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Product, Brand & The Undermining of Customer Loyalty



Maybe it’s that the internet doesn’t need just another rant about American Airlines.

Or maybe I’m just a fan of Louis CK’s bit about the magic of flight. Regardless, I want to assure you that this post is not, strictly speaking, a rant about my recent experience using the @AmericanAir mobile app. Tempting though that may be. Instead, this post is about Product & Brand… though I may still rant a little bit.

One of the really nice features of the American Airlines app is the ability to see the status of your incoming flight – the plane you will be flying on. Which means that, in theory, if my incoming flight is showing that it is delayed (critical data), the mobile app should also register that my outbound flight – you know, the one that is using the plane that is not going to be there because it’s delayed – is also going to be delayed (accurate information). 

Which, as anyone who has used the American Air app knows, and I discovered yesterday, is NOT what happens. Instead, there appears to be no correlation whatsoever between the anticipated arrival time of your inbound flight and the estimated departure status of your outbound flight. In other words, the airline has the critical data it needs, it’s right there in the app, it just failed to translate that into accurate information its customers can use. The resulting disconnect – between what the app was telling me about my flight (it’s ON TIME!) and the arriving flight information (it’s DELAYED) – didn’t leave me feeling empowered by data. Instead, because of the conflicting information, the app left me with the a more unsatisfying feeling that the airline had no idea when my flight was actually going to leave. Which, I think we could all agree, is not good for customer loyalty. #understatement

Ironically, when I tweeted about this disconnect yesterday, the airline’s social media response was to thank me for my patience. The thing is, my dissatisfaction with the product’s failure had nothing to do with patience or impatience. My dissatisfaction was with the absence of accurate information, which gets to the heart of the entanglement of Product & Brand:

Brand infuses product with meaning (the why) while product validates the brand (proof of the why)


From a customer experience perspective, it is the seamless engagement with the product that powers the confidence loop necessary for customer loyalty in the first place. Conversely, when the product fails to deliver, at any touchpoint, it undermines confidence in the brand. In this instance, for me trying to plan my arrival at the airport based on the information provided by the airline, the app’s failure to effectively translate critical data into accurate information was a fail. The result? not only did it damage my trust in the product, it also undermined my loyalty to the brand. 

So, what’s the point of all this ranting? Brand is about more – much more – than simply marketing. It is about the entirety of the customer experience of the company and the products that it offers. It is thus ironic that this product fail, like so many, is neither difficult, nor expensive, to fix (this one seems quite simple, really). All that it takes is a relentless focus on the confidence loop of product and brand, and a commitment by the company to delivering on both. The question (in every instance) is – does the brand care enough to try?

Agree? Disagree? Hey, that’s what the comments are for!

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