Over-Promising and Under-Delivering

Discussion
Jul 14, 2006
Al McClain

By Al McClain


Remember the standard advice “under-promise and over-deliver”? It’s always sounded good to me. But, many marketing campaigns and slogans these days have little to do with the
actual experience of a customer. And it’s not because they’re over-delivering.


As a consumer, I sometimes find myself frustrated by the marketing done by companies I deal with. This week my frustration was with an airline, ATA, whose slogan is “Go easy.
Go ATA.” Forget a six-hour flight delay due to weather — they can’t control that. What bugged me was buying a ticket, selecting a seat, and then being relegated to an unselected
middle seat, even though the seat selected online was still showing as available. Long story short, some folks in the customer service department at ATA have never met their marketing
department colleagues.


I believe my sentiments are shared by CBS News’ Dick Meyer, who is bugged by the fact that companies promise to “care” about their customers, and then don’t. He thinks marketers
use “care” a lot because consumers are frustrated by bad, impersonal service and marketers believe they can tap into that frustration with “care”.


One example he cites is Real Simple magazine, which has a motto of “life made easier” but, in Meyer’s opinion, has a goal of actually complicating the lives of consumers
by offering a dizzying array of suggestions and advertising on every conceivable product.


The above examples are very different yet each point up an apparent disconnect between marketing campaigns and slogans, and what actually occurs when a customer uses a product.


Discussion Questions: Are marketers overdoing it with idealized marketing campaigns that wind up breeding discontent when they don’t live up to inflated
expectations? Can you think of good and bad examples of connecting marketing with execution?


Products and services are based on the premise that they will satisfy enough consumers enough of the time to keep their businesses healthy and growing.
Meyers is cynical to suggest that a magazine actually has an ulterior motive behind its slogan but he may have a point that “simplify your life” self-help books, magazines, tapes,
and courses can actually just become another complication in consumers’ lives.


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12 Comments on "Over-Promising and Under-Delivering"


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Ian Percy
Guest
14 years 7 months ago
This is the kind of thing that drives me crazy. Marketers go off to some corner and create an image or promise for the consumer. And not a minute or dollar is spent going back to the people to reverse-engineer how to deliver that promise. Nope, once the bumper sticker is out there, marketing’s job is done. How foolish is that? The ONLY way to create a ‘promise’ with integrity is to START with the people in the company, not with the customer. The question to employees should be ‘What does this company have to do to enable you to serve the customer in the most creative and supernatural way?’ The sad truth is most companies don’t have integrity with their own employers, never mind the customers. How often have you seen “Our people are our greatest resource?” Of course in reality “people” are the most dispensable resource. Companies spend more money fine-tuning delivery trucks than fine-tuning their people. If employees don’t believe the ‘promise’ why would anyone expect them to deliver on it? Generally… Read more »
Bernie Slome
Guest
Bernie Slome
14 years 7 months ago
Over-promising and under-delivering is a recipe for disaster. Marketers and execs sometimes forget that the customer experience is a combination of sales plus customer service. Both the marketers and execs state that the customer comes first or they say that their customer service is second to none. The issue I have with many of them is that it is only lip service. Many companies train their employees, but don’t follow-up on the training. They don’t measure either the customer satisfaction (C-SAT) or the customer service. You can’t improve what you don’t measure. That is a very simple but exact statement. They should utilize C-SAT surveys, either IVR or Web, to discover how the customer feels and to identify the business drivers for C-SAT. Then implement the changes. Once the changes are implemented, the company should then employ a mystery shopping company to measure objectively to what degree the changes are being followed by the employees. Studies have shown that a 5% increase in customer loyalty can result in as much as a 25% increase in… Read more »
Race Cowgill
Guest
Race Cowgill
14 years 7 months ago
Our data suggests that in over 80% of US businesses, marketing’s actual role is to draw buyers any way they can, no matter how they do it or what the ads say or even what the products or services actually are. In more effectively managed companies, unmet customer needs are thoroughly analyzed, then a few are selected, based on the company’s unique core competencies, to be the products or services produced and sold. This becomes the company’s core business and competitive strategy. Every element of how these products and services are configured, produced, and delivered are based on a thorough understanding of customer needs. In this scenario, marketing’s function is to find the best ways to reach these customers, to inform them of the products’ or services’ capabilities, and to encourage them to buy. Sadly, this process almost never occurs. Instead, even if products and services are tied to customer needs (and it might surprise even executives to find out how seldom they are), the majority of marketing executives we have studied base their marketing… Read more »
Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 7 months ago

Unrealistic promises, slogans, mission statements and press releases are the norm, not the exception. It’s awfully hard to find the few marketing messages that aren’t just propaganda. Here’s one way: assume “those that do, don’t need to brag about it; those that can’t, broadcast propaganda.” Typical example: GM bought a series of full-page print ads about going green, but GM makes no hybrids. Other examples: retailers who advertise, “Sale! Limited Time Only!”, but run the same ad again and again. Great retailers deliver. They don’t need to broadcast baloney.

Dan Nelson
Guest
Dan Nelson
14 years 7 months ago

Brand image and brand expectation is delivered by effective brand advertising. There are too many examples of “over promise” in a consumer world where cynicism has never been higher. Shoppers are becoming conditioned to be “disappointed” as the experience seldom matches the promise.

Conversely, the few smart marketers who do it right win high loyalty when they delight vs. frustrate a shopper by meeting or exceeding the promise made. Examples include Starbucks, Nordstrom, Costco, etc.

The key resides with executive leadership that owns the commitment made in the message to their shoppers, to ensure EVERY person in the organization is signed up to meet and exceed that promise…EVERY DAY….

Ironically, it takes a thousand positive efforts to build a great reputation, but only one negative experience to damage it.

Kenneth A. Grady
Guest
Kenneth A. Grady
14 years 7 months ago
Yes, there are lots of hype statements floating around that are quite disconnected from the reality of the business. There are several trends at work today that drive this phenomena. First, many retail companies are hard-pressed to articulate a value statement. They can’t say what it is they offer the customer that is different from what everyone else offers the customer. Second, marketers have an ever-increasing challenge to get the customer’s attention and deliver that value statement (even when everyone knows what it is). Third, companies are weak on ensuring the value statement permeates their business practices. If the store doesn’t reflect the value statement, then having the executives understand it and the marketing department deliver it won’t matter. Most retailers are losing their customer’s trust, and that holds true for the big and small, well-respected and not-so-well known. There are a few that have focused on building trust with their customers and as they do so they rely less on drama to cut through the marketing clutter and more on reinforcing that trust.
Odonna Mathews
Guest
Odonna Mathews
14 years 7 months ago

By and large, more marketers develop unrealistic campaigns and promises than those who develop realistic ones. This results in great frustration and a growing cynical attitude toward business by consumers. Marketers, whether they be retailers or manufacturers, are always in danger of not being in touch with the very consumers they are trying to reach.

It seems to me if more marketing departments used the actual data that is readily available from their consumer affairs departments, they would benefit from knowing exactly how consumers view their products and services in the consumer’s own words. And if the marketing department doesn’t have a consumer affairs department to represent the customer point of view and to build credibility internally and externally, then maybe they should think again.

The best example that comes to mind of a company that executes exactly what it advertises is Disney. They satisfy customers by delivering what they promise, and then sometimes more.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
14 years 7 months ago

Costco does a great job of creating buzz and great word of mouth marketing via their returns policy. Their policy is essentially that we’ll take anything back for any reason. I’ve had to return several products back for various reasons, including a vacuum cleaner that I brought back as a collection of parts jammed in a box. No hassles. Ever. (Maybe that should be their slogan.)

Anyway, by providing great service like this, their customers spread the word for them.

PS: They even take computers back for up to SIX MONTHS. Hard to believe.

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
14 years 7 months ago

Overall, with some notable exceptions, retailers have been pathetic in customer service. I look at it in a simple way:

– High volume, low touch retailers should provide convenience. That is their brand promise to the customer. That means fast checkout, ATM machines (maybe) and a self-serviced environment.

– Low-volume, high touch retailers should provide one-on-one customer attention and service. This is the domain of clienteling, customer care and nurturing.

It’s critical to deliver on a retailer’s brand promise. Otherwise, customer loyalty will never become a reality again.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
14 years 7 months ago

The very fact that a business has a marketing department as such indicates that they do not see the connection between customer facing staff and customers. It’s the people who deal directly with customers that best understand what works and what doesn’t in terms of both marketing and service. Internal communication is a perennially neglected area of business and one that can easily be rectified if only someone with enough clout to do something about it will wake up and smell the coffee.

Barry Wise
Guest
Barry Wise
14 years 7 months ago
Some marketers today remind me of sales persons that promise anything and everything, but end up delivering less satisfactory results. Too many companies today forget that all their marketing efforts, whether it’s advertising, public relations, web or marketing materials reflect on their brand. A company’s brand is their promise to their customers. A companies marketing department, along with the rest of the organization’s primary goal when it comes to their customers is to not only execute that promise, but to find ways to do it even better. Delivering not only what is promised, but striving to exceed expectations is critical to the success on any company. In today’s world, over promising and under delivering may be a status quo for some companies, but they will not be the companies we’re buying from, or using their services 10-20 years from now. We can easily think of many negative examples, but a couple good ones are; Costco and Chick Filet. Both of these retailers make basic promises and over deliver on them every day. If more companies… Read more »
Pamela Tournier
Guest
Pamela Tournier
14 years 7 months ago
Empty slogans and massive spending camouflaged as marketing exist because advertising campaigns are based on anecdotal evidence (focus groups, 1-on-1’s) rather than on a grass-roots understanding of how people actually interact with the brand, and what that says about their shopping motivations, lifestyle needs and core values. Very few companies take the time to analyze their own transaction data, and almost none do so from a “consumer” point of view. One that does so quite successfully is Tesco in the U.K. Tesco’s understanding of what’s in the market basket and what that says about shoppers’ lives, tastes and unspoken needs has enabled it to outperform chief rival Sainsbury for the past several years. Although credit cards collect probably the richest trove of data anywhere, virtually none are analyzing consumers’ paper trails with an eye toward discovering their lifestyles, values and motivations. Here’s why we have an entire industry plagued with “vanilla” cards offering little more than rates, fees and fraud protection. This is why response has sunk to an abysmal 0.3% (that’s NOT a misplaced… Read more »
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