SOCKS FOR BROGAVIA! was started in 2012 after Jed Arlsen toured Eastern Europe on a mission trip.  Impressed with the beautiful artistry of their work, he saw the opportunity to benefit starving workers by selling their products in the U.S.

With a whole bunch of hard work and dedication, Jed was able to get the socks in 26 stores for the Christmas season.  Customers were amazed at the craftsmanship and fine Brogavian Highlands Goat hair, and the products flew off the shelves.

A week after Christmas, the entire business fell apart as it was discovered that hot water washing caused the products to fall apart in a mess at the bottom of the washer.  The company was bankrupt within two months.

I want to make clear that this story is fictional. Apologies to our loyal Brogavian readers.

This is a lesson about values-based marketing.

Jed’s message for the market, and the stores, was quite strong:  Here’s a unique product, high quality, and a portion of every purchase will be used to directly benefit people in need.

What went wrong?

The problem is that this message just compels customers to make the first purchase.  People will try something once if they have enough reason to, and if there’s little risk.  In this case, they’re just socks, priced as appropriate for gift-giving.  No risk, right?

But to be a business, SOCKS needed loyal customers.  And there’s nothing to turn off your buyers like having them look like schmucks.  Imagine the embarrassing conversations that took place when these gifts were run through the wash the first time.

This is a stark example, for sure.  No other company would make this kind of mistake, would it?

Let me offer another example.

I had occasion to have some work done a car some years ago.  Not having much preference, I decided to use a local shop which had some values that I found interesting.  It made me feel good.

But the work was substandard, the communication confusing, and we had a dispute over the bill.  My conclusions from this experience were that despite having an interesting story, they didn’t know what they were doing.  And, not knowing how to properly treat a customer, they weren’t worthy of any loyalty, much less referrals of my friends.

Here’s the lesson:  Go ahead and use your values as a marketing tool if you wish.  For some, this can be quite powerful.  But it never gives you permission to deliver a lesser customer experience.

It may make it harder for you to run your business.  But the reward should be increased customer passion and loyalty.