A Brand Is A Terrible Thing To Waste

How a toy shaped my image of CAT

I’ve always admired the way CAT has branched out from their core business of making the biggest and boldest machinery that literally shapes the Earth to clothing, footwear, mobiles phones and all the way to toys.

I’ve worn CAT boots and loved them for keeping me warm during the cold Finnish winters and more importantly giving my testosterone level a much needed boost. What they also subconsciously did was cement my image of CAT as a brand that delivers sturdy unquestionable quality.

Funny how that can change with one toy.

I have a one year old son and like any dad I could not wait to buy him toy cars, trucks, space ships — anything that I think a boy needs. I do also think boys need to play with Barbies but that’s a different story.

To my delight our local toy store had a great selection of CAT trucks, diggers and machines in various sizes ripe for picking. When I saw them I immediately thought: Well those must be good value and can take the abuse our little terminator will undoubtedly inflict on them. The yellow colour also helped them stand out to tiny Arnold so we bought a few and returned home to proudly show mum what we had found: manly machines!

We started playing and it took only a few minutes to realise that there was something wrong. The wheels of both toys didn’t spin properly. The build & quality simply was bad. The little man was happy playing with them but I felt cheated — almost insulted. I’ve been telling myself that it’s not that big of a deal but for some reason I just can’t shake it.

I know that the toys are made in China on license from CAT and that they as a company had probably nothing to do with the design or QA. That said I can’t help how it shapes my thinking about the brand and their products. Suddenly my previous experiences were wiped out by this atrocity and I find myself questioning the whole brand.

At this point it’s worth pointing out that I’ll never make purchasing decisions on a CAT 797F so the real impact of me liking their brand or not on their bottom line is non-existent but that’s not the lesson in this story — or the point I wanted to make.

To me this serves as an excellent example of the importance of carefully managing what you link your brands to. Each experience and interaction — even as detached from the core product as my example — has an impact on your brand and as painstaking as it sounds you have to make sure each and every one of them convey the values and quality you want associated with your brand.

Otherwise you might just end up destroying years of hard work with one badly designed toy.