Expected Brand Behaviour: An undervalued aspect?

kidI’m not a great follower of any religion, but, I think religion (or better organised religion in the form of a church) can teach us a thing or two about branding. Think about the difference between the Church of England (Anglican) and the Roman Catholic church: very well established “brand personalities”, with established “brand attributes”, quite differentiated – despite largely similar products. This is nothing new (see for example this paper by Madalena Abreu). An interesting “critical incident” regarding religious brands occurred however two days back in the UK, which in my view could show that our brand ideas are missing a potentially important aspect.
To cut a long story short, the Church of England issued a statement against gay marriage, based on the argument that marriage is for procreation. This was somewhat surprising, as the CoE was (relatively) pro-civil partnerships before, and is probably seen as a fairly liberal and progressive church. I’m not trying to pick their argument apart, but rather focus on what followed the statement – which can only be described as an outcry. From facebook, to twitter , on the radio and on the news, people reacted very outraged. See for example this reaction in the Guardian. Interestingly though, nobody seemed to mind what the Catholic church said – in fact, several commentators when asked just said that their negative stance was simply “expected” (it was: no way!). What has happened, was that the statement by the Church of England was simply surprising in its negativity – and caused a massive outcry.
As I said, I’m not trying to comment on the statement itself – but rather on the result. Thinking about it in branding terms makes the story quite compelling: The brand that acted as it was “expected” received minimal attention – the one acting somewhat “unexpected” was massively criticised. Yet – when I looked at the branding literature the “[expected] behvaiour” of a brand is not mentioned – rather the brand is seen as something almost static, that doesn’t really “act”  or is expected to act. So consumers (or members/stakeholders) don’t really have certain behavioural expectations? As the example shows, consumers seem may hold a clear picture of what they expect “their brand” to do – and if it fails to do so will become quite annoyed. Thus, maybe it is time to think about extending our view of brands to incorporate expected behaviour as an additional item? What do you think? Could expected behaviour be something linked to, but conceptually different that just “personality”?

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