Brand Irritation – A Case of Negative Brand Image Building

There are some gaps in between a company and its customers. These gaps are due to customer expectation with the brand and that expectation is not met with the actual brand offerings including other factors, which made customer experience not only negative but at the level of irritation. This customer irritation ultimately turns into brand irritation if necessary actions are not take.

Brand irritation word coined by the Mr Alison Eastwood in the year 2003 in his article named “Brand irritation”. But in this article he had discussed on the term brand integration (the use of commercial products in the story line of a television show, film, etc. and involving the development of specific objectives, strategies, plans, and tactics to drive the business) and connecting it with the use of brand integration in American idol and same kind of initiatives adopted by other brands. He relates it with out of box thinking, failure of advertising and brand integration.

Brand Irritation

Brand irritation is a particular case where consumer recognizes brand on a negative note due to bad experience with the brand. It does not only deal with the negative or bad experience with the brand but the irritation caused to customer due to various factors involved. These factors made irritated to the customer at the level that any product where brand name is associated with, customer responded negatively. For an example if customer purchase a product of brand “ABC” but after some time customer felt that sales personnel mis-sell him by hiding important information about the product. After knowing this customer registered a complaint to the customer care but after so many attempts his complaint get registered but did not get satisfactory reply from the company, which created a negative image of the brand in the mind of customer and also he feel cheated. This incident and experience made customer felt irritated. If any sales person comes with the another product of “ABC” brand or with brand name “XYZ” (A co-brand or sister brand of “ABC” company brand) customer recognize it on a negative note and deny to purchase the product.

Brand irritation means a negative image created about a particular brand in the mind of a consumer due to their bad experience with the product or service or sales personnel behavior and it reflects their decision in not buying other product/service of the same brand company or other brands under the same umbrella. In such situations customer behaves negative after listening the name of the brand or products related to the brand or other brands under the same umbrella name.

Brand irritation is sheerly a particular case of brand recognition, when a product/service becomes a notorious one, destroying brand value. So far brand recognition might bring either positive or negative value. Brand recognition is just when more people recognize brand, but the notion doesn’t say what kind of recognition it is: positive or negative (brand irritation). And brand irritation is a particular case of brand recognition, meaning ‘bringing negative value in a process of recognition’.

Causes of Brand Irritation

Brand irritation is the process in which a customer gets irritated due to bad experience with the particular product/service and its attributes. During observation and focused group discussions all these factors were found responsible for the brand irritation.

  1. Hidden Costs: A price that is not openly disclosed by the sales personnel to its customers.
  2. Fail to fulfill promises: When employee of the organization fails to fulfill the promise he made to the customer.
  3. Bad customer care service: It is one of the biggest problem faced by customers and responsible for the irritation. The general constraint with the outsourced customer care is they are unable to provide complete solution to the problem. No care for customer and problem faced by them.
  4. Poor after sales service: Poor after sales service is another factor behind brand irritation where company is unable to provide proper after sales service or replacement of the product to its customers.
  5. Lack of commitment of sales personnel: Lack of sincere efforts from the sales personnel to provide proper services to its customers. It shows the lack of commitment of the sales personnel towards its job and becomes another factor behind brand irritation.
  6. Mis-selling or hiding of important information: Mis guide to customers about product and services provided by the company or hiding important information is one of the important factors behind the brand irritation faced by the customers.

Stages/Degree of Brand Irritation

  1. First degree (Customer dislike/annoyance): In first stage or degree of brand irritation; customer gets annoyed due to bad quality or other negative factors, but do not react.
  2. Second degree (Customer dissatisfaction): In second stage or degree of brand irritation customer get dissatisfied because of his second time bad experience and reacts when someone asks them about the product of the brand. Customer is dissatisfied with the product of a brand only not brand as whole.
  3. Third degree (Brand Irritation): In the third stage or degree of brand irritation, customers react by themselves and say others not to purchase the products of that brand. Customer loses confidence on whole brand. Person become opposite to the concept of brand advocate.

Brand Irritation Process Model

Brand irritation process model helps us to understand the brand irritation concept. It talks about the various situations created after selling of a product or service to the customers. It explains various situations where customer gets irritated due to repetition of the mistakes done by the company. Process starts from the customer’s expectation from the product/service before buying it. Customer purchases the product with its pre-purchase perception and expectation. After buying the product/service customer experienced it in two ways:

  1. Good experience brings satisfaction
  2. Bad experience brings dissatisfaction

In case of good experience customer feels three conditions which decide the satisfaction level of the customer with the product or service. If he feels product is ‘OK’ then repurchase depends upon his aspirations and use. If he feels ‘Good” about the product he will purchase that product again if no better alternative in terms of price and use is available in the market. If he feels “Excellent” about the product he will definitely purchase the product again and again and also suggest it to his peer group.

In case of bad experience customer get dissatisfied due to different condition and he behaves in certain ways. In first case first situation dissatisfied customer do not communicate anything to the company and stop buying product and services of the brand. In second situation stop buying any brand under umbrella of the company. In second case first situation customer communicates the problem to the company. If problem solved instantly customer get satisfied. In second situation customer comes to know that he has been cheated by the company or personnel. Various factors behind this situation are mis-sell, poor after sales service, hiding of important information and hidden cost. In this situation either customer get irritated and stop buying product or take legal action against company. In these situations ultimately customers get dissatisfied and improper handling of his complaint will get him irritated. This customer irritation ultimately turns into brand irritation.

Mini Case Study:

Malaysia Airlines Brand Damage After MH17, MH370 Incidents:

Malaysia Airlines was struggling even before flight MH370 went missing in March and MH17 was shot down over Ukraine, but now the carrier has gone on a public relations offensive, trying to move its brand away from tragedy and it may change its name. “As a company, Malaysia Airlines has twice been in a period of mourning this year but we will eventually overcome this tragedy and emerge stronger,” Hugh Dunleavy, the company’s commercial director, who appears to be spearheading the public relations effort.

Even before the aircraft tragedies, the carrier that was one of Southeast Asia’s most prestigious airlines in the 1990s had steadily been squeezed between high-end rivals, such as Singapore Airlines and Asian budget carriers. The company has not made an annual profit since 2010. A high cost base and robust labor unions that represent its 20,000-strong workforce have eroded the airline’s competitiveness against the region’s leaner and highly profitable low-cost carriers. An even bigger question mark now hangs over the future of Malaysia Airlines, with its brand tied to two almost unfathomable tragedies. “The weak financial performance has made Malaysia Airlines acutely aware of the need to restructure the company’s operations, even prior to the double tragedies of MH370 and MH17,” the company said in a statement. “The occurrence of the two incidences within a short span of four months served to worsen the situation further.”

Khazanah Nasional, a state investment association that owns 69 percent of a airline, pronounced a renovate includes a investiture of a new association that will take over a existent Malaysia Airlines business and a reduced staff. They are already looking into ways to shift the company’s business and brand, but the efforts are now speeding up after the MH17 tragedy. “There are several options on the table but all involve creating an airline fit for purpose in what is a new era for us, and other airlines,” Dunleavy said, adding that the carrier is looking into rebranding and renaming itself, among other options.

Reference: “Brand Irritation” A Roadblock to Business Performance in Marketing Perspective by Manish Vishnoei and Pushyamitra Joshi, Institute of Management & Development Action, India.

External Links:

  1. How Starbucks’ Growth Destroyed Brand Value (Harvard Business Review)
  2. Ways to Damage a Brand (and What to Do Instead) (Inc.)

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