Brand fallacy erodes customer loyalty. Especially in a highly saturated market, where operational efficiency is a necessity for brand success, a break in the promise of value weakens the strength of the brand. As soon as we let a customer down, we not only lose a business- we’ve created a negative billboard. A satisfied customer tells about five people, one dissatisfied customer would tell twenty. Companies win businesses by promising quality services and retain them by keeping these promises. I remember at a conference someone was mentioning that a satisfied customer is the best publicity, but then a dissatisfied customer would probably publicise the failure of the brand more than a satisfied customer
Ultimately, every Brand is influenced the consistency of the brand promise, campaign, customer experience and the activities of its employees. It is therefore important to study the consistency of your message, tone and action through all internal and external communications. Effectively driven brands focus on closing the gap between promise and delivery.
CAUSES OF BRAND FALLACY
§ Advertise, advertise, advertise
Though the temptation may be high in taking an advertising- first approach to product and brand management, the results may be quite catastrophic. Brand campaigns and sponsorships must first come from the brand identity and character which would create the output for the other creative marketing communications methods. Every integrated communication channel should be being used to reinforce and reiterate the brand positioning. It doesn’t matter the form of the advertising, if the brand promise fails, the brand would go extinct- it’s a function of when.
§ Get more customers, forget the product
The illusion of new customers and trickles of increased bottom-line can lead an organization to believe the brand is strong. Over emphasis on getting more customers without commiserate focus on service and support would ultimately make those who experience fallacies lose faith in the product. It is not uncommon these days seeing businesses pushing promos and bonanzas to rather than operational efficiency.
Getting more customers is not the only factor that increases the bottom-line, demonstrating and reinforcing brand promise would retain customers. Poor service can irrevocably damage brand equity, the only differentiator in many industries.
§ An isolated brand
For your brand promise to be clearly distinct in the heart of the legitimate judges of your products- the customers, the brand should not be isolated from every other activity across the organization. For an isolated brand, the customer’s experience of the brand promise contradicts the brand in its entirety- from the product or service delivery, product attributes, front desk officers, suppliers and retailers. The brand management need not be confined to the marketing department. All of these factors need to be seen as part of the brand building process. It is said that when a customer is satisfied with a product, they are a walking billboard- if they are not satisfied, the same happens. Too often, it won’t take long before the brand is publicly known for its lie- an overhyped product.
REINFORCING THE PROMISE
§ Winning the heart of the legitimate judges of your brand- the customer
One of the add-ins of the concept of the Marketing Mix (product, price, place and promotion) is people. Irrespective of how great the idea is, we are in business because of customers. All declarations of intent made by organizations (both stated and implied) are consciously and unconsciously perceived as customers’ promises of value that must be kept. Keeping the service promise should therefore be an absolute priority for any officer intent on achieving customer service excellence.
Equally as important as the branding and advertising efforts, is the need to ensure the constant reading of the customers’ wants and needs. It entails constant measuring and refining of products, procedure and processes and the ability to respond to consumers implied and stated needs.
§ Outstanding Customer Service
Outstanding customer service has become an imperative for brand loyalty, if not a necessity for the very survival of business especially in a very competitive industry. It is therefore important to align customer service operations with brand strategy. What is often fatal for businesses is the misalignment of brand strategy and operations.
For instance, companies (such as Nigeria’s Guarantee Trust Bank) that rely on customer service as a key ingredient of their brand equity cultivate intimate relationship with their customers. Unwholesome customer service in the telecommunication sector has driven them to focus on promotions to raise bottom line.
The closer the gap between customer experience and the ‘brand promise’, the stronger the brand. Strong brands enjoy long term customer loyalty, top line growth and increased shareholder value.
§ Employees- the latent brand ambassadors
Apart from your product, the employees shape the brand experience every time they come in contact with your customers. Particularly in businesses which offer services, they ultimately deliver your brand promise. Your employees remain the most memorable voice of the brand. If the employees do not believe in your brand promise and are not actively promoting it, they pass across the same philosophy to closely related customers.
Your employees need to believe in the company mission and live the brand. How else can you get customers to embrace your brand if your own employees don’t understand and enthusiastically support it?
Make employees the first to know about new products and services. Where possible, involve employees in developing new initiatives. The sense of ownership will help to activate employees behind your brand. Sell your brand to them; let them enthusiastically support your brand idea. Let them be the first line customers of the brand. Let every employee be active in the propagation of the brand both within and outside the premises. This would ensure the employees mirror the experience in the execution of the service.
3. Supervise expectations and encourage communications.
The most convenient way to manage consumer’s expectations is to encourage two way communications with existing and potential customers. With the advent of social media sites, a unique opportunity has been provided for organizations to constantly feel the pulse of the consumers/customers. UBA as a bank recently opened a twitter account even as most other organizations have accounts on facebook. Customer focused research could also be made using social media sites and communities. Any organization progressing without consciously encouraging feedback with suppliers and customers may be committing suicide in the marketplace. The slow response of the interswitch to fake interswitch scams reflects how customers can be affected by non proactive responses.
Latent criteria, such as the measurement of evolving customer expectations, sales potential, consumer motivation and post-sales problem severity, can be monitored by encouraging feedback with consumer pool. Sending pro-active emails and alerts and taking time to respond to consumer complaints and observations. Moreover, interaction channels should be considered when setting service levels—a five-minute hold time may be acceptable for the phone.