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“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room”. – Jeff Bezos, CEO, Chairman and Founder, Amazon

A brand is more than just a name, symbol, or design that sets you or your product apart from others. The process of branding is a lot more complex and there are many reasons customers complain about brands. Branding is about making a name, product, or service identifiable and likeable; above all it is about people reposing trust in that name, product or service. A successful branding exercise not only conveys information about the quality and reliability of a product, branding also helps consumers become familiar with a group of unique benefits that the brand offers and helps them identify with what they perceive as the personality of that brand.

To understand why customers complain about brands, the power of a brand needs understanding. A Global New Product Innovation Survey found that nearly 60% respondents from all over the world prefer to buy a new product from a brand they are already familiar with. In fact brand recognition is the most important determinant in helping consumers decide what to buy. Brand recognition scored higher than affordability even, found the survey. The survey found that the value of brand recognition is even higher in developing market economies; where 68% of the respondents surveyed said that they would rather buy products from brands they were familiar with.

It is a fact that a successful branding exercise inspires confidence and signifies quality; helping set the brand apart from others. It helps the buyer predict what they are getting when they buy a product from a known brand. This assurance of quality that the buyer presumes about a brand is probably the most valuable asset of the company. Subsequent product launches of a brand are that much more likely to succeed simply because of this. The confidence with which a buyer makes a purchase is hard won… branding is a time consuming and costly exercise. No company can afford to fritter away this hard earned advantage.

Take a look at some of the most common reasons why customers complain about brands so that you avoid these pitfalls and guard your brand against the erosion of its worth… worth you have so painstakingly built.

According to experts, brand betrayal is the quickest way to the destruction of a brand. When a brand promises something and falls significantly short of delivering on that promise, the buying public feels betrayed. Violating a brand promise or violating values associated with a brand (values that may be important to followers) breaks trust, which can be impossible to repair or rebuild; one of the main reasons customers complain about brands.

For people who are their own brands, moral turpitude or scandal, the public revelation of lies, dishonesty or deliberate misstatement – such as the Grammy winners who were found to be unable to sing or the world famous cyclist who confessed to the abuse of performance enhancing drugs – constitutes such betrayal and the consequent implosion of that brand.

To avoid such a disastrous consequence for your brand, ensure that you know what your brand promise is and take care never to violate it to any significant degree. Stay true to the values of your brand and be careful to exhibit behaviours that are consistent with that brand promise.

Inconsistency of product quality is another reason customers complain about brands

If there is a cornerstone for the entire branding exercise it is about creating trust about the quality and consistency of a product. Consumers know to expect a certain quality or level of service when they buy from a particular brand. They also expect that that quality will remain consistent over time and that subsequent products launched by that brand will also be up to that standard of quality.

For instance, there is a blog that launched with a bang; with very high quality content. The blog owner reaped rich rewards in the form of high readership and the generation of ad revenues. In other words it was possible to monetise the blog because of consistent, high quality content. Over time however, the quality and frequency of later content on the blog failed to live up to the initial promise. So why would readers hang around only to be disappointed?  In a world where a new, more interesting blog goes live every day, where content providers have to contend with the reality of a fickle audience with tiny attention spans, the readership will simply move elsewhere.

Similarly a customer who has been buying, say a soap for several years because they are they like the fragrance and enjoy the way it lathers will not like it is the fragrance alters, the shape of the soap changes or the size becomes smaller. The customer won’t mind; may even enjoy more attractive packaging but other, more significant changes may be viewed as a lowering of quality and consistency. This perception is the reason customers complain about brands!

Not thinking about the customer – another reason customers complain about brands

As any experienced marketer will tell you, a customer buys for their reasons, not the company’s reasons. Manufactures or service providers need to think long and hard about the requirements of a consumer and then work towards delivering those. Never over-promise and never under-deliver! Provide all required information freely and fairly. Be honest about what the customer gets when they spend their money. Buyers hate nasty surprises such as hidden costs: buy an MP3 player but pay extra for the earphones, pay for a service and then find that this did not include several vital features of the service for instance.

The solution is to under-promise and over-deliver. If you don’t promise, you are not required to deliver on that promise. If however you are able to offer the customer something extra along with a service or product – without the customer having any real expectation of it – the customer is delighted and you end up strengthening your brand loyalty.

Inadequate or poor customer support makes customers complain about brands

Nothing is so off-putting for the customer as the feeling that a company is only interested in selling and nothing else. Here is typical scenario: a sales rep calls regularly, is polite and patient and answers all the questions of a potential customer… until the customer actually makes the purchase. After this, company reps are out of reach, they fail to answer phones, are abrupt and unsatisfactory in the replies they give. The sea change in attitude is disappointing to say the least.

When customers complain about brands, not only do you have to be easily approachable, you also have to be responsive to those complaints. Demonstrating concern about problems faced, and the ability to resolve those problems quickly and effectively is vital. Provide several avenues to get in touch: email, phone, social media, and/or website contact form. Respond quickly via knowledgeable personnel who are trained to respond appropriately and politely. Don’t skimp on customer support. Good customer support is vital for generating positive word of mouth and very important for retaining custom. It will pay for itself in the end.

Run down another brand while praising your own

Remember, customers are smart; they can see though the jargon and the marketing gobbledygook. So when you use terms such as ‘industry leading’ or ‘best in class’ or ‘first ever’ the customer may be less than impressed. When you compare your brand favourably with another, the customer may wonder why you felt the need to do so.

Clarifying why and in what way your product or service is superior to that of a competitor may actually be counterproductive; it may sound a bit desperate and may do no good to your brand. Remember you’re providing unnecessary publicity to a competitor and giving them undue importance that actually detracts from the virtues of your own brand. Rather than mention any other brand, concentrate on avoiding circumstances where customers complain about brands at all.


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