Mind the Gap: Brand Dissonance

One of the biggest challenges we have in marketing is the potential to promise more than we can deliver.  Our product is the best, we’re the fastest, etc. Often this pie-in-the-sky perspective comes from someone who helped develop the product—someone so enamored that reality has long slipped away.

Our job as marketing experts is to gently remind these folks of reality and the danger of making promises you can’t fulfill. The first step is to educate people about branding, which goes well beyond logos and taglines (contrary to popular belief). This takes time, patience, and good ol’ repetition. It takes you reinforcing that the brand is your promised experience to the consumer. It’s the beginning of a relationship. If you can’t deliver, you’ve created dissonance and dissatisfaction. The level of dissatisfaction varies on the size of the gap between the promise and delivery of experience. If you can deliver, however, you build consumer trust and the potential for a long, loving relationship.

Let me develop that relationship metaphor a bit more. You’re dating online, choosing among available partners. They make statements about themselves, and you make judgements of compatibility based on these statements (or shall we say, marketing materials?). From John Smith’s profile, he seems nice looking, enjoys the outdoors, and loves animals. You decide to go on a date with Mr. Smith, and he shows up 30 years older than his photo, hasn’t seen the sun is just as long, and he loves animals. Two out of three! It’s really nice that he loves animals, but do you trust him after the false promises and dashed hopes? Probably not. In fact, you’re probably going to tell all of your friends to avoid Mr. Smith in the future.

There you have it…brand dissonance distilled into a dating metaphor. The message, however, is a crucial one—in today’s instant information-sharing age, you can’t afford to create brand dissonance. If your customer base is dwindling, don’t just blame marketing. Look at the product or service and make sure you are delivering on your message and getting that second date.

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