What Is a Brand? Part 4 – Brand Expectations

Brand expectations are the topic for Part 4 of the What Is a Brand? series. If you missed Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3, follow the preceding links to read them. You’ll need to understand the information provided earlier in the series to fully benefit from Part 4.


Branding questions?

Create a new market research study, and get the valuable answers you need. As a market research company, we at AYTM are here to help you quickly and easily test brand ideas for your new company, product, service, or academic project. Learn more



As consumers learn about your brand promise and develop perceptions of your brand, they will hopefully try it. They’ll purchase it and have clear expectations for it based on that promise and those perceptions.

Your brand must meet or exceed consumers’ expectations for it in every customer interaction and experience.

What would happen if Sylvester Stallone appeared in a period movie. Imagine Sly as Darcy in a new adaptation of Pride and Prejudice? What happened when Britney Spears shaved her head and beat a car with an umbrella? Both examples demonstrate how brands can fail to meet consumer expectations. How would you react to Sly in a period piece? How did you react when Britney Spears had a melt down?

In simplest terms, when your brand fails to meet consumer expectations for it, consumers become confused. They’re disappointed and leave your brand behind in search of another brand that does meet their expectations all the time.

New Coke from 1985Remember New Coke? How about the Tropicana packaging disaster? These are perfect consumer product examples of brands that failed to meet consumer expectations and felt the effects in both negative publicity and their revenues.

You can’t try to meet consumer expectations for your brand until you know what those expectations are. Don’t assume you know what your target audience thinks. Do the research and make sure you’re on the same page as your paying customers, so you are able to meet their expectations through every customer touch point.

Failing to meet customer expectations through customer service is a no-brainer. You train your employees not to do it. But what about failing to meet customer expectations through your brand messages, image, promise, and experiences? Do you train employees not to do that? One could assume that Mercedes-Benz didn’t when the original low-end A-Class debuted in 1997 and ultimately tarnished the luxury brand’s reputation.

I offer a simple way to help your brand meet consumer expectations. Run everything you do against the “Consumer Brand Expectations Test” by asking one simple question:

Does this meet or exceed consumer expectations for our brand?

If your answer to that question is no, then you need to go back to the drawing board.

Stay tuned for Part 5 of the What Is a Brand? series where we’ll take everything you’ve learned so far about branding and turn it into your brand persona! And if you missed previous posts in this series, you can follow the links to read them:


Still confused about how to brand your idea?

Create a new market research study right now on our Target Market page to test your concept(s). If you have any questions about how to construct your study, email [email protected] or call us at +1 (415) 364-8601 (8am-6pm Pacific Time).


Image: The Coca-Cola Company

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Gunelius
Susan Gunelius, MBA is a 25-year marketing and branding expert and President and CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She is the author of 10 books about marketing, branding and social media, and her marketing-related articles appear on top media websites such as Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com. She is also the Founder and Editor in Chief of WomenOnBusiness.com, an award-winning blog for business women.