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This blog discusses the experiences of a consulting professional currently working at EmPower Research, a firm that provides decision support services to clients through offices in NYC, San Francisco and Bangalore, India.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

"The Emperor Has No Clothes"

This blog has been triggered by a series of events in my life in the past couple of years. Let me put them down first and then explain:
  1. My wife and I decided to buy a new refrigerator since the old one was falling short in capacity. We were very satisfied by our old Whirlpool refrigerator and as any loyal customer, decided to go back to them for the new one. We were also happy with our experience with the Adishwar dealership ( and so decided to trust them for this one as well. We were able to find the right model and terms from them along with the right time frame for delivery. However, what we had not bargained for, was the shoddy execution at the end of the transaction. The result -a> A couple of scratches in our new shining model by the delivery agency that brought the fridge to our house; and b> Delayed visit by the Whirlpool representative for the installation
  2. I purchased a couple of jeans from Max ( and found them to fit well. What I had not bargained for, was the poor quality of the tailoring - both of my jeans have lost their buttons within the first 3 months. I had never expected this to happen and hence had not even retained the purchase receipts - how ironic! I have not gone back to them yet!
  3. We purchased a rocking chair from Home Town ( and despite the salesperson's assurance for delivery on the date and time of our choice (being a working couple, this had to happen during the evening slots), their truck driver called us abruptly for delivery since he was in our area earlier and was unresponsive to our requested slot. We had to scramble to meet their needs, despite being the customer!
  4. After spending quite a considerable amount of time in choosing a perfume for myself at Westside (, their purchase counters could not sell it to me (you are reading this right, it is not a typo!) since they could not find the item code. How hilarious and disappointing can that be!!
  5. I am told I am a special customer at ICICI Bank (they call it HNI status) but am struggling to find that status and agility in their response time for my requests. Recently, I received my 16-A copies (after realizing that they had not been sent to me on time) by trying hard to reason with and finally managing to convince my so-called relationship manager over 5 working days,with a formal request letter for this need. How special am I?
  6. Similarly, Citibank holds me in a Citigold relationship - that is supposed to be prestigious too. I get infrequent calls from my relationship manager, who assures me of speedy service at all times. Ironically, I get many calls from other divisions of Citibank, where youngsters hard sell me with personal loans and several types of cards. This is despite several requests for that elusive Do Not Disturb status! Prestigious, did you say?
  7. My 6 year old son likes to shop in Reliance Fresh as he gets to handle the trolley and also likes to select vegetables and fruits every weekend. Last week, after a frustrating bout of trying to find "fresh" vegetables/fruits, he asked my wife loudly during the billing process - "When there is nothing fresh here, why do they call themselves Reliance Fresh?"

So, I pondered on these instances in my mind and was wondering what is the pattern here? What is the rationale for these disruptions in my seemingly "loyal" brand experience? Why are these brands not realizing and honoring my loyalty to them in an expected manner? Am I not doing and behaving exactly as they want me to - coming back for more to them for more business, more relationships, more stickiness? So, where is it not working out? What is going wrong in all of this?

When I thought about it further, I realized that the problem lies in not training all their customer touch points on maintaining a standard, consistent and predictable brand experience, that resonates with their brand persona. All of them have failed to plan their brand experience execution in terms of the weakest link - in many cases, an unorganized part of the supply chain that can impact the brand experience much more than the other parts. The truck drive does not care what I care about - he is oblivious of the brand experience, I thought I will get from my past experiences and from the marketing campaigns.

I feel sorry for the people behind the scenes, who have a responsibility to build and uphold the brand experience across the customer base. Many of them clearly do not know that there are elements within their own value chain, that are not within their control, and can thwart their energies/marketing investments/efforts/tireless planning in building the brand.

When I try to draw an analogy to this situation, I am reminded of a story in my school days about an Emperor who listens to tricksters in his coterie and agrees to wear a royal dress made of "new fashionable out-of-this-world" material for a ceremony . All his courtiers praise him for the grand design of his new clothes. A young boy blurts out during the ceremony and brings him back to Earth by saying - "The Emperor Has No Clothes ON!!" much to his chagrin and discomfort.

Similarly, by not keeping all the elements in their control and presenting a different persona using advertising and marketing campaigns, but not delivering that in reality to the customers, these brands are also suffering from a similar ailment. "They do not have their clothes ON" and probably are not realizing the truth.

Need a mirror? I can afford to send them one, on the house!!

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