How can someone stay loyal to a brand that’s done nothing but disappoint year after year? How can someone choose to be associated with a brand so troubled, so pitiful, so heartbreaking that its perceived claim to fame is a near 100% failure rate?
It’s partially about hope. Tribal hope. I made the choice to be a Cubs fan long ago. In return for my loyalty, the Cubs made a promise to dedicate each precious season to trying as hard as possible to win a World Series Championship. There were plenty of years where we both knew that promise wouldn’t be fulfilled… but we pretended there was a chance. We as fans felt betrayed when big-money free agents were not signed, beloved personalities left and the product was underwhelming. But, in spite of it all we adored them for who they were; lovable losers. We celebrated the occasional spectacular play, come from behind win or three-homer game, but never the Holy Grail. That joy was reserved for others. We were made to wander the desert, never permitted to enter the Promised Land for ourselves. But Cubs fans carried on. We bought tickets, T-shirts and beers. Lots of beers.
One of the most powerful brand experiences a consumer can have is when a product or service fails them and the brand efficiently responds with great customer service experience to repair the problem. It builds faith and trust. Consumers are quick to forgive a brand they trust. The product the Cubs produced was broken but they were great at providing a service of escapism. The team may have lost but they filled our summers with memories to cache, share and recollect for years. And for that we forgave them. The pain was a pivotal part of the story and the heart-wrenching defeat calcified our tribe. We bought more hats, more peanuts and more beer. A lot more beer.
In case you’ve been living in a cave on Mars and haven’t heard the news yet, the Cubs won the World Series this year. The brand synonymous with failure has at long last achieved the pinnacle of success. The five million fans that attended the victory parade were rewarded with the ultimate customer service experience – a bizarre feeling of relief, success and unbridled joy.
As Cub fans, we’ve always felt appreciated and felt we received one of the greatest joys there was to have; the pleasure of baseball. The Cubs’ epic tale – from the out-of-it-by-May to dream season – has become our story. And in return, the Cubs have received our eternal loyalty. I am a brand advocate… for life.
-Brian Riley, Executive Creative Director and Managing Partner