So many marketing discussions revolve around our brands. Many marketers think we still control our brands. I don’t buy it for a minute.
Given the dynamics of today’s digitally empowered buyers, I think our brands are beyond our control. Our buyers gather all the information they need to decide who and what we are from other buyers – regardless of our marketing efforts to create our brand. Our brands are controlled in the market – by our true behaviors and results.
Here’s an example of how disconnects between our brand and our behaviors can create big issues.
When a Brand FAILS
Ford Motor Company has spent tons of money creating this new image, a brand of superior products and customer care. They even have their very own social media gooroo to front the brand. And ya know what – they’ve done a great job with that branding.
Too bad they didn’t do the same with their products and customer service attitude. Which, by the way, is where the brand meets reality.
Here’s my story:
- I bought a brand new 2008 F 250 because I didn’t want the hassles of a used truck with my trailer – which carries my precious 4-legged children.
- At 7000 miles, I lost the steering and the brakes simultaneously while driving. Yep – locked up and no where to go or slow down. Luckily, I managed to save myself without any injury. Ford’s comment, “We’ve never had any trouble with these trucks. We can’t imagine this happening.“
- At 12000 miles the turbo blew off the engine, sending the trailer and my horses across the highway into oncoming traffic. No one was coming so we coasted to a stop. Ford’s comment, “We’ve never had any trouble with these trucks. We can’t imagine this happening.”
- At 15000 miles the truck lost power going up a hill and the trailer and truck began to slide backwards. Ford corporate’s comment, “Nobody died so what’s your problem? We’ll fix it.” Yep – they really said that. Nice, huh?
- At 18000 miles the same thing happened. Power dropped like a rock while I was hauling. A regional specialist for Ford rode with me. He told me that the engines were underpowered, Ford was having problems all over with them, and the truck should never have reached production. Ford’s comment? “We’ve had no such problems with these trucks. YOU must be hauling too much weight.” I was hauling less than 50% of the weight rating for this truck.
- The power problems continued – and Ford stonewalled me. There’s no issue with these trucks. Yeah, right. Not until I die.
- At 24000 the radiator cracked in half. Same comments from Ford, even though the service manager told me that once a radiator goes – they tend to replace them another 2-3 times on these trucks. Wow.
- At 28000 I lost power on a hill and had to kick in the emergency brakes and throw the truck into park to hold the trailer that was EMPTY. You can guess what Ford said…
You get the picture. The story goes on and on. Ford’s diesel specialists at various service centers have privately told me the same story again and again. The engine is a mistake, these trucks are one of the biggest failures Ford has ever produced, they are dangerous and I should get myself a different truck (like I have the cash to throw it away and start over). They’ve also told me that Ford is dealing with lots of lawsuits over these trucks, is losing customer after customer because of their refusal to step up and admit their mistakes. Bad design, bad engine, dangerous results.
In the past week, I’ve lost power TWICE as the engine warning lights exploded and I came to a slow stop by the side of the road with my trailer in tow. The first time the truck was fixed after 4 days in the shop, and 3 days later I had the same issue again – and the truck is back at a new dealer again. I was on the road both times so had to leave the truck and trailer in remote dealers – where the people have been SO nice to me. At least some Ford dealerships have been honest with me.
As a funny aside – when I was in the rental car place getting my latest car, I was telling the representative about my trouble. Another woman in the office started laughing – she and her husband had exactly the same experience as I’ve had with my F-250. They sued Ford, got their money back and now drive a Dodge Ram – with no hassles at all. Hmmm….
Pride or Arrogance?
I don’t know if Ford’s issue is pride, arrogance, the ego of a big corporation or just plain ignorance. At this point, I don’t care. What I do know is that no one from Ford has offered to help me since the infamous “Nobody died so what’s your problem,” comment. Even the dealer where I bought the truck shut me down after that one. WOW.
I suppose Ford thinks I’m just some lowly consumer, a woman driving a big truck who can’t fight back. For a couple of years I was just that. They stonewalled me to the point that I gave up on fighting. I stopped going to certain riding places because I knew I would risk the horses if the truck lost power again. I’ve lived through power failure after power failure – slowing to 10 mph on a freeway as I slowly climb a hill that the truck should just race up. I gave up. For a while.
I admit it. Ford beat me into submission. Until the last week with 2 failures within 3 days. I’m not that mad for myself – I suppose I’ve grown numb. But I am mad for kids. You see, I had to cancel TWO Unstoppable U sessions with kids because of my darned Ford in the past week. Add that to a bunch of camping dates and more work with kids and I am now ticked off. Wouldn’t you be?
Lemon lawyers have been contacting me by the droves. Seems the smell of blood is strong when it comes to F250s diesels and the lawyers are all over the scent. I’ve never litigated in my life. But thanks to Ford’s nasty attitude – I am considering stepping up and standing up for myself.
Our Buyers Control Our Brands
This is the perfect example of why a great branding campaign WON’T save your brand if you don’t deliver behind it.
I may be a lowly consumer – but I’m now raising my voice along with thousands of other folks who have experienced the same poor customer treatment on the heels of a just plain crappy product. In this case, a product that can kill – even if I haven’t died yet. Sorry Ford…..I’m not willing to go that far to prove your issues, especially since you already know them.
Ford could have easily avoided this whole situation. If they’d been living their brand instead of only promoting it. Here’s my advice for Ford – and any other vendor in this situation…
- We all make mistakes – sometimes products just don’t work. Stand up and admit it. Nothing engenders you to your buyers like simply falling on your sword and admitting your mistakes. Nothing makes a buyer more angry than avoiding your issues and stonewalling.
- Be Nice. There’s never an excuse to be nasty to customers. Never. Especially when you make a mistake. Even if you don’t make a mistake. I don’t care how big your brand is, how much ego you have – be nice to the little people who buy your products. They made you big. This is especially true in today’s world – where those little people have power thanks to social media and more.
- Think about your family. How would you respond to your product issue if it were your family using it? Would you put them at risk, force them to go through extra hoops simply because they bought a problem product? How would you want your family treated? Now get this – your buyers are your digital family – treat them that way.
In today’s digital economy no one is powerless.
The days when big companies could bully little people are long gone. Yes, big business can choose to try that approach. But I’m bettin’ it won’t bring positive brand results or market love.
Sooner or later – the truth about your business will come out. You get to choose whether it’s a positive supporting truth – or not.
In Ford’s case – I can now sadly say that the brand is not the reality in my experience, and the experience of many others. So Buyers – BEWARE!
Please share this post so that we can help others in similar situations know they can have the power to protect themselves and their families. Whatever the product from the big corporations – we can all stand up for ourselves thanks to the power of our digital world.