TL:DR? This: Consumers pay attention. They compare what you do with what you say.
One of the two supermarkets in my town ran a series of TV and radio spots featuring the president of the chain. The big message was how if it was in the ad, it was guaranteed to be in the store. That should tell you right away there had been a problem. There was. For months, if an item was featured on sale in the 7-day ad, your odds of finding it in the store were slim to none for at least the first six days.
The store tried to combat the increasing negative publicity with the ad and an alleged new inventory strategy. Unfortunately, the strategy only seemed to extend to the ads, not actually getting more product onto the shelves. So, items were supposedly at least shipped to the warehouse, but still never made it to this store.
I finally talked to the store manager, who said she had no power to order anything. (What?!) Instead, all inventory the store carried was determined by corporate headquarters. I asked whether HQ ever was notified about the failure of their ads. She said no (why?), but then brightly asked whether there was something specific I was looking for, because she could request it, as long as it wasn’t an ad item. I could get a raincheck, but the store would have no way of knowing when an item might be in stock.
It’s not so different from a particular fast food chain you may know. They ran a long campaign saying they don’t make it until you order it. I’d like to believe that. It would explain the wait at the drive-through. But if it was true, I’d also like for their sphere-headed spokesguy to explain how – if the fries were just made – they got instantly cold in the 30 seconds it took to bag them and hand them to me.
A hook is meaningless if a company isn’t going to walk the talk. If you spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising to say food will be fresh and hot, why the heck are my fries cold? If you’re spending that amount to promise that specific grocery items will be in the store during the week they are on sale, why are there empty shelves?
Consumers expect exaggerated claims, but they don’t deserve – or tolerate – outright lies.
When a business sets up these kinds of situations, they’re making a choice. They can design a system to make sure they’re doing what they say. Or they can choose to fail.