Setting expectations

We TryWhether we realize it or not, the actions we take are measured against expectations created by our brand. In some cases this can be a slippery slope. Consider the deliberately expectation-setting tag line for Avis car rental service, “We Try Harder” – certainly this phrase leads to an assumption that the service from Avis will reflect more effort than their competitors. We infer that the extra effort will result in better service. It’s a memorable phrase, and a noble goal, but is it good branding? That depends on the follow-through of every Avis employee you meet. If the company culture promotes a positive, service-focused, can-do attitude across the board, then yes, this is good branding. If however, the trend is to have service that is poor, attitudes that are uncaring, or worse, surly, then the brand message collapses under the weight of the failure to live up to the expectations created in the mind of consumers. In the age of the blogosphere, disconnects between promise and follow-through can be rapidly exposed. The lesson boils down to “walk your talk.”

Since Avis has used the “We Try Harder” line for a long time now I will gladly assume that it has been a fair reflection of their actual brand experience. However, not every tag line is so overt in the expectations it sets. What promises does your branding imply? And do you deliver on those expectations?

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