How to Kill your Brand – the LG Upgrade Fiasco

What me worryThe original meaning of the word “brand” meant to burn (from the Old Norse brandr), referring to the practice of burning a mark (or brand) onto a product or animal.

Although a brand originally denoted ownership it now denotes a promise. When I buy a bottle of Coca Cola instead of Crapa Cola, it is because Coke made a promise to me that the flavor and quality would be exactly the same as I have come to expect from them.

If you bought an LG BD300 with HD Netflix support last Christmas, you probably received a notice a few months later that a new firmware update was available that would let you play YouTube videos on your TV [Engadget].

A few weeks later, an avalanche of users reported that their BD-300s were no longer able to play regular DVDs, only Blu-ray. Seems the upgrade physically destroyed the ability of the drive to play regular DVDs and downloading the old firmware didn’t solve the problem for those who tried to play a DVD after the upgrade. Those fortunate enough not to try to play a DVD after the youtube upgrade were in fact able to go back to the old firmware and return to DVD playing functionality.

You can view many of the complaints at this forum and at Amazon. A petition asking LG to fix the problem for free can be found here.

At first LG support offered to fix the problem for $69.00. Then as the problem escalated, they announced they would fix it for free but only if you could produce a receipt that you purchased the player from an authorized dealer.

Note to LG: This is not how you handle a problem that you caused. Accidents happen, you did not intend for the upgrade to harm your products. However, how you treat your customers is not an accident. If you read the complaints you will notice that many of your customers are swearing not to buy any of your products again. The first thing you should have done after you charged $69 to fix a problem you caused should have been to publicly announce that you were returning the money – your customers should not have to pay for your ineptitude, nor should it go so far that they have to sign a petition asking you to make good. Next, you should have made a public apology vowing to fix the drives for free – no questions asked and no proof needed that the player had to have been purchased only at an authorized dealer.

You could have turned this fiasco into an opportunity to show everyone that your company is a world class manufacturer that stands fully behind its products.

You should be fixing the drives even if the players were stolen. Otherwise, the request for proof of purchase only looks like a ploy to limit the number of drives you have to replace. I estimate that only a few thousand customers downloaded the fatal software before the warning flag went up. I also estimate that, including shipping, it costs you at most $30.00 per unit to fix the problem. So what were you trying to save by asking for proof of purchase? Less than thirty thousand dollars?

Is that what your brand is worth? The LG brand stood for quality and service – something that takes years to burn into consumers’ minds, you’re willing to snuff out in an instant to save a few thousand dollars?

Stupid, stupid marketing and shame on you.

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