Last updated: Brands: Say what you mean, mean what you say

Brands: Say what you mean, mean what you say


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Relationships depend on trust, and the little things matter. Are you accountable? When you give your word or brand promise, is it ironclad? It’s easy to make promises, and even easier to go back on them.

If you want people to rely on you — in business and in life — you need to be reliable.

The same goes for the products or services you sell.

Sounds obvious? Well, it’s amazing how many brands find out the hard way what happens when you don’t deliver on your promises. As consumers, we all put some level of trust in what’s “on the box.” We trust that our favorite low-fat snack really is low in fat, and that the MPG advertised for our vehicle is what we’ll really get on the highway.

If we find out that the company in question wasn’t advertising truthfully, then we end our relationship with that company right away. Personal, and professional relationships too, are often derailed when deception is uncovered. Even the appearance of deception can spell doom.

Brands: Don’t make promises you can’t keep

We make little promises all the time, often without really thinking about it. I’ll call you back after lunch, or I’ll send you that study when I get in the office tomorrow. Every one of those promises—big and small—is an opportunity to show that you mean what you say… or not.

Here are some examples:

The VW Emissions Scandal is an unprecedented, extreme example that will generate case studies for decades. In addition to the billions in lost revenue that occurred in recalls, the brand took a huge hit in the trust department.

Winning back the confidence of millions of consumers in Europe and the US who thought they were getting an eco-friendly vehicle is a challenge no business wants to face.

Less extreme examples happen all the time and still carry steep consequences. An all-natural food turns out not to be so natural. You provide your email address to a company that promises not to share it, then find a mysterious uptick of spam in your inbox. You reserve a seat on a flight only to find out after going through airport security that it’s overbooked.

Phone calls are the perfect person-to-person example. It’s so easy to call 10 or 20 minutes after you said you would. No big deal, right? Everyone’s busy. Meanwhile, the person expecting your call blocked out time just for you, and now that time is wasted.

Trust takes time, and it’s hard to win back once you lose it. When a customer or colleague finds out they’ve been misled—even by accident—they’re more likely to move on than stick around to see if you make up for it.

A “brand” is what a business or person does; a “reputation” is what people remember and share.

When we were kids, teachers, parents and coaches called it accountability. Get your homework done on time, and show up to soccer practice with your cleats and shin-guards. Don’t cheat on exams or spend your lunch money on something else. You learn (after making some mistakes) what the consequences were for screwing things up. After a certain age, we call this “integrity.” And the stuff we learned in school still applies… and means so mech more. Did you make a commitment? Stick to it. Did you twist the truth? Straighten it out.

In business, did you deliver what you promised, when and how you said you would? Don’t give yourself the option for any answer other than, “Yes!” Your personal and professional relationships depend on it.

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