Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Candy Colors and Pretty Pictures Don't Mean Success

Having returned from a week off I find myself thinking about some of my experiences on the road and some of the things I am reading in the trades about big brands.

I have written on this blog numerous times about one of the most important keys to good marketing. That key is to back up the promise made by your strategic message and advertising with a great customer experience (the product or service must meet or surpass the promise of the marketing). I did not create this wisdom, but I have been fortunate enough to experience it executed properly and unfortunately, I have experienced it executed poorly. A simple example of the latter happened last week when I was on vacation.

My lovely wife planned the vacation and she booked a cabin in a mountain for our family to stay in for three days. Wonderful. She was excited and showed me the pictures of this beauty from the rental company web site. It looked great. Clean, bright, and most of all a great unobstructed view of the mountains. Perfect. It was even granted the moniker of "Close to Heaven." Judging by the pictures, it seemed to be just that, assuming of course that Heaven looks just like the Smoky Mountains.

Well, we arrived at said destination and let's just say the pictures were either about 15 years old, and the cabin had not seen maintenance in that time frame, or the pics were altered to make the hellish a little more heavenly. The view? Let's just say it was obstructed about 90% more than the pictures lead us to believe. It was not the end of the world, but the point is that the rental company conveyed a promise that was far from fulfilled - the net result, no future business, negative referrals, and a blog post. Will this impact them today, probably not, but over time it will erode the business. Need more evidence? Please reference Saturn, Sears, Kmart, etc.

Why do I use such a straight forward and simple example of this common strategic marketing failure? Because it is just that, straight forward and simple. It applies to more complex businesses. When advertising legend Lee Clow was asked, "What is the secret to great advertising?" his response was simply, "The truth."

Simple example #2. I just read where Chevrolet is now painting their two compact autos, the Sonic and the Spark, bright vibrant colors, going against the grain of traditional car colors. See the piece here Who cares? If you look at Chevrolet's track record, especially in the small car segment, you wonder if the bright paint is merely presented to distract the consumer away from other issues. Forbes magazine recently published an article presenting the realistic situation of another possible bankruptcy for General Motors. Why is that when both Ford and Chrysler seem to be on the upswing?

I have been a passenger in many Chevrolet products over the last 20 years and I can say with confidence that the rides have not been pleasant. In short, the cars I was in seemed poorly built and required repairs where other vehicles within the similar age/condition/mileage seemed to hold up with significantly less issues. Going back to the original point, focus on making a quality product that fulfills your commitment to the consumer and the paint will merely be an option, not integral to the campaign.

Chevy states in the piece that despite hesitation to paint cars pink, they have, and now one in every four Chevy Sparks sold in South Korea are pink. Great. If one in four Sparks are not reliable vehicles, is the color going to matter? Hopefully for Chevy, their cars outlast the impulse of buying a car simply because it is pink.


Brandswag Creative Minds said...

It is interesting to witnessing the shift that is happening now in communication. Customer experience and collaboration with brands is becoming even more important. 15 years ago... the rental company would have been able to keep business alive despite their lack of effort to continually improve the experience. Now, customers have the ability to own the experience and relate it back to their network. It is a powerful time and something that is changing our world daily... I love it.

Jacob Leffler presents.............. SHORT ATTENTION SPAN THEATRE said...

Thanks for the comment. I think 15 years ago the rental company would still have issues, they would just take a lot longer to surface. I agree with your comment on customers owning the experience, but it always has been that way. The difference now, is the customer can relay that experience to thousands of people in literally seconds, versus 15 years ago, telling their close friends one at a time.