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Throwing away your reputation

Blue Bell Ice Cream is famous for their high-quality ice cream with all natural ingredients. It’s their entire brand:

We proudly make Blue Bell Ice Cream the old-fashioned, traditional way, so it tastes just like it was hand-cranked.
As you’d expect, we use the finest milk, cream, sugar and other ingredients money can buy. Then, we mix in our secret homemade recipe.

They have an insanely loyal fan base. People actually ship their ice cream to friends. There is a Wikipedia page full of praise.

So I trusted their logo when I bought ice cream bars for my kids.

Turns out they weren’t made of high-quality ice cream. They were made of chemicals and dairy waste products. And on closer examination, it wasn’t even ice cream. It was “Frozen Dessert Product”:

Skim Milk, Coconut Oil, Sugar, Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Whey, Buttermilk, Soy, Mono- And Diglycerides, Cellulose Gum, Vegetable Gums (Guar, Carrageenan, Carob Bean), Polysorbate 60, Sodium Citrate, Artificial Flavor, Xanthan Gum, Annatto Color. Wafer: Enriched Wheat Flour (Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Monoitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Sugar, Soybean Oil, Cocoa (Processed With Alkali), Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Soy Flour, Baking Soda, Modified Food Starch, Salt, Soy Flour, Baking Soda, Modified Food Starch, Salt Soy Lecithin, Artificial Color (Red 40, Blue1), Natural And Artificial Flavor.

Now I’ll never trust them again. Their logo doesn’t mean quality ice cream. It means “This company will occasionally lie to me, and use their logo to trick me into buying low-quality crap.” I don’t trust a brand that only lies to me sometimes.

Lesson: You only get one brand. You only get one reputation. You only get one chance to screw it up forever.

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  1. Michelle C February 16, 2011 at 9:28 am #

    Great story, Andy. I don’t comment often but I wanted to say that I appreciate the personal stories you use to illustrate brand reputation and how there are some elements that Internet hasn’t changed. You can’t make the number of Facebook fans turn your product into a quality product and no word-of-mouth will change a buyer’s mind when they find out it hasn’t held up their brand’s promise.

    Thanks for the posts, Andy, and keep ’em coming :)

    Michelle @Synthesio

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