Navigating the Intersection of Expectation and Reality

Why every brand must learn to anticipate and design for “n” Moments of Truth.

Stratton Cherouny
Sep 4 · 4 min read

In 2005, P&G’s A.G. Lafley coined two “Moments of Truth” (MOT) that every brand must win. The First Moment of Truth occurs in the store when a customer is confronted by similar products competing for attention. The Second Moment of Truth occurs when the customer uses the product and learns whether it’s as good as they hoped it would be.

The Third Moment of Truth, added a few years later, happens when the customer decides whether or not to advocate for the product—write a review, tell a friend, etc.

Google later added a fourth “Zero” Moment of Truth (ZMOT) wherein a self-educating customer researches a product and decides which product or service to buy before even visiting a store.

A few years later, eventricity named the Less Than Zero Moment of Truth (<MOT) which is defined as the situation that creates the need for a product or service in the first place. It’s what leads to the ZMOT.

More recently, Amit Sharma, Founder and CEO of the shipment tracking company Narvar, introduced us to The Actual Moment of Truth, which they consider to be the gap between hitting the “buy” button on a website and receiving the product.

If you feel a creeping sense of MOT anxiety, take some comfort in the notion that you’re not alone. The fact is, the aforementioned six MOTs are just the beginning. They don’t even get into customer service MOTs, maintenance MOTs, warranty and recall MOTs, checkout MOTs, etc.


The increased identification of and focus on Moments of Truth for brands can be attributed to two fundamental forces.

First, increasing customer choice in nearly every category of product requires new forms of differentiation, especially in categories where similarly-priced products are at parity. Think autos. There are no bad cars being made anymore. In order to differentiate, auto manufacturers will have to work up and down the experience chain, inside and outside of the vehicle, in order to identify ways of adding differentiating value for consumers.

Second, technology is making it possible for new MOTs to exist. Before Google, Bing, and YouTube, the Zero Moment of Truth for buying a new vacuum cleaner was either a door to door salesman, a television ad, or your next-door neighbor. Narvar is able to exploit “the gap” between order and delivery because of significant advancements in logistics technology, analytics, and automated marketing.

If we believe that customer choice and technological progress are unlikely to decrease anytime soon—a position we’d be hard-pressed to argue against—then the natural conclusion is that brands should expect to manage exponentially increasing Moments of Truth in the future. Because it’s our belief that every moment of interface with a brand, no matter how trivial or profound, is a moment of truth. Welcome to n Moments of Truth.

For brands to excel in an nMOT world they must be equipped to understand the customer’s point of view and experience their brand as their customers do at every moment of interaction. Then they have to turn those insights into high-performing experiences that add value they can’t find anywhere else. That’s the art and science of experience design.


A Simple Principle to Frame a Complex Problem

For most brands, it’s hard enough to manage one MOT well. Thinking about infinite MOTs can leave marketers and CX teams frozen in their tracks. That’s why we at The Office of Experience (OX) have boiled the process down to one simple concept: managing the intersection of expectation and reality.

The intersection of expectation and reality

At every moment of interaction with a brand, customers bring a set of expectations with them about that interaction. Those preconceived notions do not arise out of thin air. They have been shaped—consciously or not—by prior experiences, by the opinions of others, and by the brand in the form of owned, earned and paid media, among many other factors.

Further, expectations in one category affect or create expectations in other categories. For example, the world didn’t know it needed a pizza tracker until Dominos created one. Now, we expect to be able to track in real-time virtually every product we buy or service we engage. If I can track a $10 pizza, why can’t I track my lawn care service? Or my plumber? Or the furniture delivery guys?

Brand experiences are made or broken by the reality we meet on the other side of our expectations, which, in turn, affects business performance. Do we ultimately buy as a result? Do we buy more? Do we buy more often? Do we tell our friends about it and advocate on behalf of the brand? Etc.


While the people, processes, and systems required to manage brand experience holistically are complex, the principle is simple. It’s about seeing your brand through your customers’ eyes and being curious—about what’s really valuable, about what’s possible, and about how other brand experiences might be successfully applied to yours.

Better By __

At The Office of Experience, we believe the experience is the brand®. The best brand experiences are better by design. But they’re also better by strategy, technology, and message. Better By explores the ways in which the world around us made better by design.

Stratton Cherouny

Written by

Founder of The Office of Experience, a design and digital innovation firm headquartered in Chicago.

Better By __

At The Office of Experience, we believe the experience is the brand®. The best brand experiences are better by design. But they’re also better by strategy, technology, and message. Better By explores the ways in which the world around us made better by design.

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