Under-promise and over-deliver

Posted on 06/10/2022 by Karen

That’s an old advertising saying, or maybe an old direct marketing saying. My creative director in Singapore (JWT) was very fond of it and absolutely drummed it into us.

This was in the 90s and I have lived by it ever since. And done my best to advise my clients about it, too. Because unfortunately, it’s a promise that is very easily broken. Not taking care of your customers is the quickest way to lose them. And these days, there’s no limit to the number of people an angry ex-customer can reach if they want to jump online and have a rant.


Rants from me about broken promises

1. Real estate texts

I’m house hunting at the moment. Or rather, unit hunting. I’m meeting a lot of real estate agents, am on a lot of databases and am getting a lot of texts. One text thanked me for coming to an open and then invited me to call them if I had any questions. I thought ‘how nice’. Because I did have questions. I did call them. And left a message. Crickets. And it’s not the first real estate agent it’s happened with.

I get it. They’re busy. They’re probably flat out. Well, here’s a tip. If you’re flat out and just can’t keep up with everything you need to do, pull back on the marketing for a minute. It’s just common sense.


2. Myer feedback

Dear Myer, if you’re going to ask me all about my Myer Card experience and then ask me for other feedback, please don’t ignore my other feedback. You could have sent me a quick, polite ‘sorry, faithful customer that’s been buying that top from us for over 20 years, we don’t sell that top any more’. Don’t worry, I finally found a similar product at Bonds. Not impressed, Myer. Hope you do better if you and DJs merge.


3. Unit names

Back to real estate. (Sorry, it’s rather top of mind for me right now.) Because of the rental crisis, I am living with a kind friend at the moment, miles away from the beach, until I find my dream beach flat. In the meantime, as I walk down Anzac Highway to my fave café, I look at all the little boxes, (sorry… err, units) that are being thrown up along the way. But some old blocks of flats do survive.

One is named ‘The Dorchester’ which to me sounds old, English and elegant. Please refer to the photo. Sorry. Over-promising name, I think. And then there’s CITYBEACH. Neither in the city, nor at the beach. Somewhere in between. (And I am not even going to talk about the witty real estate write-ups and clever real estate photography that makes a unit that you couldn't swing a cat in look like a spacious mansion!)

Now, I use these examples to give you a laugh, but I hope the message hasn’t been lost. When you’re advertising your product or service, I believe it’s important to use truth in advertising. Because if you don’t, chances are you’ll be called out on it, quick smart. Or maybe worse, your customers will not call you out on it, they will just disappear. So, under-promise and over-deliver.


Finally, a word of wisdom from Vili!

Way back in the early 90s, when I was studying Advertising and Graphic Design at TAFE, one of our subjects was called Business Practice (or something like that). The other (graphic design) students hated it but I (advertising student) loved it. It involved getting out of the classroom and visiting real businesses. I loved talking to the owners and hearing their stories. (Little did I know then that as a future copywriter, this would be an important part of my business.)

Vili was very generous with his time and his stories, but the one that stood out for me was when he said ‘the hardest year in my business was the year that the business grew 70 percent’. He explained what a big challenge fast growth was. That they had to work extra hard to get things ramped up in order to service all their new customers, as well as keeping their existing customers happy. He told us to make sure we get our systems in order so if this does happen to us, we’re ready to deal with the extra orders and extra work. Some very good advice. I hope that the real estate agents and Myer take heed…