Making Promises. Hoping Not to Have to Deliver...
Once upon a time, there was a business adage about retail banking: Marketing folk must never talk to the loan officers. The warm and fuzzy financial hugs promised were simply not going to be delivered by the stern number crunchers who populate the place and make the actual lending decisions.
Something like that seems to be spreading like a contagion to other fields, as well: A virtual renaissance in overly optimistic brand advertising unrelated to the business capacity to deliver. Where once banks might have counted on disheartened loan applicants being loath to spread the news of their disappointment via personal word-of-mouth, today’s brands court disillusionment and cynicism.
Consider the case of the most recent Time Warner Cable campaign, ostensibly developed to address head-on its customer service complaints. The notion was of a ‘new & improved’ TWC at once more responsive and more proactive. Beautiful work. Well-constructed to acknowledge past failings and promise current advances: Chief among them, showing up on time, shorter seemingly endless on-hold phone sessions, quick restoration of lost service. Fabulous, right? So confident were they that the TWC website included real time consumer comments. Looking for accolades in all the wrong places, it turns out.
Months of heavy ad spending embedded the new promise. Looking good. Then, the cable service goes out throughout the NYC area and beyond. What happened? An endless loop of a repeating message on the phone lines, no information on the website – except all the snark from customers, furious that the over-promising could not be delivered.
Consider too UPS. Snazzy efficient website, explaining all the various services provided and allowing appointments to be made for special situations like Notary Publics. The consumer dutifully goes through the on-line drill, only to find that no such service exists at the UPS location promised. Or the next one. The local franchisee just shrugs and laughs. “No we don’t do that here.”
There is a powerful temptation for brands who go through the bother of surfacing genuine unmet needs (Your Neighborhood Friendly Bank! Reliable responsive customer service! Entrepreneurial services!) to promise to meet those needs. Bind yourself to the mast, marketing Odysseus. Do not follow that siren’s call. The consumer response will not be epic poetry, but as TWC found out, it will be epic.