“Well, that sucked.” — The Other Side of Branding

It’s happened to most of us at least once.

You’re at home watching television or some of your favorite skateboarding ferret videos on YouTube when a commercial comes on. It’s a pretty good commercial. It gets your attention and, after watching it, you form a positive opinion of the product and/or service it was advertising. In this instance, let’s say the ad was for a restaurant chain. The staff was friendly, the food looked great, the atmosphere seemed inviting and everybody seemed to be having a great time.

Hooray! The advertisement has worked and thanks to you forming an opinion, you are now part of the glorious branding experience.

Fast-forward a day or so. You and your significant other decide to go out to eat that evening. But where? You remember thinking the restaurant in that ad seemed like a good place to try, so you suggest it and your significant other agrees.

You go to the restaurant. Even though it doesn’t look that busy, you end up waiting 15 minutes for a table. Then another 15 minutes for the menu. Then your server disappears and after another wait, you end up flagging somebody else down so you can order. The entire staff is aloof or rude. Your food eventually arrives, but it’s cold, looks messy and tastes… off. You want to complain, but everybody has disappeared again. People at other tables seem just as disappointed as you. Finally, your bill arrives but it’s wrong. Things are finally sorted out, you pay and leave.

On the drive home, you and your significant other relive the evening. You can’t believe what a rotten experience that was. You’ll never eat there again.

Uh-oh. Thanks to your personal experience, your opinion of the restaurant has changed, and not for the better. Unfortunately, this is still part of the branding experience, and it doesn’t stop there.

That night, you post on Facebook what a rotten experience you had at the restaurant. Friends and family soon comment on your post, agreeing with you and sharing their own bad experiences or what they have heard from others.

The next morning, you gripe to your coworkers, and they, along with your friends and family, form opinions of the restaurant based on the personal experience you shared with them. This is also part of the branding experience, and it goes on and on and on.

Well, that went poorly.

What should have happened?

After seeing the advertisement and forming your first positive opinion, walking through the doors should have reinforced what was shown in the commercial — friendly staff, great food, an inviting atmosphere and people having a great time. Then, afterwards, perhaps a positive post about the dining experience shows up on Facebook, others comment how they’ll have to give that restaurant a try, coworkers say they’ve heard others say good things about that restaurant too and they’ll check it out for themselves this weekend.

So what does all this mean?

Advertising is an important part of the branding process, but it can only take things so far. The rest is up to the business being advertised, everybody who works for that business, and everybody who gives the business a try.

Branding is everything, and when people form an opinion about you, you need to do everything you can to make sure it becomes a positive one.

Now back to those awesome skateboarding ferret videos.

— Clayton Hove is KK BOLD’s creative director and unsuccessfully tried to learn how to skateboard on a gravel road.

(This column originally appeared in the KK BOLD Blog.)

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