You want to go out to eat. You look online, evaluate your choices, and decide on a well-reviewed restaurant that serves seafood. At this point, you’ve developed a certain set of expectations in your mind: you know what they serve, about what it will cost, and what a few other customers have thought. You have a good meal and these expectations are largely met. But later on in the week you see a local news investigation that reveals terrible, unsanitary conditions in the kitchen. They reveal that the “fresh caught” seafood was actually shipped from overseas farms and contaminated with high levels of lead, mercury and arsenic. The brand in your mind is shattered. What you learned does not align with your expectations, and you never eat there again.
This happens every time we buy a pair of pants that look terrible once they’ve come out of the washer or a new car that has to be repaired several times in the first year. These kinds of experiences can destroy a brand. Although there are hundreds of reasons why a product may not work or a service may not meet our expectations, we generally don’t care about the details — we simply transfer our dissatisfaction to the brand itself and find a replacement somewhere else.
A strong brand benefits consumers with the reassurance that these kinds of problems will not occur or that, if they do occur, they will be rectified quickly and painlessly. If the store where I bought the poor quality pants is known for their simple return policy, I won’t blame the store for the faulty merchandise. I’ll simply stop by and return them, possibly making another purchase while I’m there. And if the auto dealer quickly replaces a lemon with a new car, you may be willing to give the brand another try. (If you’ve ever smashed your iPad, driven to the nearest Apple store and walked out with a $49 replacement, you know just how good it can feel to have a big problem fixed quickly and inexpensively.)
Those brands that don’t inspire faith will quickly be replaced by those that do.
Tim, the owner of Tantalizing Toys, specialized in well-crafted – often handmade – toys that were both educational and fun. He was anxious to separate himself from the mass production, poorly made toys that sell in most big box stores, but he knew that he would need to overcome price objections with so many cheaper alternatives on the market.
One way he decided to create assurance in his customers was to create a “Glee Guarantee.” Since customers were paying quite a bit more to purchase these toys, they wanted to be sure kids would like them. And there’s no way to ever guarantee that – one child may love something that another child pays no attention to. So Tim, using in-store signs and ornate slips of paper tucked into each box and package, informed his customers that they could return his toys for any reason, including the unpredictable preference of the children who received them. This allayed the anxiety of his customers, who could now avoid the sight of an expensive toy abandoned and forgotten in the back of some dark closet.
He also created a large, central area where kids could try out any toy in the store. This had the added benefit of giving parents a place to see which of Tim’s toys their kids preferred, making gift giving a bit easier.