In my last post, When your favorite brands fail you, how do you respond? What I was trying to point out is that if you expect more from a brand/company and they let you down, are you then in turn more let down? The very next day I came across a study by Dan Ariely in his book Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions. I read about the specific study in Lifehacker’s article Budweiser, Balsamic Vinegar, and How Expectations Affect Our Views.

Terribly simplified here, in the study they offered samples of two beers, both Budweiser. One was a regular Budweiser and the other a Budweiser with a few drops of balsamic vinegar added and they give it a locally specific name. To one group they simply presented the samples and had them taste, to another group they actually told them one of the beers had balsamic in it. Once they finished the sample the tasters where given a choice of one free beer and they had to choose only one. The first group, which had no idea about the balsamic, chose the balsamic beer. The second group for the most part chose the beer without the balsamic.

I see this all the time. A perfect example for me is movies. Everyone watches movies. I know that if I go into a movie with high expectation, it might still be good, but if it is not great I’ll be let down. I go out to the movies VERY rarely, so when I do I have much higher expectations for that movie. If I buy a DVD, I have higher expectations then if it is on a movie channel.

You know you have been there. Your friends tell you, “Ahhh…you have to see this movie, it is the best”. Right? So you take a second mortgage on your home and take your significant other or friend to the theater to see it. What happens most times? FLOP! Not all the time but for me most of the time the movie can’t possible live up to the hype.

Case in point, the movie Tropic Thunder. If I recall correctly it didn’t do great in the theaters. With that brought a quick release to DVD, which we loved because it has a lot of actors that make us laugh. Ben Stiller, Robert Downey, Jr., Jack Black, Danny McBride amongst others. I happened across the DVD the first week it was out (on sale) and purchased it. We watched it that night…and HATED IT! We thought it was terrible. So a few months later I am flipping channels and there it is, Tropic Thunder. At the time I could find nothing better so I flipped it on…and laughed and laughed. Now whenever it is on, we are probably watching it. I know some movies grow on you but in this case it was totally my expectations and the situation that altered my experience.

My last post talked about how we raise our expectations for our favorite brands. In the study they are showing that expectation can positively and negatively effect our decision and experiences. Companies spend billions on acquiring and keeping happy customers. In my limited experience on this earth I have discovered that most people who talk about a brand or product are either really happy or really pissed. The customers that are so moved that they brag to friends and family are the best. But, how much goodwill must you build to get over that one failure and do raised expectations increases the risk of failure?

Someone out there must be smart enough to answer these questions.