Recently, some of you may have had your heart broken by a well-loved brand. Until last year, German car manufacturer Volkswagen had us fooled that it was one of the good guys. But, like some ill-fated relationships, it was too good to be true.
In the wake of your brand break up – be it with VW or another business you thought you really cared for – we’ve put together a little ‘how-to’. It’s time to crack open that bottle of wine and decide: forgive or forget.
To say the cheating took you by surprise may be the understatement of the century. Until then, you’d built a life for yourselves – a healthy consumer/brand relationship built on love, honesty and trust. The cheating? Shattered that illusion.
Your brand may not have pulled a VW ‘diesel dupe’ on its emissions test, but you’ve been duped just the same. Recognising your testing signals – sensing when you were looking – your brand knew when to improve its performance. Whenever it made promises you blindly believed. Why wouldn’t you? You trusted it.
And it lied.
The Volkswagen Group’s public response to their cheating scandal? They’d “totally screwed up”. Props for recognising their ‘mistake’, but the apology – if you can call it that – is a classic example of too little too late.
Would your brand have owned their lies if you hadn’t caught them in the act of cheating? No? Then they’re almost certainly not sorry.
These apologies come not because the company feels genuine remorse, but because they realise they can’t live without you. Broken trust means plummeting stock, product depreciation and brand abandonment.
Guess they should have thought about that before.
They’re sorry. They need you. They love you. They betrayed you – but they never meant to hurt you. It pains them to see you upset. They’re going to win you over again. Just you watch.
The money you invested so willingly is offered back in an attempt to even your score. But what your brand can’t repay is your love, your faith and your time.
Trust isn’t material. It takes years to build and seconds to destroy. It can’t be mended with chocolate, diamonds or – in VW’s case – a fat wad of cash. A Band-Aid made of dollar bills won’t heal the wound left by deceit. By giving it another go you suggest that it can.
Here comes the hard part.
Forgiveness isn’t easy and forgetting’s even tougher. For some it’s less excruciating to just recall the good times. Others can never move beyond the pain.
But you’re not bound to the hurt. If you let that company go – really let it go – the disappointment will begin to fade. You’ll learn to trust other brands again.
VW have promised their disenchanted customers change. Only time will tell if these promises are realised, or if the company will fall back into old, unsavoury routines. Perhaps the relationships can be saved. Perhaps it’s too late.
It’s said a leopard never changes its spots. Maybe a cheater doesn’t either.