Passenger sues airline because he got sparkling wine not champagne

October 2017.

A Canadian man has filed a lawsuit against Sunwing Airlines – an airline based in Toronto – after being served sparkling wine when they had promised a ‘champagne service’.

According to the BBC the airline said it believes the lawsuit “to be frivolous and without merit”.

And on the face of it I think we’d all agree.

But the lawyer acting on behalf of the complainant said “It’s not about the pettiness of champagne versus sparkling wine – it’s the consumer message behind it.”

And as a marketer, I think I’m with them on this one.

But this isn’t just a simple story of a ‘bad ad’ using the wrong words to describe the product or service, or a ‘Trade Description’ issue (as is often incorrectly cited to describe these situations).

This is much bigger. It’s the manifestation of a real life frustration people have. A brand destroying frustration. One that eats away at any brand value you have.

It’s about how you create and maintain a brand.

The biggest threat to your brand isn’t a poorly thought out logo or the badly executed ‘look and feel’ you present to the world.

It’s when a customer expects a certain level of service (because the adverts, the promotions or the sales team have told them to expect a ‘champagne service’ perhaps) but what they get doesn’t match that expectation.

The whole organisation has to be bought into the brand. The whole organisation is the brand – and if there’s no consistency between marketing messaging and customer experience, it can drive people mad. Even to the point of suing.

Recently I attended a great CIM event hosted by Abigail Dixon of Labyrinth Marketing called “How to develop a strong brand proposition”.

We have since discussed this story and Abigail agrees: “Consumers are selecting brands that reflect their values – but also deliver against where they want to be”.

And that’s why these ‘frivolous’ things rankle so much.

Abigail continued: “Brand perceptions are made up from an accumulation of experience and interactions’.

Do you agree? What do you see as the biggest threat to your (or any) brand?


Chris Rogers

I curate stories of #badmarketing so marketing professionals and business owners like you can learn from the mistakes of others - and produce better marketing that’s right first time. Bad Marketing also aims to be essential reading for marketers, academics & students – and anyone interested in the challenges of marketing.

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