Bonding campaigns that attract relational customers are the most powerful form of branding possible for the vast majority of local businesses. 

And that goes double for Ugly Duckling Businesses.

[And if you’re not familiar with those terms, follow the links]

So what’s the downside?

There is no downside, but there is a risk. And it’s a big one.

To quote Spiderman’s Uncle Ben: “With great power comes great responsibility”

When you form an emotional bond with customers — when an audience feels as if they know you and what you stand for — the great responsibility that comes along with that persuasive power is this:


Normally, when a business falls short, customers are merely disappointed or frustrated. 

Not so with relational customers and businesses to which they’ve bonded.

When those businesses let them down, relational customers feel betrayed by a friend, rather than merely disappointed by an impersonal company.

This is why smart ad consultants always build branding campaigns around the truth. 

The resultant campaign may romanticize or dramatize the truth, but it starts with and remains centered on the truth about the owner and the company. 

What to Do When You Goof

But no one is perfect! Even great companies occasionally goon things up.

Sure. But when that happens, you have to understand the seriousness of the situation. 

The worst thing you can do is treat it as no big deal, or attempt a half-measure during your service recovery operations. 

As in “Oh, we broke our promise that the owners been vowing to you on the air for the last X years? Well, how about a slight discount on _____”

Sorry, but, no — a slight discount ain’t going to cut it!

First, your communication to the customer has to acknowledge the terrible gap between what’s been declared and promised and what was delivered. 

If your staff communicates with the customer as if this is not that big a deal (i.e., a routine mix-up), you’re sunk. 

The customer will feel as if she’s seen behind the curtain to discover just another crappy company rather than a trustworthy friend. 

Second, your attempts to “make good” must be full-measured rather than half-hearted. 

Half-measures add insult to injury and further indicate that your company sees this as just a minor blip, rather than a major failing. 

Third, if possible the owner should personally reach out with an apology. 

Again, treat this situation as if you’ve let a friend down rather than had a business snafu. 

The good news is that proper service recovery can strengthen the bond between the customer and the company, making them an even stronger advocate for you. 

The bad news is that improper service recovery can lead to poisonous word of mouth from that customer.

Again, with great power comes great responsibility.

And bonding campaigns are the most powerful advertising you can run.