Budget Rent a Car Commits Brand Suicide; Did Analytics Supply the Gun?

Ripped from the headlines:

To help offset gasoline prices, Budget Rent a Car is imposing an additional $9.50 charge on all vehicles driven fewer than 75 miles..."

"The new charge is aimed at renters who drive short distances and don’t fill up their tanks before they return because the gas gauge still reads "full," even though the tank is a few gallons short. In the past, Budget filled the tank and billed the customer the highest rate. But now, Budget will impose the $9.50 charge even if the renter tops off the tank before returning the car. The charge will be removed only if customers show their gas receipt to a Budget agent, one traveler has already reported, slowing travelers often rushing to catch flights."

"This is a convenience and time-saver for our customers," said Susan McGowan, a spokeswoman for Cendant Corp., Budget’s parent company. "This is being done to recoup the cost of lost fuel."

Tom Asacker’s definition of brand is "the expectation of someone or something delivering a certain feeling by way of an experience." What feelings are Budget customers going to have about their experience? Four-letter feelings.

Budget’s mis-step here feels like analytics gone wrong--a case where a spreadsheet exercise say "go, go, go!" while any sensible person would say "stop!". As we wrote earlier today, focusing excessively on analytics means you focus less on customer service, innovation, branding.