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July 29, 2014

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01/17/05 New Images, New Promises, Old Company
Years ago, I tried using the services of DHL to ship packages in an attempt to save money over FedEx or UPS. I stopped using them because of chronically late packages. If timing weren’t critical, I would have used the post office, right?

DHL’s new television ads gave me the impression the company had gotten its act together. The ads were very well done. I even liked the new yellow and red logo. Though the first ad didn’t convince me to switch from FedEx, it made me think about it, and I thought more about it with every ad I saw. Finally, I was ready to save a couple of bucks per package and move my business to DHL.

Ten minutes ago, I glanced out the window as a DHL truck pulled up to make a delivery to me. “Perfect,” I thought, “I’ll ask about their online tools and get some shipping supplies.” I zipped downstairs, expecting the DHL man to blur from his truck at the speed of efficiency. I wanted to catch him at the door. As I stood there, watching him shuffle papers in the truck for two or three minutes, I noticed that the hot new logo had been painted on an old truck without hubcaps. This shook my confidence a little. Strike one.

When the driver climbed from the truck, my eyebrows rose higher. He was unshaven and scruffy, with long messy hair and a stain on his untucked shirt. No uniform. Hey! This wasn’t the guy they showed me in the ads; this one looked like a convict on work-release. Strike two.

When I asked him about DHL’s online tools and how to get supplies, he said, “I dunno,” and walked away — not even a “goodbye” or “have a nice day” or “sorry I couldn’t help you.” Strike three.

Dear DHL:
Your ads had convinced me to switch to you, but my first encounter with your people made me change my mind. Your truck and your driver convinced me that my packages would likely be mishandled, possibly damaged and probably late. Sorry, but I’m sticking with FedEx. If $2 more per package is what it takes to hire intelligent drivers who drive better trucks, then so be it.
Sincerely yours,
Eric Rhoads


I’ll bet you have a few clients like DHL: advertisers who fall short of meeting their customers’ expectations but who want to lay the responsibility for failure at the feet of “bad advertising.” What these DHL clients don’t understand is that you have to live up to the promises you make in your advertising. Every time you touch your customers, you will reinforce or subtract from the impression you delivered in the ads. It doesn’t stop there: These customers will pass along their experiences to others, just as I have passed my experience to you.

My guess is that DHL’s new ad campaign will gain the company a lot of attention and trial customers, but if their experience turns out like mine, DHL’s investment was all for nothing.
As advertising professionals, we owe it to our customers to encourage them to live up to the promises they’re making in their ads. I agree with the CEO of Amazon.com, Jeff Bezos, who recently said, “It has always seemed to me that your brand is formed primarily, not by what your company says about itself, but what the company does.”

Amen, Jeff. Amen.


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