When your promotion damages your brand

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When your promotion damages your brand

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How can a great promotion idea damage the brand? It’s easier than you think…

A basic principle of brand value is that ‘brand value is determined by the customer experiences of the brand’.

On one hand, if you have a good experience with a brand you may be willing (or even eager) to pay more for that brand (over a functionally equivalent product or service). The experience will also tend to increase you loyalty to that brand. But, you will often keep those positive feelings to yourself.

On the other hand, if you have a bad experience then the opposite will tend to be true. i.e. you will be less willing to pay a premium for that brand  (or even buy at all) – and (worst still for the brand) you will likely tell others about your bad experience.

So, brands rightly work hard to give their customers and potential customers a great experience.

Of course, you know that already. What you might not know is how easily that brand can be devalued by the very actions that are intended to improve the value. My story here is how a brand really got it wrong for me…

My recent experience

On the 22nd of October, I bought an expensive electrical item for my home (it doesn’t matter what is is so we’ll call it a gizmo). On the 23rd, I visited the manufacturer’s website, prompted by the rather thin user manual included the product (actually I prefer online documents anyway).

Although I am not one who typically registers the product with the manufacturer (usually I see little point in doing so), I was attracted by the promise of a prize draw for registering. You might think that’s simply foolish but I have always been a keen photographer and the prize draw was a camera. We all have our price…

Anyway, I waited for few days before registering as I was still playing with my new gizmo. Exciting times.

It was the 2nd of November when I revisited the website to register and enter the prize draw. I was invited to create an account and then register the details of the purchase. The online experience was pretty good and I completed the whole process in short order.

Over the next day or so, I expected to receive an email (or indeed a flurry) to confirm the registration and my entry into the draw. But I received nothing, so I decided to call customer services to confirm matters. However, I was shocked to be told my draw entry was “too late”. On revisiting the registration page, the prize draw was still being advertised; however the closing date of 31st October was buried in the draw’s Terms and Conditions.

Had the draw’s closing date been clearly stated on the web page, I would have registered in time and been eligible for the draw. And I would have remained an engaged consumer who trusted the brand.

Here is the thing, the customer service rep was not apologetic in any way – simply telling me the obvious thing that the “website has not been updated” (duh!!). Further, when pointing out the error on their website, I sort of expected a “thank you for bringing this to our attention. We will deal with this right away”.

But I got neither an apology nor thanks. What I did get was bad attitude from someone who didn’t come across as being at all bothered.

As of 4th December (34 days after the draw closed) the prize drawer was still being promoted; despite the fact that the draw has ended. You have heard of ‘rubbing salt into the wound’?

Being unhappy about the whole experience, I decided not to allow that brand to retain my personal data. So I requested a GDPR data erasure and was told that would be taken care of. Actually, that request was also disregarded, and I have since been in touch with them again to demand they erase my data.

As as of 17th December, they still have not removed my data because I could still login to my account. This is now 43 days after I made my GDPR request, and legally they have 30 days to comply or explain why they cannot reasonably comply).

The damage

My new expensive gizmo is terrific and I love it. But the brand value, to me, has been trashed.

  • They promised me I would be entered into a draw. I wasn’t.
  • They encouraged me to submit my personal data and to consent to marketing on a false pretence.
  • I was promised a GDPR data erasure. That didn’t happen.
  • I was expecting an apology. I didn’t get one.
  • I was expecting a thank you. I didn’t get one.
  • I thought the promotion would have been taken down after 34 days. It wasn’t.

I had bought into the brand. I was engaged, and that engagement should have been nurtured. But, even though my new gizmo is terrific I would have to be presented with no alternative brand before I bought another of their products. And I was planning to do just that by buying a branded accessory for the gizmo; but not any more. I’ll buy a 3rd party product.


Promotions must be properly prepared so that they deliver a value-add brand experience. The experience and delivery is everything, so when planning a promotion, make sure that you deploy the necessary steps to properly terminate the promotion, including simple things like updating the web page (which can be done automatically in advance).

When a consumer takes their valuable time to contact you, be professional, apologise if you get it wrong, and promptly follow-up with whatever actions you promise.

A promotion is there to engage the consumer. If you get it wrong, that promotion will cause damage to your brand.