Big brands still over-promise and under-deliver

Big brands are still over-promising and under-delivering, according to research from YouGov published in Marketing Magazine. This shows that there is still a big opportunity for brands who just do the basics really well. 

First, the research. This shows that 67% of people that big businesses over-promise and under-deliver. 

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What is rather depressing is that this data is scarily similar to that from brandgym research done back in 2002 (see below) for the first brandgym book! This had 60% agreeing strongly/slightly that brands over-promise and under-deliver. So, if anything, the new data is worse.

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So, what does this mean for brands?

1. Get real

In the Marketing article, Greg Nugent tells a story of a toothpaste brand defining its brand essence as "Live life to the full". As Greg says, "Obviously, it was not true. The toothpaste could remove plaque and freshen your breath, but what it couldn’t do was change your life. Fundamentally, it was an over-promise and the public quickly worked it out, as it always does."

The risk with brand vision work is to "ladder up" too high and over-promise on the emotional benefit a brand will offer, as I posted on here, insired by marketoonist Tom Fishburne's cartoon (see below). Sure, have some emotional "sizzle", but don't go over-the-top into fantasy land about what your brand of petfood or toilet cleaner or toothpaste will deliver.

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2. Be "simply better"

The YouGov results show that most of us find that big brands just don't do the basics well. Never mind breakthrough innovation. There is still opportunity from improving performance on the things often dismissed as "tables stakes" or "hygiene factors", as I posted on here, using easyJet as an example. The company worked hard to improve on-time efficiency and have also invested in a new system to allow pre-booking of seats. None of these initiatives seem radical, but they all create real customer value by helping easyJet actually deliver on its promise of affordable, reliable air travel.

Greg also quotes the example of John Lewis, a retailer I posted on here, as a rare example of a brand that has earned high levels of trust.

3. Spend less time listening, and more time doing

One of the growth industries in marketing services is "listening" to social media chatter. The idea ideas is to sort of eavesdrop on all the stuff being said about your brand on the ever-increasing number of different social media platforms.

A better idea might be to simply spend less time and money listening in, and more time being the customer, by trying our your company's products and servcies on a regular basis. My guess is that 9 times out of 10 you would find out what the problems are yourself. The hardest thing is business is often not finding out what the issues are, but rather cutting through the politics and corporate crap to solve them.

In conclusion, Greg's article shows that 11 years on from the first brandgym book, there is a still a need for brands to deliver what they promise to earn trust. If you can manage to do this, you are on the way to a growing and successful brand.