How Not To Create A Compelling Brand Experience

Steve Fogg —  June 1, 2012 — 2 Comments
Bad brand experience

Have you ever had a bad brand experience?

Before I start this post I want to let you know this isn’t a rant/venting post. Really it isn’t. I just want to demonstrate to you an example of how your brand is so much more than just the pretty pictures on your brochures and website. Your brand experience transcends the visual and is realised in the physical and the present (wow, thats deep). Good branding goes much further than skin deep. Here’s what happened to me a few weeks ago.

I bank with a Credit Union. I like Credit Unions because their first priority isn’t to make obscene amounts of money and have their shareholders as No.1 priority, rather than their customers like most Australian banks seem to do. A few weeks ago I activated my Credit Union credit/debit card and used the PIN number the Credit Union gave me to try and withdraw some cash from an ATM.

Unfortunately the ATM ate my card and said the PIN number was incorrect. While that was inconvenient and I was mildly frustrated at it happening I thought it was no big deal because surely the Credit Union would just apologise and give me a new card.  Here’s what happened next.

I looked up the lost cards phone no. on the Credit Union’s website and called the lost cards section to cancel my card. Which was great until I asked to be issued with a new card, the call centre guy  said “I’m sorry we are an external service, you will call the Credit Union to get a new credit card.” I explained to him that his telephone number was on the Credit Union’s website and that I thought I was speaking to the Credit Union. He repeated the fact that they weren’t part of Credit Union and that I would have to make another phone call to get a new card.


Brand experience lesson No. 1: Your customers don’t need to know if you use an external service. Don’t tell them that because it makes your brand come across like you are trying harder to cut costs than to service your customers. It feels like saving money matters more to you than your customers do.


So I hung up, returned back to Credit Union’s website and called another number.


Brand experience lesson No. 2: Don’t make your customers work to stay with you. Most will put you into the ‘too hard basket’ and go with someone who makes life simple for them.


After navigating my way through many ‘prompts’ got to the right person in another call centre. The call centre dude was polite and listened to my explanation of what happened. After listening they said that they could reissue a new card, but it would cost me $15.

What? Wait. I said “But I activated the card and entered the password you supplied. It said the password wasn’t right. I don’t think it’s my issue. It’s yours, why should I have to pay?”

Credit Union Call centre dude: “Because you have lost a card before”

Me: “Soooooo even though the card was lost and it wasn’t my fault because of my history I have to pay?”

Credit Union Call centre dude: “Yes. There no proof that you lost the card this way.”


Brand experience lesson No. 3: Don’t tell your customers that you basically think they are lying. We really don’t like that. That’s not a healthy relationship position for a brand to take. Trust your customers, how do you measure losing $15 vs losing their entire business?


I said that I wasn’t satisfied with that answer and asked to speak to their manager. The call centre dude put me back on hold. While I was on hold the automatic advertising said something along the lines of “Switch to “name of Credit Union for a better service”


Brand experience lesson No. 4: My brand experience right at this point is completely different to the one they are telling me they will give me. They have to really give me better service because I won’t trust them next time. Reality has to match their core promise.


The call centre dude came back on the phone and said that they would waive the fee this time but would charge it the next time. I repeated back to him, really? that even if the machine sucked the card back in because the number didn’t work and it wasn’t my fault? Correct he said.


Brand experience lesson No. 5: This is what I’m thinking, “You still really don’t believe me. you’re losing me”


At that point I gave up. Said thanks and hung up. I could not believe what a bad experience I had. They made me really work to keep my business with them. They made me feel like I was lying to get something for nothing.

Now I know that the call centre dudes are on low wages and sitting in a cubicle somewhere which is the size of a doughnut box and probably isn’t motivated to give anyone a great experience. But here’s the thing. Every brand or organisation has to live out its core brand promises at every touchpoint in their organisation. From the cleaner, receptionist, call centre dude/dudette through to the CEO/Leader. Everyone needs the right training, guidance on how to create a wow brand experience for their customer.

John Medina says that “The brain remembers the emotional components of an experience better than any other aspect.” If you create a bad/negative experience how do you think people will remember your organisation/brand when they come to make a decision next time?

I have been with this Credit Union for over 14 years now. I am was a loyal customer. Now they have to work twice as hard for me to trust them again. To really believe that they are here to serve me and my needs. I’m not walking. But I’m close.

Again I’m not ranting, nobody’s perfect. I’ve written this post because I want brands and organisations to understand what people experience when they interact with you. Just like every interaction can count for you, it can also count against you if you screw it up.

What are your best or worst brand experiences? Who do you think does it well? Comment below



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2 responses to How Not To Create A Compelling Brand Experience

  1. I think this disconnect between message and delivery could be particularly challenging as church communicators. Those who craft and communicate the church’s message may have very little to do with: phone call follow up, the design of the website, the knowledge and focus of door greeters etc.

    • Hi Karen, part of our role is to help our leadership understand that the brand extends way beyond the look and the feel of the church. We should be advocates to help someone have a good experience and remove barriers that get in the way of that.

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