blog: archives

Selling Integrity to Truth-starved Customers

My log-cabin beach vacation, cooking with charcoal, without TV, cell phone or laptop, using my own paddling power for water sports has given me a reaction to returning to life as I usually know it. But here goes:

Q. How do customers evaluate marketing hype?

A.
Perceived Customer Value = √ Brand Value Proposition (√ is the square root of)
Actual Customer Value = Retail Price LESS 40%

It is an automatic filter. We need the hype to penetrate any sense of value and we need the discount to feel it was worth paying for it.

Q. What is the reason that most customers don’t read either the blurb or the small print?

A.
Because they make a choice to believe in the realm of mythical marketing. Tolerance for myth and brand legend has been drummed into consumers through mass media hypnosis (a.k.a. hype-nosis?)

Q. Aren’t money-back, satisfaction guaranteed programs assurances that the customer will be satisfied?

A.
It’s a compromise, not a lure. Money-back warranties go hand-in-hand with unbeatable, lowest price promises. In contradistinction to the belief that it means the customer will love the product, the program only really gives you the choice to pay less instead of more for something better. It works because most customers are willing to lower their satisfaction in tolerance to the price. It is also provides a mechanism for the manufacturer to back out of customer revolt with impunity.

Throwaway Society
We have become a throwaway society because we have been lured by marketing hype into buying cheap, not-as-good-as and ‘only-the-latest’, letting hype fill the vacuum between availability and durability. This has destroyed our domestic manufacturing sector, since only the lowest-paid employees can build the cheapest products. And nobody wants to be the lowest-paid employee. We have put our blinkers on because the illusion of achievement is more appetizing than the reality. Latter-day historians who recall the feel-good 50s and the number of advertising icons that it spawned, should be able to measure the decline over the past 60 years in the value of substance over image by the rate of product refresh in almost every category of consumerism. If it isn’t new it isn’t wanted. And we now live in a world where the hype is not the mirror of society – rather society that has become the mirror of the hype.

Yet even as we ram our blinkers on to hide the obvious flaws, there is a hidden consciousness that we know what we are compromising and we grit our teeth wishing that we could get better value for less hype. This is evident in the increase in stress and depression and the disappointing failure of consumerism to provide true-life satisfaction. It is even more evident in the importance of self-image and self-esteem in the human psyche and its disastrous consequences in the teen community when hyped-up expectations are not achieved.

Where is integrity to be found?
Do the purveyors of myth still hold all the cards? Where is integrity to be found? Can marketers be scrupulously honest, deliver real value and retain customers through a cost of ownership that saves money over time, reduces waste through extended product lifecycle and builds a longstanding relationship between the customer and the provider? Are customers now even ready for integrity? Politicians, economists, marketers and advertisers might quote the immortal line: “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!” Who wants to know that the unbeatable-value product’s true cost of materials is 10% of the sale price, or that the brand name sneaker doesn’t cost three times as much to manufacture. We have enough trouble absorbing the reality that a Canadian car cost 20% more than the US for no reason, or that the price of oil is not really set at the value of the supply, refining and distribution cost. Our flock mentality is a soothing anesthetic that keeps us grazing in the direction the shepherd is pointing – just so long as we can keep the wolves at bay we are happy to ruminate.

But there is a new movement in consumer behavior that is starting to redefine how marketers react to the voice of the customer. Twitter, the blogsphere, online consumer reviews, and the greater information research base available to consumers through the Internet provide customers with more knowledge power to make more guided choices. Social networks and the democratization of information have started to fragment traditional media. Marketers can see the effect of their mythical mishaps in real-time.

Life as we know it has not yet completely changed, but there is a backlash that is starting to form around the ‘customer as the centre of the universe’. It will take some time in gestation for the mass marketing industry to stop trying to leverage new media tools in order to regurgitate the same product solutions. The real Nirvana of customer-centric marketing will be when marketers start to align their product and service development roadmaps around distinct online communities that aggregate common values from disparate parts of the commercial and consumer universe.

How do you prepare your customer market to be resilient in the face of change? By selling integrity, making hype relevant, by identifying with and responding to customer communities as distinct market segments; by personalizing your message and values to the audience segment, which means rethinking your product deliverables and distribution mechanisms; by investing in your customers before you invest in your products; by delivering on your marketing promise or accepting failure as the result.

Integrity is not something you can manufacture on a large scale. It is something that is built, brick-by-brick, within communities and localities that has to stand the test of endurance, in relationship, satisfaction and repeated experience.

Are your customers ready?
Are your customers ready for integrity? Are you ready to put your customer’s claims ahead of your own? It is a new vista for marketing that triangulates customer expectations with affordable value and professional conduct. It is communicated through relevant networks and communications grids that the customer defines. And it requires a closer ear to the ground and more sensitive market intelligence than quantitative methodologies.

I don’t think of it as evangelism. I have the good fortune to apply real, effective and successful marketing campaigns selling integrity to truth-starved customers It is one of the most refreshing aspects of my profession to present truth as an alternative to myth and enable businesses to build successfully on their deliverables.

If you want to find the right route to your customer, build relationships and generate demand in a new era of customer-centric media than you need to re-engineer your hype and start selling integrity to a truth-starved marketplace.

 

 

Written By |Marketing Strategy|Comments Off on Selling Integrity to Truth-starved Customers

Jon Sherrington

Owner, Strategist, Writer – Hydrogen Creative Inc.

May 1996 – Present

My role is to provide strategic marketing guidance to clients to ensure their objectives are attainable, remain in focus and the communications solutions work.

My expertise is in how to realign goals-oriented brands, products, services or businesses to customer values to build loyalty, frequency and continuity.