Brad Lewis 150 x 225

This is the story of a 4-year-old, his favorite oatmeal, and a powerful lesson he taught his dad (me) about the vital connection between branding and customer experience 

As I started my MBA program, I wanted to save a little money. As an experiment, I bought a generic oatmeal instead of the Quaker oatmeal my 4-year-old son was used to. I figured that he wouldn’t even notice. After pulling the oatmeal out of the generic box, he asked me “where’s the oatmeal guy?” (that’s what he calls the man in the Quaker oats logo). He set down his spoon and simply would not eat.  

Picky child? Maybe. However, the marketer in me was impressed by how a 4 year could be so affected by the power of branding. In its most basic form, branding sets expectations and conveys an unspoken quality guarantee. My son’s experiences with Quaker oatmeal had been linked in his mind with the “oatmeal guy” brand image, and he simply didn’t see a point in switching from a product he knew he could trust. This loyalty came about without him ever seeing a single Quaker oats advertisement.  

Little Lewis

“The greatest thing to be achieved in advertising, in my opinion, is believability, and nothing is more believable than the product itself.” - Leo Burnett

Is our consumer’s experience using our product as good or better than what we communicate through packaging or advertising? Or are we metaphorically painting a pig and selling it as a pony? In today’s world of social media reviews and consumer vigilance (and vigilantism), brands whose portrayal doesn’t align with consumer’s real experiences risk a consumer revolt.

“Put the vast majority of your energy, attention and dollars into building a great product or service and put a smaller amount into shouting about it, marketing it.” – Jeff Bezos

Branding is still as relevant and powerful today as it has always been, however, it requires even more dedication to the quality of the product and customer experience than ever before. As I learned from my brand sensitive 4-year-old, consumers know a fake when they see one.