Is Your Brand a Promise or a Hook?

Safety concept: Golden Fishing Hook on digital background

I am drawn to aspirational brand promises and names. When they fail to deliver I don’t dart off to yelp and yelp, I reach out to the company, show I care and give them a chance to make good. Afterall, I have been in their shoes and know what it feels like to let a customer down and what it feels like when a customer cares enough to enlighten management. That’s gold. Some companies just don’t get it. This has been a busy week for getting hooked! 

Story I.

EVOLVER is one of those that don’t get it.

Here’s what happened:

I signed up and paid  for an on-line “learning lab” with EVOLVER.
The “learning lab” would include 4 weekly live events with leading researchers on the vast mystery of plant-human interdependence. Good stuff. All sessions would be recorded and made available to paying participants. This is the point where my experience of Evolver devolved.

I sent 4 e-mail requests for a recorded link. Ignored. I called the number on my credit card statement and spoke to someone named Lou who said I had reached the right person and this would be remedied the next day because the office is located in New York and it was already 6 PM. Didn’t happen. Two days later I received a VM message from Lou saying that it would be remedied after the weekend.

This is the company promise:
Evolver is creating a platform for content, learning, and commerce serving a global community of transformational consumers seeking optimal states of well being in mind, body, and spirit. We intend to become a leading trust-agent for individuals and groups participating in our transformative culture, one of wisdom, beauty, and fun.”

I looked up “trust-agent” and found the book and blog by Chris Brogan. I’m a fan of Chris Brogan’s work and message but “trust-agent” might have a short shelf life considering EVOLVER.  What is a “transformational consumer”? A dupe whose consumption transforms the bottom line of EVOLVER? Guess that’s me.

“Evolve” implies going beyond the status quo and what has been. EVOLVER could evolve by connecting to their customer experience. 10 emails later, I recieved the complete product, which I had paid for.

What to do when things go wrong with product and service delivery:

Empathize with your customer.


Reassure your customer that you will fufill your promise.


Thank your customer. Feedback is gold. You might want to do a little something special for them too!

Bright red wave

Story II.

Expedia is another one. Expedite! Sounds like it eliminates the excess hassle. The site enthusiastically states: Save! on Flights! Hotels! etc. I didn’t go there expecting to waste my time!

Here’s what happened:

I made 4 reservations through Expedia for hotels in the same city 8 weeks in advance so we could review our itinerary and select the best location. Each reservation indicated that I would not be charged and their would be no cancellation charge if cancellation was made 4 days before our planned arrival.

When I opened my credit card statement and saw a line item charge for $1,600 for Expedia Travel I scrambled for the phone. The number listed on the charge put me through to an agent at  They had no record of this reservation. The agent gave me a number to the Expedia “affiliate” that appeared to be connected with the reservation. That call led me to a travel agent in Central America who also did not have a record of the reservation but said that they might be able to locate it with my credit card. I declined the offer. After getting through on the 800 number for Expedia and cancelling each of the reservations through the Expedia 800 number, I felt relieved.

Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi writing for USA Today this week says that “turbulence is part of the deal” and that “travel is a privilege”. True. But keeping “turbulence” out of a the customer experience is key. I wish that companies could look their customers in the eye and say “It is a privilege doing business with you” and deliver accordingly. Nicholas Carr predicted it and now too many businesses are disfunctioning in The Shallows where they have become chronically distracted from customer service.

Bright red wave

Recommendations for small companies and startups:

1. Design and apply a “no excuses” system for managing customer service failures.

2. Don’t be “clever” be real. Avoid buzzy words and unfamiliar concepts on your About page.

3. You have chosen a brand name that holds a promise. What is it? An experience? A result? A product?

4. The most important question that must be asked over and over again for as long as you do business is this: How does doing business with your company make your customer feel? Get that right and they will be “hooked” on you in a great way forever. 

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou

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