By Jide Ayegbusi
There was this popular ad on TVs and billboards. The ad introduced a new brand, a croissant. In fact, the feeling was great, the visuals – graphics and images were powerful and compelling.
To crown it all, a popular celebrity was used to personify the brand. If there were a thousand and one consumers craving for the product, I was one of them but for several weeks, it was not available on the traffic like other FMCGs. I finally stumbled on the product on a very tiring day while returning home but the traffic law in Lagos, Nigeria would forbid my pouncing on it immediately even though the adrenalin rush was unimaginable.
The whole excitement turned into dissonance even before consumption. The product size could not measure up to the same as the size portrayed by the advertisement. I felt cheated, embarrassed and discomfited for wasting my hard-earned hundred naira on a product that could not deliver what fifty naira would otherwise do. Since there was no value for money, repeat purchase was the last thing on my mind and never would I allow my close associates to make the same mistake.
Things like these are common in our modern world and most especially in Africa where our consumer laws are rather weak, advertisers sometimes escape the necessary regulatory scrutiny and whack.
Every start-up should be reminded that a brand is a promise to the consumer to deliver a particular desired experience most of the time. It should be known that consumers offer their trust and loyalty with the implicit understanding that your brand will behave in certain satisfying ways through product/service performance and through appropriate pricing, promotion, and distribution programs.
Troublingly, many well-funded startups often subscribe to advertising to blatantly make implicit promises they would never keep. When the product or service doesn’t match up to the advertised promise, isn’t that like cheating, or at some level, stealing from people’s hopes? Well, your ever wise customers would soon realise this, jettison your brand and pitch their tent with your competition who is real and truthful.
According to Ekwunife Okoli, a Nigerian marketing legend, advertising is powerful but ad is not what the consumer is buying. You can spend one billion naira on ad, if the product lacks merit, you would not sell. In fact, your ad begins to irritate. The value of an ad is based on the fact that the product is right. There is a coinage in marketing, which underscores this, that the best way to kill a bad product is to advertise it.
More importantly, in our social media crazed world, venting out broken promises made to consumers has instant ramifications to the credibility and trajectory of your brand’s perceived value. It is true that the goal of any brand positioning exercise is to develop a brand promise that is unique, compelling and believable. Any successful brand positioning project must evaluate all potential brand promises against these three criteria – unique, compelling and believable. The winning promise must deliver against all three criteria or it won’t work.
I’m sure you’re still interested in the croissant story I shared with you in the beginning of this article. Well, I’m pleased to inform you that the brand only survived for two years. The croissant is abysmally dead, never to be resurrected.
The simple lesson is: Lies shouldn’t be ‘sold’ to push your startup. A lie told will only stimulate trial but never engender repeat purchase that can guarantee sustainable profitability. Most times, a betrayed consumer will make sure others around him never fall victims. Tell the truth and don’t shoot yourself in the leg. Don’t over promise and under deliver. I also strongly believe this principle should be applied when pitching your startup to potential investors.
Is your startup positioned to tell lies? If yes, please have a rethink!
Jide Ayegbusi is the founder of edusko.com, an edtech startup that connects Africans with good and affordable schools in Africa and beyond.
Follow Jide on twitter @jideayegbusi