotionally harmed by the mishap.
Every brand makes mistakes and a certain percentage of products fail. Be it a product or a service, a person or a place, a negative brand experience can easily overshadow a lifetime of positive engagement. Some offenses are punishable by death (Enron, Madoff, BP, et cetera). For others, it’s how you address these issues that consumers remember.
In 1982 Johnson & Johnson turned a stumbling block into a stepping stone. In response to the Tylenol poisonings, Johnson & Johnson not only pulled their product from the shelves, they introduced safety packaging. This effort underscored Johnson & Johnson’s credo to put the needs and well-being of the people they serve first. To further reenforce their position they open-sourced the idea, encouraging their competitors to add safety packaging as well. For many, this solidified their relationship with Tylenol.
Remember, perspective is what makes the difference between challenge and opportunity.