Are you solving customer problems or just getting emotional

It is amazing just how different the business environment feels just two months later and yet how similar are the big issues that we are facing and need to deal with in order to get more growth.

I have been struck on several occasions this week by how often marketers explanations of a brands success or failure does not discuss whether the business is really helping to solve customer problems and does not consider the real motivations that cause people to want to buy products and then how they go on to choose your brand.

Instead debate shifts to other subjects like how well the brand engages emotionally with their customers or consumers. For example Google success is analysed by Mark Ritson in Marketing this week (10th Sept page 21)and he makes many good points about how they have been successful, but never goes on to discuss how Google’s dominance could be driven by the functional experience delivered to customers.   

Google have always delivered on the Power Attribute of "help me find what I am looking for". Their search engine strives to do a better job for customers than the others. They apply this principle not just to search results but also to the display of paid for advertising. If you have tried using their pay per click advertising, you will know that you cannot buy your way to the top of their list. They do not allow advertisers to be at the top of the page just by paying more money for the ad. The pay for click ads at the top of the list are the best available ads that deliver the best answers to search queries. In contrast Yahoo, Microsoft and Overture all have allowed advertisers to buy their way to the top of the list. Advertisers and search engine optimisers often appear on the press and on web forums debating the fairness or wisdom of Google’s policies for advertisers and for producing search results. Their analysis often assumes Google wish to maximise short term revenues rather than enhance the user experience. But really advertisers wish to manipulate the system to their advantage. Despite the fact that advertisers are the paying client, Google resist this.  What Google seem to keep remembering is that consumers of the search engine are who they must please the most.

Mark Ritson also mentions that Marketing students in the 80’s learned their brand management from Coke, whereas Apple taught the key branding lessons in the 90’s and Google provides the best branding lesson of the noughties. At Differentiate we would agree with this but with a different analysis

  • Coke taught us about Availability, Acceptability and Affordability
  • Apple taught us about design led product innovation
  • What Google are teaching us is about the value of being a truly customer led business that never loses sight of its mission to deliver the best customer experience.

So in amongst the doom and gloom that is being talked about, have your priorities changed? I am sure they have, but when your advisers tell you that you need to do more emotional engagement, check on the basics first. Remember if you are not solving your customers problems better than your competitors, your experience of the economic downturn will be much worse than that of our competitors. Find out if you are delivering on the Power Attributes, if you do this you will have an easier ride.

Start with the insight that people only buy things when the product or service helps them solve a problem that they have. The product most likely to be chosen is the one that does this the best. Emotional engagement or appeal may well draw customers to choose one brand over another when there is little difference between the choices, but it cannot persuade people to repeatedly buy things that do not offer good solutions to the issue. Emotional engagement tends to be stronger with brands and products that do the best job. It is hard to have a strong emotional engagement with someone who does not help you in some way.