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Grudge Brands You Can’t Live Without

Brands You Would Rather Avoid . . . If You Could

How much do you look forward to going to your local auto mechanic? Is getting gas in your car worthy of a Facebook post? Can’t wait to insurance shop? Probably not. These are all things we have to live with. It’s a fact of life. They’re Grudge Brands.

The definition of a grudge is a lingering, strong feeling of ill will or resentment.

To be clear grudge brands aren’t necessarily brands we dislike. In fact, in a customer satisfaction survey of the most hated brands in America, less than half were grudge brands. What’s driving the dislike of these brands was their poor reputation. In contrast grudge brands just happen to be the kind of brands that we would prefer to avoid – like paying the utility bill. This is to not diminish the benefit or the value they provide. But they are a reality. So if you are a grudge brand how do you cope with overcoming your customers’ resentment to engage with you? How do you make the kind of emotional connection that you might otherwise have if you were selling the newest flat-screen TV? It’s a challenge for sure.

What Defines a Grudge Brand?

Grudge Brands still have to compete for customers. Unless, of course, they are a monopoly. Like a utility company. But there is no advantage in providing bad service just because you can. Customer relationships under any circumstances are important. And grudge brands have the unfortunate challenge of not being wanted. So what defines them?

1. Need Over Want

We all have to live with products or services that we cannot avoid using. If you have a car you have to get gas. And then there are tires, batteries, oil changes, and more. You have to subscribe to a provider if you want phone service. At some point, you are probably going to need a plumber. You have to have a place to put your money. These are necessities of life. They are the kind of brands you need but don’t necessarily want.

2. Apathy Not Emotion

Looking forward to a trip to your accountant’s office? There are probably things you would prefer to do. Shopping for the latest smartphone is a lot more fun. There are things we all have to do that we look upon with a degree of indifference.

Grudge brands aren’t looked upon with high anticipation. These are not the type of brands that engender a strong emotional connection. They don’t create excitement. They are the kinds of brands that you are more likely to be apathetic about.

3. Relief Versus Satisfaction

Engaging with a grudge product or service isn’t going to provide a high sense of self-satisfaction. It just needs to get done. And getting it done is a relief. It’s simply something to check off the to-do list. Leaving the bank is more of a relief than the anticipation of going to the bank.

4. Denial Over Self Expression

Using a grudge brand doesn’t contribute to a self-expressive benefit to your personal brand. Driving a Mercedes or BMW says something about who you are much more than the gas station you go to.

5. Value Surpasses Premium

It’s difficult for grudge brands to demand a premium. Because they are low on the want list the customers just want to ensure they get what they need at the lowest possible price. There is no benefit to paying more for a grudge product or service because of perceived brand value. Grudge brands depend more on tangible benefits.

Overcome the Grudge . . . Personality

Grudge Brands can be as successful as any other kind of brand. They just need to know how to bridge the grudge gap. Many companies have done this. Insurance companies are a good example. However they have one interesting challenge that most other companies don’t. They provide a service that most people feel they need but hope they never use? It is a “resentful necessity”. Plus insurance companies are seen as institutional and impersonal. So what have they done to create an emotional connection?

The big insurance companies like Progressive, Statefarm, and Geico compete on service and price certainly. But they have overcome the grudge gap by creating personalities. Somthing that is more relatable. Personality becomes a more powerful, compelling and memorable point of distinction. And it’s personality that overcomes the institutional nature of insurance. Making a personal connection will create emotional empathy.

Will this work for any business? Of course it can. But that doesn’t mean you have to create a mascot character or quirky personality spokes person. Personality can be created through messaging tone or more approachable visual expression. Grudge brands are never going to be on bucket list of high anticipation products and services. But they can be made more tolerable.

All brands have challenges. It’s how they face and overcome those challenges that makethe difference. That’s how a great brand works.

Our Favorite Grudge Brands

Grudge brands are a fact of life. There are maybe more out there than you imagine. But here are some of our favorites, in no particular order: What’s yours?

Insurance Companies
Gas Stations
Auto Mechanics
Telecommunication Companies
Utility Companies
Financial Services
Credit Reporting Companies
Law Firms

The goal of How Brand Works is to share our experience, perspectives and philosophy on the different facets of branding intended to enable an effective brand management strategy.

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