People lie. They lie for all sorts of reasons. They lie because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. They lie because they don’t like the consequences of the truth. They lie because they want to avoid conflict. They lie to make a story more interesting. The fact is people lie, big ones, small ones, orange lies, pink lies or whatever color you want to call them. People lie.
When my son lies about eating the last of the cookies, it might annoy me but it doesn’t rattle my whole world. Lying about who you are is the true betrayal.
I formed a relationship with you, as a person or as a brand, based on what I believe to be true about you. Based on what you’ve told me, what you’ve promised me that you are. If that turns out to be false I can’t go back and make it whole again. It’s not about making amends, you are no longer the person or brand I believed you to be. I may be able to create a new relationship based on this new information about who you are but I will never be able to return to the relationship I had previously. That person/brand doesn’t exist. You have shown me that.
When the stories come out about beloved religious leaders and teachers betraying our trust and carrying out the very violation we trusted them to keep us safe from we have to come to terms with the fact that we were duped into a relationship with someone who doesn’t exist.
Lots of articles have been written recently about Amazon being a difficult place to work, people crying at their desks, unreasonably long hours and ridiculous expectations. While this may not be great, it isn’t earth shattering. Now if the same article had come out about Zappos, whose very existence is as much about creating happiness as it is about selling shoes, there would be an irreconcilable breach.
Make sure your brand promise is one you can keep. If you cause your customers, employees and vendors to doubt who you are, you can’t earn that back.