A few weeks ago I mentioned that brand is not what you think it is, but what your customer thinks it is. And what your customer thinks of your company is completely in your hands to control.
Witness the recent list of companies who have done their very best to change how their customers view their brand
Toyota noted for quality, particularly when compared to North American auto makers, has broken its promise with seemingly endless recalls. Google and Facebook have both felt the ire of their customers over privacy issues. Goldman Sachs, the investment bank, has suffered in the wake of the credit crunch in the United States.
In the past two weeks even the venerable Apple has run afoul of its customers with its new iPhone 4. Apple finally acknowledged a problem with the iPhone 4’s reception but claims it isn’t in the external antenna design, but rather with the iPhone 4’s formula to calculate signal strength bars. They promise a fix soon but it’s unlikely to remedy the reception problem, just the fact you will now know when you have lousy reception.
Tom Bergin, of Reuters had a piece in the National Post BP’s colossal PR blunder about the Gulf oil spill.
“BP’s handling of the spill from a crisis management perspective will go down in history as one of the great examples of how to make a situation worse by bad communications,” said Michael Gordon, of New York based crisis public relations firm Group Gordon Strategic Communications.
“It was a combination of a lack of transparency, a lack of straight talking and a lack of sensitivity to the victims. When you’re managing an environmental disaster of this magnitude you not only have to manage the problem but also manage all the stakeholders.”
BP failed to understand the attitude and perception it was building in its customers’ minds.
The rise of Twitter, and other social media tools, allows companies to monitor what people are saying about them but also help them to engage actively with consumers. It also enables customers to communicate with each other, and it is the stories they share that can shape the future of a brand.
Credibility and trust are pillars in brand management. Break the promise with your customer and it’s difficult to recover.