What do ‘most hated’ brands have in common?

Worst Brands

I recently read a list of America’s least favourite brands on msn.com and was surprised that all ten of them are either financial institutions or communications providers?  But, should I be surprised?  What kind of evil do financial institutions, cable, satellite and cell phone carriers have in common that ticks off so many of us?

It’s the fine print.   When a company woos you to enter a relationship with promises in 16 point type, and then hits you with cancellation fees, service charges and conditions in teeny tiny 4 point type, it’s not surprising that you might suffer from a little read rage.

I know that these love them or hate them brand lists proliferate and aren’t all exactly what you’d called peer-reviewed, but they do give us a window into consumer discontent, which in the world of social media is an increasingly explosive performance indicator.  Unhappy customers now have the technology to tell their 30 friends and 30,000 browsers on the web about their bad experiences.

A representative of the msn.com bottom ten companies might remind us that the terms and conditions for cable, credit cards, satellite TV, bank accounts and mobile devices are clearly spelled out.  And legally, I suppose that’s completely accurate.  But I’m talking about building brands, not court cases.  I’m talking about consumer expectations.  And when you surprise consumers with leg hold traps in the fine print, you end up with a relationship that’s headed for the rocks.

So, what would I recommend to a financial services or communication provider client?  I’d suggest that three years isn’t a long term relationship.  Aim for a life-long relationship.  And don’t think of a cancellation fee as a source of revenue but rather a financial settlement of a divorce with a consumer who’s never coming back.  Contracts may bind us together legally, but they don’t really keep us together.  The only thing that does that is wanting to be together.   The same principal applies in branding.  You may have a contract with your customers, but if they’re unhappy, you’re sleeping on the couch.


1 Comment