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When a Brand Promise Backfires
Posted on August 23rd 2013
Like every other marketing-related word or phrase, the term "brand promise" has its fair share of definitions. The one I like best is one that I think captures the essence perfectly for it speaks to the relationship marketing aspect.
It was written by Jean Wilcox, one of the authors of the book AbuLLard's ABC's of Branding: "A brand promise is the statement that you make to customers that identifies what they should expect for all interactions with your people, products, services and company. It is often associated with the company name and/or logo."
Wilcox also believes a brand promise is also the tagline for a given brand - and she's right.
Case in point:
- Coors Light – “The World’s Most Refreshing Beer”
- Geico – “15 Minutes Or Less Can Save You 15% Or More On Car Insurance”
- Nationwide Insurance – “Nationwide Is On Your Side”
Three classic examples of a brand promise and tagline doing the same thing.
The Promised Land
With a not-so-indirect homage to The Boss, what happens when a brand promise backfires? Well, there may or may not be a "dark cloud rising from the desert floor" but, it can cause damage to the brand itself for sure.
Remember a few years ago when the whole News Corp. brand promise took a major blow? It's promise was to legally investigate and report news and a phone-hacking scandal and questionable journalistic activities did not exactly deliver on that promise now did it?
The brand's actions had a direct impact and effect on its brand promise.
Not long ago I became aware of a restaurant in New York city called Sushi Yasuda which made headlines when they announced they would no longer accept tips from its patrons.
To me this had red flags written all over it.
How great that you no longer have to worry about how much to leave your server.
Sure sounded like a good idea from a consumer's perspective.
Or did it?
And then there was the marketing perspective.
Shouldn't a restaurant's brand promise have something to do with providing not only great foot but great service? And inherent in that great service are the people delivering that service; that experience.
How would their attitude change knowing they are not receiving a gratuity?
Julia Carcamo, a brand strategist with a number of years of experience in developing food and beverage brands ranging from fine dining to casino buffets says what while the prospect of making a dining experience easier on a guest is always exciting, eliminating tipping seems to be a quick way to fail at delivering on a promise of great service.
And it all comes down to the people delivering on that promise.
"Like most brands, the rubber hits the road at the point of guest contact," she said. "You have to hire the people that will deliver on the promise, knowing that promise is even bigger now that you've taken the guests' ability to determine whether their experience was worth a tip and how much it was worth."
Jan Talamo, who is partner in the award-winning restaurant Catelli Duo (and as CCO of the ad agency Star Group knows a thing or two about marketing/advertising), agrees with Carcamo in that this idea is novel and would generate buzz.
However he doesn't believe it's practical for the everyday establishment.
"I believe it would border on entitlement and service would suffer," said Talamo. "There's something about tipping that keeps it honest and everybody striving to deliver the best guest experience."
He adds that tipping plays a role in performance appraisals of employees.
"At the end of the day the amount written in the gratuity line of the check doesn't lie. From an operators standpoint, we have technology that rates each server by the amount of gratuity they register, hence, another metric to gauge guest satisfaction and server performance."
Laying Down The Law
Carolyn Richmond is a partner in the law firm Fox Rothschild LLP. She is co-chair of their Hospitality Practice Group which represents and counsels employers in the hospitality industry, specifically restaurants.
She too agrees that an official ‘no tipping’ policy isn’t necessarily a bad idea. She thinks the answer lies in our state legislatures and Congress revising the wage and hour laws and addressing the epidemic of abusive litigation.
"Eliminating tipping is not a final solution, and what lies at the root of this issue are archaic laws that are on the books," she says. "We have different needs than in 1938. The wage and hourly laws need to be changed with A-to-Z reform."
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