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The Brand Gap: Heartache and Letdown

Eric Groves

By Eric Groves

If there’s one thing you absolutely want to fall in love with for the long haul it’s your spouse. Right? Well, not so fast! (Sorry, honey. You know I run an ad agency.) It’s much more important to be in love with a brand. Maybe you’ve flirted with a brand on a website, or caught a glimpse of a social media post that made you weak in the knees. Perhaps it was a blog that made you blush. Aww, look at that, you’re in love!

You, my friend, have decided that this brand is THE ONE. So, off you go to the store. You’re ready to make a big commitment. It’s time to open up your wallet and spend some of your hard earned cash on your brand’s latest and greatest gizmo. It’s time to see if your new found love will stay true to its promises. When you get home – take a deep breath, for this is the MOMENT OF TRUTH – you take it out of the box and the air rushes out of your lungs! This is not what you expected! This product is a disappointment! Surely this is not what you fell in love with! Say it ain’t so! You’re not being full-blown catfished, but this product certainly doesn’t live up to your brand experience. You feel betrayed and heartbroken, so you eat an entire bag of potato chips chased soon after by a pint of ice cream.

This isn’t just buyer’s remorse. You’re experiencing a brand gap that is more accurately referred to as a BRAND LET DOWN.

It reminds me of this great scene from the American classic, A Christmas Story:

This is a sad event that occurs when a brand doesn’t follow through on some aspect of the customer experience. This lack of follow-through can happen in customer service, business morals and philosophies, product quality and a host of other types of customer interaction.

But wait, there’s a way to avoid this! Our advice?

Be critical, and hold your brand’s behavior to the same expectations that customers have for your product or services.

To avoid these let downs and close your brand gaps, make sure your brand can not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk. And have it quack like a duck while you’re at it. When a customer has an experience that doesn’t align with the brand, it ends up leaving a bad taste in their mouths and completely turns them off. Sort of like that wonderfully cheesy picture of a salty snack on the bag, but the product leaves a big orange ring on your face when you eat it. Boy, do you feel dumb now.

When there are high expectations for your brand, watch out – brand let down can get worse. Just ask Amazon Prime and Apple.

Amazon recently unveiled their new sales event called “Prime Day,” an event billed as bigger than Black Friday. Big discounts and great deals awaited loyal Amazon shoppers. But when the curtain went up (Wah-wah) it was big time disappointment. It seemed to shoppers that Amazon was simply cleaning out its warehouse, garage and basement all at the same time and putting their stuff out on the lawn. Angry customers voiced their brand letdown on Twitter. One tweet read, “When I die I want whoever’s responsible for #AmazonPrimeDay to lower me into my grave so they can let me down one last time.” Talk about a jilted lover.

Even the branding and design gods at Apple leave their fanboys hanging on occasion. Remember getting an automatic download of U2’s new album when you never really liked Bono anyway? Who asked for this? Some wonk in Cupertino thought you would enjoy it? The brand blunder blew up to the point that U2 had to issue an apology. (As well they should.)

So don’t take any wooden nickels, and make sure a horse has all his teeth before buying him. (I have no idea why that matters to anyone beyond the horse himself.) But seriously, if someone is ready to profess their love to your brand, make sure your brand doesn’t break any hearts. You want true love, beginning to end.



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