Seeing this story about Google displaying a spoof logo for PC World in its search results last week made me laugh. A lot.

As you can see, the logo looks real enough but the strapline says ‘PC World: like hell, but with worse customer service.’ The work of a dissatisfied PC World customer working at Google perhaps.

I don’t imagine the retailer found it as funny. But PC World certainly does seem to have earned a bad reputation.

A consumer poll in 2009 found it ‘the worst place’ to buy a computer on the high street. A 2010 Which? survey put it 97th out of 100 for customer satisfaction.

More recently, a Which? survey of 14,000 shoppers found it one of the worst online shops of 2013, ranked 92 out of 93.

I think the spoof logo story amuses me so much because it strikes a chord with my own experience: I shopped at PC World a few years back, sorely regreted it and haven’t been back since.

It also reminds me of the vital branding lesson which dealing with PC World hammered home at the time – that the brand promise an organisation makes has to be rooted in reality.

In other words, if you say you’re great at X, you have to be just that – otherwise claiming it will ruin your credibility.

In my own example, I’d bought some equipment from the store, it didn’t work properly and I needed help. I spent an eternity hanging on their ‘support’ line with no human being ever emerging to talk to.

That was bad enough. But what made it all the worse was the recorded message – in effect, an audio strapline – repeated on a loop every 20 seconds. It said (in a ludicrous, falsely ‘smiley’ voice which added even more insult to injury): ‘PC World: with you every step of the way.’ Over and over and over.

It was the huge chasm between promise and reality which made my experience all the more infuriating. I grew to hate that voice. And those empty words are burnt into my memory while the slogans of most other companies have long faded.

The company would have been much wiser to have chosen a strapline such as ‘The no-frills home of computer products.’  Or ‘Big shops with lots of choice.’  These would have been positive claims which it could have lived up to.

The lessons? When developing your brand profile, don’t promote the strengths you’d like to have but those you do have.

Oh, and don’t give your customers crap service. It’ll come back to bite you.


Do you think PC World deserves its reputation?  What are your best and worst examples of companies living up to their brand promises?