When Brands Apologize, Customers Often Listen and Forgive

Happy customers are loyal customers. But what happens when “surprise and delight” is actually “surprise and incite”? Social media has raised the stakes for brands. Customers, most often angry ones, have a forum to air their grievances.

Happy customers are loyal customers. But what happens when “surprise and delight” is actually “surprise and incite”?

Social media has raised the stakes for brands. Customers, most often angry ones, have a forum to air their grievances. I see it constantly on Twitter, and have admittedly participated myself, when air travel goes terribly wrong or quality falls short of expectations.

The good news is that it’s recoverable.

Brands that react swiftly, thoughtfully, and transparently are the ones who win. And by win, I mean they don’t necessarily lose customers as a result of their actions, inaction or missteps.

This week alone, two retailers were seemingly insensitive to their female customers and perceived as body-shaming the very people they want to empower.

Macy’s

Macy’s was called out in one tweet that received 48,000 likes and 6,000 comments for plates by a company called Pourtions that were highly controversial for their message. Intended to bring humor to the concept of portion control, the dinner plates feature a large ring that read “Mom Jeans,” a smaller ring that read “Favorite Jeans,” and an even smaller ring that read “Skinny Jeans.”

Macy’s responded by apologizing and vowing to remove the plates from their stores. Of course, not everyone in the Twittersphere agreed with this decision. But it does show a sense of responsibility for its products and consideration for its customers.

Forever 21

Forever 21 also came under fire this week for sending Atkins bars in online orders with plus size merchandise. They’re not just good at fast fashion, but they also showed they can deliver a fast reaction.

In response to press coverage of the “snafu,” Forever 21 said:

“From time to time, Forever 21 surprises our customers with free test products from third parties in their e-commerce orders. The freebie items in question were included in all online orders, across all sizes and categories, for a limited time, and have since been removed. This was an oversight on our part and we sincerely apologize for any offense this may have caused to our customers, as this was not our intention in any way.”

In this case, I think the word “test” is a critical one. If Forever 21 had done some market research and testing, perhaps it would have learned that a partnership with a brand like Atkins, that is depicted as a diet company, could be detrimental to its brand perception.

Conclusion

The merchandise you sell, the partners you align with, the sites where your ads run, the people you hire, the way you respond to criticism — all of these decisions impact your customers and shape your brand identity.

To err is human; to forgive, divine.

Melissa Campanelli’s The View From Here: Ever Hear of Acoustic Branding?

Have you ever head of acoustic branding? It’s the idea of using music, sounds, speech and rhythms to bring a brand to life. I learned about it via an email I received this week from Wilbert Hirsch, CEO and cretive partner of Audio Consulting Group (ACG), which offers acoustic branding strategies. It caught my attention.

Have you ever head of acoustic branding? It’s the idea of using music, sounds, speech and rhythms to bring a brand to life. I learned about it via an email I received this week from Wilbert Hirsch, CEO and cretive partner of Audio Consulting Group (ACG), which offers acoustic branding strategies. It caught my attention.

Of course, it was a PR pitch. But what Hirsch said intrigued me: “More companies are looking for new ways to reach out to their customers. Although digital is the big hype, some businesses have realized that a mute brand stays unheard. Today, there are strategic and creative methods available to help design a living brand — one that communicates through more than one sense.”

I did a little research and found that in the ’90s ACG developed a method for companies to incorporate acoustics (music, sound and speech) into their brand identities, and then to develop strategies for implementation. Basically, ACG says that through an analytical framework, it can match a company’s values and existing visual identity with an acoustic identity. It also claims companies that have used its system have shown improvements of up to 30 percent in brand perception.

ACG says that acoustic branding can work with myriad touchpoints, such as advertising, multimedia, mobile, retail spaces, call centers, websites, podcasts and events. Its clients include UBS (Swiss bank), BMW, Autodesk and T-Mobile.

For Autodesk, for example, ACG developed an acoustic identity that resulted from a detailed analysis of the Autodesk brand and the specific needs of Autodesk University. The acoustic elements are now employed in relevant contact points — phone, video and walk-on music.

While I’ve never really sat down and thought about it before, I guess the music that brands play during trade shows or on their websites does have a sort of subconscious effect on me. What about you? Is this something you’ve experimented with or wish to in the future? Let me know by posting a comment below.