Should Best Buy be Worst Buy?

Naming your company entails risk

best buy logoAn old boss once told me of seeing a German lady who was irate at the service received from a Best Western motel. She yelled at the staff: “Zis isn’t Best Vestern, it’s Vorst Vestern!!”

A recent hassle with Best Buy brought that story to mind. The trouble began when my mom’s HP laptop, bought at Best Buy, died after three months. She returned it to the store and they fixed it in a week. Then it died again, just two weeks later. I went into Best Buy with her and we insisted on exchanging the laptop for a new machine. But Best Buy’s policy is that a computer must die four times before the customer will be allowed an exchange.

Absolutely outrageous. We were seriously ticked off.

So I trolled the Best Buy website and noticed, in particular, these two brand promises:

“…our stores and operating models are being transformed to shift our focus from product-centric to customer-centric…”


“It’s just that we think technology should serve people, and not the other way around.”

Then I emailed Best Buy’s Chief Marketing Officer, Barry Judge, with this argument:

“Unfortunately, Best Buy has fallen down, big time, on these brand promises when it comes to my mother. The very poor service she has received from your store 940 in Ottawa, Ontario has in fact been “the other way around”: your policies and employees’ attitudes in this case are every bit about your customers being at the mercy of the technology you sell.”

It took a week, but my mom was able to exchange her laptop for a new, different model. So there was a happy ending: for us, anyway – people willing to make a serious fuss. What about the vast majority of Best Buy customers who simply submit to this ridiculous policy?

Should Best Buy change its name to Worst Buy?

I ask this question because one of the most common client worries when adopting a new brand name for their company is that they’ll be called out on it.

What I tell them is that fundamentally, branding entails risk. If you have a point of difference and you want to convey it clearly, a meaningful name is a highly effective way of doing it. But never forget that it will also be your Achilles heel: you will always be vulnerable to criticism that you aren’t living up to it.

And that’s a good thing. Because your name will serve to keep you sharp – to keep you living your brand. I recall a client, AtlasCare, that was feeling some reluctance to put “Care” in their name, because from time to time, an upset customer would tell them “you don’t really care!” This despite AtlasCare’s exceptional levels of customer service and satisfaction.

To which I said, “Wonderful! There will always be customer satisfaction issues in every business. But you’ve actually given your customers a vocabulary in which to voice their complaints and give you a chance to solve them, instead of saying nothing and going elsewhere.”

So stake out a claim with your name – within limits. I would advise against Best Buy changing its name to Extraordinary Buy, or Incredible Buy or Unbelievable Buy. Despite their absurd laptop exchange policy, when I consider the Best Buy name in the context of all experiences I’ve had with them, it’s just fine as is – for now.

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