What to do when your brand disappoints on the market

As brands brands continue to grow in stature all over Africa, so too do consumers grow their ability to influence brand success. What used to be plain ‘word of mouth’ is now much enhanced by mobile telephony and indeed social media.
Chris Harrison
Chris Harrison

As brands brands continue to grow in stature all over Africa, so too do consumers grow their ability to influence brand success. What used to be plain ‘word of mouth’ is now much enhanced by mobile telephony and indeed social media.

For decades, most brands have obliged their customers to do business with them on their terms. Firstly, through plain availability (a distribution task) then through only being able to buy or pay when they are open (rigid working practices) and other similar practices. Service brands were even more proscriptive in their early years. Who doesn’t remember having to deal with banks or telephone companies five or so years ago?  They certainly made their customers work hard.

I was struck by how much this has changed - and how much further we still have to go - while dealing with the satellite TV brand DStv recently. This brand has made efforts to make it easier for customers to get the service they want. The two most noticeable improvements being the ability to pay for the service through mobile money, and the ability of customer service representatives to make technical changes to your account while you talk to them on the phone.

That said, it took me three separate calls to ensure that my account was up to date and reset, and the main issue stemmed from the automated SMS payment reminder that did not show the exact amount of money to be paid. So more needs to be done in this area.

The smart vs the gullible


Three interventions divide smart brands from their less intelligent competitors. I use the word intelligent advisedly, as the key to winning back and retaining damaged customer confidence can be likened to an ongoing intelligence war.

As such, it demands that you gather and analyse intelligence as part of planning future activities and behaviours for your brand.

Social influence

Social influence is the trend that customers everywhere now share pretty much everything. So, smart brands must be able to share customer feedback and fix errors not just for one person, but others in future. The simplest of these interventions are the FAQ or frequently asked questions services. But there’s a limit to how many of those your brand wants to list. By default, Facebook is often the place where these dialogues take place, but then that just turns your Facebook page into a complaints list. Then of course less intelligent brands often deny mistakes and keep customer feedback private.

Customer memory 


Smart brands learn how to capture customer information in order to be able to converse with them, rather than broadcast to them. To do this, information must be shareable within the company and not hidden. It also needs to be analysed for insights.

Brand sensors


The measures you take to enable your brand to track what’s happening out there in the market. This doesn’t mean seeing what your competitors are doing then reacting to it. It means setting up channels, from market research to customer support or sales feedback, that enable you to see emerging trends.

Over the past decade in Africa, technology has liberated the consumer, and not just at the top of the pyramid. We are participating in the global reinvention of the music industry. News media now relies increasingly on bloggers for tips and breaking news. We are world leaders in paying bills and sending money telephonically.

But the vast majority of our brands have not yet changed the way they do business with customers over this period of time. Has yours?

The writer has 30 years experience of marketing and advertising, most of them spent in Africa. He leads the African operations of The Brand

Inside, a marketing and advertising agency.

To comment on this article, send a Tweet to: harrisoncj on www.twitter.com

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