When the reality doesn't match ...

I bought a new Jeep Liberty recently. In the weeks that followed, it was purchase reinforcement at its best—a handwritten thank you note from my salesman, a survey from Chrysler, then (3) reminders of my free oil change, one in an e-mail. Marketing automation executed perfectly. Clearly a strategy to kick off a long, fruitful relationship.

So I decided to take them up on their new offer, despite the fact the dealership is a good 30 minutes away from my house. I called to make an appointment. "No need - just walk right in," insisted the friendly service manager. Then comes Saturday.

I arrive at 10:00 a.m., two whiny children and one impatient husband in tow. I'm three deep in a line of hostile people when I hear a frustrated employee say ... "I can't get even get to oil changes for 2 hours!" I threaded my car out of line and drove off without ever making it to the service desk.

As a consumer, I felt annoyed. As a marketer, I felt concerned.

I was reminded that even when everything is done "right" from a marketing standpoint, it can still go very wrong. The most carefully crafted copy or powerful imagery will never replace an actual experience.

So what's the answer then?

First, marketing shouldn't live on a banished island far from products, programs or operations. Tough questions like "do we have enough people answering the phone for this campaign?"--should be answered at the beginning, not addressed by frantic calls on the eleventh hour. And when the brand promise seems to be drifting from the brand reality, it may be time to make some courageous changes across the board.