The Self-Deluded Brand: How Great Advertising Makes a Bad Business Worse

I remember when, maybe five or ten years ago, I’d see a Time Warner commercial on TV… something like, “The Power of You”.

Do you remember those? What did you think? Did it match your actual experience of the company, of what it’s like to deal with them? Perhaps for you, it was Comcast or Cox.

Or imagine this: what would you think if you saw a great, slick, well-produced ad for the Department of Motor Vehicles, espousing their core values of caring and service, and their dedication to providing people with an exceptional personal experience while utilizing the cutting edge of technology to deliver on its promises.

What would your gut feeling be? If someone else was watching with you, what would you say about it?

How does it feel and what do you do when you interact with an organization (or person) who doesn’t come through on its promises? Let alone one that seems to be straight-up lying?

If you have a choice, unlike with the DMV and your internet provider in most cases, I think we both know that you would take your business somewhere else.

Now here’s the next piece: continued exposure to that message (and therefore your experience of disappointment, frustration, betrayal, etc.) will only increase your dissatisfaction, and possibly instigate the spreading of that dissatisfaction among the people around you.

In other words, it will irritate you to the point of instigating complaints.

And in today’s world of hyper-connectivity, you have a LOT of people “around you” in various ways to hear those complaints.


So let’s do ourselves a favor and get right into this.

If your business fails to deliver on the expectations it creates, nothing will save it in the long run.


Without integrity, nothing works. End of story. Period.

Oh, you want more story?


Your business is comprised of a network of agreements and expectations. An organization at its heart is a group of people interacting within explicit agreements (on what to do, how to do it, what happens if you do it, etc.) and expectations, and that network includes leaders, team members, vendors, prospects, clients, fans, connections, communities, and on and on.

In any system, to the degree that the required elements are missing or broken or not performing as expected, that system cannot and will not work well and will eventually break down.

That’s your business.

And if you create great, high-end, compelling messaging, you are creating a very high expectation level—and therefore it has even more of an impact when you don’t deliver. Trust me. I’ve experienced it personally, and have seen it professionally, as have the folks at Of the Sea.

Great “branding” and messaging only further exposes, and actually amplifies the effect of, the breakdowns in your business.

It’s kind of like the perception of and reaction to someone who simply made a mistake, versus someone who intentionally lied.

Even if the results are similar, the experience and response are completely different.

What’s the moral of the story?

If you make big, clear promises, you’d better deliver on them… and when you don’t you better own it, learn from it and redesign your system (and likely your way of operating). Otherwise, the people you most want to be in business with will see you at best as remarkably incompetent—a sort of self-deluded ineptitude worth talking about–and at worst a scam-artist and fraud.

If that’s not how you want to be regarded, open your eyes to what’s not working in and around your business—what agreements are reliably broken and WHY—and take action to resolve the breakdown.

That’s it.

Clarity is crucial, friends. Get some.