2011 was a year to remember for brand promises. Some were broken, some were kept.
OBAMA’S SECRETS: The biggest of many shredded brand promises from Barack Obama might be his constantly repeated promise of “transparency.”
On his first day in office, Obama pledged, “transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.” This year, though, the House of Representatives began a formal investigation to figure out just how deep President Obama’s pile of bullshit on this issue turned out to be. Answer: deep.
The president has failed to provide us a full list of visitors to the White House, something he promised us back in 2008. He has taken money from lobbyists, which is something he promised he wouldn’t do. And he has refused to release all the names of all the lobbyists his administration has met with this year as he ramped up his re-election bid. That’s zero-for-three, which is bad news.
This YouTube video details seven promises Obama made on this issue during the 2008 campaign in less than two minutes. He has now broken all seven. Fool us once: Shame on Obama. Fool us twice: Shame on America.
MAKING IT UP AS THEY GO ALONG: An “internal values” commitment from the video rental service Netflix reads: “Judgment. Largely refers to how decisions are made: Identify root causes, not symptoms. Think strategically, not tactically. Make good decisions regardless of uncertainties – i.e., do your homework.”
Nice words, but they didn’t actually have anything to do with the disastrous, brand-damaging announcement that the supposedly customer-centric company would not only be jacking up its prices, but also splitting itself in two and requiring its customers to maintain two separate accounts. Consumer outrage was intense, and the company had to backtrack quickly. Its stock price has yet to recover.
PATERNO FUMBLES: Former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno motto used to be “victory with honor.” Not any more. Paterno failed to notify law enforcement officials about clear evidence of child abuse. He not only let his school down, he let humankind down.
Parents got why this was a problem and understood why he had to go. Rioting Penn State students, not so much.
And now … one big brand promise that was kept.
THINK DIFFERENT: Apple, the world’s most valuable tech company, had a tough year emotionally because of the passing of legendary founder Steve Jobs So far, though, it has managed to uphold its innovative “Think Different” culture. This year, in the UK, Apple launched its new music streaming and “cloud” storage service, iTunes Match.
With this move, Apple is continuing its legacy of offering innovative, cutting-edge value to the consumer … at the same time it’s generating a revenue stream from all those unauthorized downloads. Somewhere, Steve Jobs is smiling.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Your brand is your image and your reputation, and at the end of the day, it’s all you’ve got. Whether you’re the President, a video distributor, a university, or a tech giant, your viability depends on your ability to keep the promises your brand makes. Three of the four brands listed here took major risks in 2011 … risks that threatened core brand commitments and could turn out to be fatal in 2012. Only one of these four kept its promise.