England expects. And manages expectations.
So that was that. Brazil 2014 isn’t over yet, but for most any connection to the tournament died with dreams of escaping Group D. Nevertheless, there are lessons to be learnt for any business owner, with this a textbook example of how not to disappoint the public, even when things don’t work out.
Of course there are many factors that could be taken into account when attempting to explain away England’s disastrous run of games. From hotheaded attacking play to woeful defensive displays and superstition, it’s far simpler to conclude exactly why the nation isn’t up in arms and complaining. Just consider the statements from management, the FA and pundits prior to the team arriving in South America.
In short, our expectations for even the most remote victory were well-managed before anyone had boarded the plane. Roy Hodgson is perhaps the first England manager to perform this badly and still not get lambasted by the press. After the second abysmal game the FA even confirmed he would be staying in the job, irrespective of an English exit from the tournament, and if we’re honest with ourselves, nobody expected any different.
There’s certainly a lesson to be learnt from all this, and one that extends well beyond the football fields of Brazil. Brands must talk straight, be transparent and do everything possible not to lead customers down the garden path. Whether it’s launch information for a new product, a stance on environmental or political issues, or market placement and position, when companies manage the public’s expectations successfully the risk of coming unstuck and creating a self-destructive backlash is (logically) reduced.
It’s a remarkable feat, really. Learning from past lessons (either your own, those of other brands or teams), understanding what the post-event reaction was and therefore what the expectations were takes research, a clear understanding of those gained insights and awareness of your industry and audience. Oh, and the knowledge of how to apply all that across each and every communications arm. Trust me, it has been my business to advise firms on this kind of thing for some time already, and as per Smoking Gun’s sterling reputation, the results of those efforts speak for themselves.