Archive for the ‘Brand Engagement’ Category
Today, I have the honor of guest blogging over at Drew McLellan’s Marketing Minute. The post is titled “People Don’t Want A Drill…”
Here’s a sample…
“…people aren’t looking for that thing you are marketing; they’re looking for the best tool to get a job done. Unless your product is some sort of “collectible”, your customers are only buying your product because they believe it will help them achieve that objective. Product features and functions may change at an ever increasing rate, but the things that people want to accomplish in their lives don’t change that quickly. Brands that help customers accomplish their objectives more effectively and conveniently than their competition are the ones that will be successful.”
Check out the whole post here
Update: Here’s the complete text:
In his book “The Innovator’s Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth“, Clayton Christensen writes:
“How do you create products that customers want to buy–ones that become so successful they “disrupt” the market? It’s not easy.
Three in five new-product-development efforts are scuttled before they ever reach the market. Of the ones that do see the light of day, 40% never become profitable and simply disappear.
Most of these failures are predictable–and avoidable. Why? Because most managers trying to come up with new products don’t properly consider the circumstances in which customers find themselves when making purchasing decisions. Or as marketing expert Theodore Levitt once told his M.B.A. students at Harvard: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”"
Put another way, people aren’t looking for that thing you are marketing; they’re looking for the best tool to get a job done. Unless your product is some sort of “collectible”, your customers are only buying your product because they believe it will help them achieve that objective. Product features and functions may change at an ever increasing rate, but the things that people want to accomplish in their lives don’t change that quickly. Brands that help customers accomplish their objectives more effectively and conveniently than their competition are the ones that will be successful.
Given this, why do so many companies attempt to market their products and build their brands using an approach focused internally on the thing and not externally on the customer’s need? They conduct focus groups, assembling panels of customers to ask if adding this bell or that whistle to their thing would make it more appealing. They do extensive demographical analysis to determine those target customer segments that will find their thing appealing and then spend lots of resources convincing those customers to buy their new and improved thing. Sure, they get clear inputs on what customers want, but don’t typically take the time to understand what customers were trying to get done for themselves when they use the company’s thing. And this approach isn’t isolated to just manufacturers. It carries over to retailers who are focused on the products they are selling and not what the customer is passionate about or the “hole” they are trying to make.
Consumer Electronics retailers (my background) are particularly guilty of this. They are constantly telling customers that they have “all the great technology you want (or need) at prices you can afford“.
The fact is, very few people “want (or need) technology”. Customers don’t just wake up one morning and decide they need to go down to Circuit City to pick up some great new technology.
They DO want to have an incredible theater experience in their home. They DO want to capture and share family memories. They DO want to be able to print documents from any computer in their home.
How do the marketers respond to these needs? They dish out specs like 1080p, HDMI2.3, megapixels, and 801.11B, G or N. Whatever the latest spec is, that’s what you want. For the customer, none of this hype guarantees a great experience. Marketers who choose to promote their things this way will have a hard time building a powerful brand.
Marketers who understand what customers are really looking for will succeed by focusing on the experience enabled by their brand. Apple is, of course, the often-cited poster child for this. The iPod has never been the best in class from a technical standpoint, but the way Apple enables the music listening experience is what has put their brand miles ahead of the competition. In fact, the term “iPod” is often used generically in place of “MP3 player”. Customers looking for a portable media player will almost always think of Apple and iPod first.
“People rarely think of your actual brand first. They think about what they want. Then they decide who, specifically, can fulfill that desire. Being that “who” is the essence of Reverse Branding.”
Getting customers to drive your brand in this way is the holy grail of marketing. To get there, you first need to understand that it’s the hole they want, not the drill. Once you get that, focus your efforts on being the best damned hole maker in the business.
USAirways sent me an email message this week asking for my help. The message was titled “Show Your Support for Our China Service”. It seems that USAirways would like to offer a Philly to China flight, but needs the US Department of Transportation to award the route to them. The DOT is apparently influenced by public opinion so USAirways would like me to “Get Involved” by signing their petition. From the email:
We need your help! The DOT heavily considers public support when they award new service. Please take a minute to sign our petition — it’s quick and you can do it online. We have to submit these petitions by August 2 and every signature counts.
Why should I do this? What has USAirways done for me lately (ok , ever). In the message, they list four reasons why I should support them:
- With service to , we can grow internationally and offer you even more destinations
- We’d have a connecting flight from Charlotte to for more choices for the southeast U.S.
- We’re the only major U.S. airline without service to
- Today, there are no nonstop flights between and
Clearly, these reasons primarily benefit USAirways. They offer no other tangible incentives for me to support them. I’m sure there are rules prohibiting that sort of thing anyway.
This is the first time that USAirways has ever asked me to help them. Perhaps, if they had been engaging me as a customer, asking for my input on ways to provide better service, this request wouldn’t seem so self-serving, but they haven’t and it does. Perhaps USAirways should have taken the time to target this request to people who might find it valuable; perhaps people who have flown USAirways to other international destinations.
Email marketing is cheap, so companies might have a tendency to simply blast a message out to every address in their files. I don’t remember the last time I flew USAir and I have never used them for international travel, so why did they think I would be interested in helping them get the China service? Instead, my opinion of them went down just a little because they want my help without offering anything of value to me in return.
Did you get the e-mail? What do you think about this case?
I’ll be picking up my wife and daughter at the airport this evening. They wrapped up their marathon 9-day Disney vacation today and I’m sure they will have lots of stories to tell about all the things I missed. Some I’ve already heard about, like the characters in the latest Castle Court show have mouths and eyes that move. My daughter said it was “a little freaky”, but to me, adding animation to the typically static character costumes, makes them seem more expressive, more real, especially to the younger guests. People like to talk about their experiences, both good and bad. It’s the sharing of these experiences that can make or break a brand over time. If people tend to talk negatively about their experience with you, you better listen to what they are saying and respond accordingly. Disney Guests generally have very positive things to say and that reflects the fact that they are externally focused on the customer and their experience.
In this third and final note on my recent Disney experience is going to be a bit of a meandering catch-all, but hopefully you will like it. The first topic on the agenda is:
Make It Easy For Me
There is nothing relaxing about spending a week at Disney. You are on the go from the minute you wake up (early if you going to that character breakfast at another resort), to the minute you crash following Extra Magic Hours. Disney has been quite innovative at designing and implementing programs that make it easier for me to get the most out of my experience and gives Disney more opportunities to generate more revenue. I already mentioned the Magical Express program which, when it works well, makes it really easy to get to and from Orlando airport and saves me lots of cash. My 40 minutes on the bus each way also gives Disney the chance to market the cruise line or the vaction club to me (in an entertaining way, of course).
Disney’s Fastpass system is one of the best innovations I have ever seen in an themepark. If you aren’t familiar with , it is a system introduced in 1999, that allows guests to avoid long lines at Disney theme parks. At an attraction featuring FASTPASS, guests can use their park admission ticket to obtain a FASTPASS ticket (essentially a reservation) with a return time later that day (an hour-long window) printed on it. If the guest comes back to the attraction during the specified return times, the guest can wait in a special line called “FASTPASS Return” and be able to ride on the attraction with a much shorter wait time than normal queue. This is a “win-win” for both you and Disney. A guest standing in line is a guest not spending money in the giftshops or restaurants. By giving me a reservation. I can go do other things, which Disney hopes will involve spending money.
The third Make It Easy For Me innovation is called PhotoPass. If you’ve been to virtually any big theme park, you know about the gauntlet of park photographers that you have to get past to get into the park. Disney wasn’t any different until a couple of years ago, as described by Deb Wills on her excellent AllEarsNet website:
Prior to December 2004, Disney photographers were easy to spot and eager to take your photo as you entered the theme park. In fact, their eagerness and zeal could be found quite annoying after a while. I know that some folks really did like this photo opportunity, but to me, there was something about this process that just wasn’t “magical.” Once they took your photograph, you were given a paper card with a number on it. You were instructed to return to the Photo Center in a few hours for the viewing and purchase of your photo. At each location where you had a photo taken, you received yet another paper card. If you were like most people, and waited until the afternoon or, worse, closing time to get your mementos, you found yourself crowded into a small store with the anticipation of a long wait.
With Disney’s PhotoPass system a Disney photographer gives you a plastic PhotoPass card with a magnetic strip and an ID number on the back. Each time you see one of the roving photographers and want a photo taken, just go up and hand them your card — they’ll get you situated, snap the pose, scan your card and off you go. When you’re ready to view your pictures, you can either go to the Photo Center at the park or wait until you can get online at your resort or back home.
These guys are really good and will often get you in creative poses. While I enjoy taking my own pictures, we hardly ever get shots of the whole family. PhotoPass makes it easy to get great family pictures. The cost per print is a little high for me, but there is no obligation to buy any of them.
I should point out that Disney has been listening to their customers and has made several significant improvements to the program over the last 2 years including integrating the system into the several major attractions like TestTrack.
No Negative Surprises
We experienced two of these on this trip. First, we went to MGM Studios of Father’s Day because I am totally addicted to Rockin Rollercoaster. I have been known to ride it back to back for hours on a slow day. We came through security, ran our passes through the scanner and entered the park. Once we were inside there was a sign posted saying that Rockin Rollercoaster would be closed all day……. on Father’s Day……. when dads should be able to do what they want like ride Rockin Rollercoaster! I later found out why it was closed, but they really picked the wrong day for it. What’s worse is that they didn’t have the notice posted outside of the park. I’m sure there were people who used up a day on their pass only to be disappointed. The reason it was closed was that they were adding a single rider line. I came back the next day and was able to ride it 6 times in an hour – w00t.
Second, Disney notified us the night before we left that they would not be able to honor our reservations for the second half of the week at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Althought the reservations were made months ago, the construction of the new Vacation Club villas has closed parts of the resort. Disney offered to put us in villa accomodations in the Downtown Disney area, but having a kitchen is not the same experience as having giraffes outside your balcony. They eventually upgraded us to a better room at Animal Kingdom Lodge, but we didn’t have this resolved until the day we were supposed to move.
Be True To Your Brand
I was in the Magic Kingdom and had just watched a stage show at the castle. All of these shows follow a similar formula: The good guys vs. the bad guys with Mickey saving the day plus a princess or two thrown in for good measure. Like the show format, the musical style for these productions hasn’t changed much from what was typical when Disneyland opened in 1955. While there have been a number of attractions replaced or updated through the years, the feel is still the same. Disney has built some pretty intense attractions in the other Disney World parks, but not in the Magic Kingdom. Traditionally, the Disney brand begins to fall off for boys at about 9 or 10 years old and girls a bit older. This is a hole in Disney’s guest demographics that they would love to fill. I was Twittering pretty much through the trip and posed the question:
Would putting a hyper-coaster in the magic kingdom make it more attractive for teens or would it be inconsistent with the park’s brand?
I got a couple of responses with opinions on both sides, but in general, the feeling was that it would fundamentally change the park and that would not be a good thing (can you say “New Coke”). As Tim Siedell pointed out, “Universal caters to that age and crowd (thrill coasters) and the Magic Kingdom pounds them in attendance.”
So a couple of takaways from this final post on Disney World:
- Look for opportunities to make it easier for your customers to enjoy their experience. Don’t assume these will add costs to you operation. As Disney has shown, “Make It Easy” innovations can be win-wins.
- While Surprise and Delight is good, Negative Surprises are not. Be vigilant about identifying and addressing potential negative surprises before the customer encounters them and when they do happen, have alternatives and solutions ready that will meet or exceed the customers needs.
- Be careful about introducing changes that fundamentally change your brand. You may be able to attract some new customers, but you may also lose some of what makes your experience special in the first place.
As I mentioned in Part 1, Walt Disney World is a great case study for people passionate about customer experience design. I’d love to hear your thought on Disney World.
Disney’s parks and resorts have a well deserved reputation for delivering great experiences. In tonight’s installment, I’ll give you a few more examples from my recent trip and also examine some experiences that don’t measure up to the Disney standard.
Extend the Experience
I have written about Disney’s Magical Express before. This is the service that basically extends your Disney experience all the way back to your home airport. It’s absolutely great when it works, but on the inbound leg of this trip, it did not live up to the Disney standard. I think the problems can be traced back to the fact that Disney does not operate this service. It is outsourced to a local transportation company and therefore is not directly managed by Disney. It’s not unusual for companies to outsource parts of their operation, but they need to be very careful about ensuring that the service provider is consistently delivering an experience that lives up to your brand. My wife and I came in on different flights. English was apparently a second language for my driver and so he was silent for most of the trip. The buses have TV screens and on previous trips, there has been either a movie like Snow White or a video marketing the Disney Vacation Club. On this trip, there was nothing. It was just a bus ride.
My wife and daughter arrived around 3:00pm. While their trip seemed to measure up to the Disney Experience, trouble was just around the corner. Knowing that their luggage was tagged and would be delivered to the room, we went to the Magic Kingdom for the evening. When we returned to the room at 1:00am, we discovered that our daughter’s suitcase was missing. With her in tears, we called the Magical Express people who were able to locate the bag at the airport in about 5 minutes. They brought it to the room around 3:00am.
There are controls built into this system that should have prevented this from happening. The bag had the Magical Express tag on it indicating who it belonged to and what resort we were staying at. It should not have taken a phone call for them to recognize and resolve the problem. Disney needs to do a much better job of ensuring that their service providers are consistently delivering an experience worthy of the Disney brand. On the positive side, my return trip to the airport was wonderful. The driver was one of the better entertainers that I had seen all week. Oh, and about the lack of movies on the inbound trip, the driver explained that it was a brand new bus (styled for the Disney Cruise Line), and the video gear had not been installed yet. Setting expectations is a good thing!
Let Me Co-Create the Experience
In recent years, Disney has incorporated more and more interactivity into their attractions. EPCOT’s Mission Space, for example, assigns roles and tasks to each of the riders on “the mission”. The Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters ride in Disneyland allows you to not only rack up the points when you’re riding it in person, but also to participate through an online component. The Turtle Talk with Crush attraction uses digital puppetry to create a verbally and visually interactive animated character. A new attraction in Orlando’s Tomorrowland is Monsters, Inc Laugh Floor Comedy Club. Like TurtleTalk but on a much larger scale, the Laugh Floor features interactive animated characters, but in this attraction, Disney has gone one step further by integrating the use of cell phone text messages into the attraction. While you wait in line for the next show, you are asked to send text messages from your cell phone to the monsters, offering your jokes for the monsters to tell. I saw lots of people, mostly kids, texting jokes while waiting for the show. We did it; they used our joke and gave credit to our daughter. What’s really different here is the use of an independent, guest-owned electronic input device to influence the content of an attraction.
I’ll post the rest of my observations tomorrow, but in the meantime, think about how these points might apply to your business. If you are in the business of delivering experiences (hint… you are!), what are you doing to extend the brand experience beyond the boundaries of your physical or digital space. If you are using partners to deliver some of you brand’s experience, are they executing consistently and at a level that your customers expect? Are you engaging your customers by allowing them to help you co-create the experience? You should be.
Part 3 of this series is here.
I’ve been computer-free for the last week spending time with the family at Walt Disney World, hence the absence of new posts. I was Twittering throughout the trip, much to the dismay of my wife and daughter, and even raised the ire of our waitress at the Prime Time Cafe (more on that later). You can go to my Twitter page (see link in the sidebar) if you want to relive my vacation tweet by tweet.
Disney is one of the world’s greatest marketers and their parks and resorts make great case studies in a number of areas including engagement and customer experience design, marketing and new media. Over the next couple of days, I’m going to discuss some of my recent experiences, both good and bad.
Surprise & Delight
Every year, Disney selects a theme and aligns all of their park and resort operations around it. This year, is”The Year of A Million Dreams” and to help “make your dreams come true”, Disney is having their cast members randomly give out over a million “dreams” including chances to spend the night in Cinderella’s castle, “Dream Fastpass” badges which gives you unlimited access to all major attractions bypassing the waiting line and a Grand Marshall Tour of Disney parks around the world.
There are no contests to enter, or disclosing of contact information. Someone just walks up to you and makes you a winner. You just need to be in the right place at the right time and even the cast members don’t know the when, where or what of the giveaway until just before it happens. I met several people who were given dream Fastpass badges and they were ecstatic about it. The really enjoyed telling their stories to anyone who would listen. And consider how much fun it is for the cast members to be able to execute the giveaways. That has to help with cast member engagement. Surprising & Delighting your customers is an important ingredient in the creating great experiences that your customers will tell others about.
Make Individuals Feel Special
Speaking of engagement, Disney cast members are almost universally programmed to react to badges that special guests wear, My daughter had her 13th birthday while we were there and so we went to the City hall in the Magic Kingdom to get a birthday badge. From that moment on, virtually every cast member that we encountered made it a point to wish her a happy birthday. Every table service restaurant that we went to, brought out a birthday cupcake without us having to ask. Of course, my daughter loved the attention so much that she continued to wear the badge long after her birthday. This is a great example of how to make a customer feel special without having to spend a lot of financial capital.
Reward Me For My Patronage
At Disney, different levels of commitment come with different perks. For example, purchasing an annual pass (which is roughly the cost of 8 days in the parks), gets you some serious discounts on Disney Resort hotels. Staying at Disney resort hotels comes with their own set of rewards, not the least of which is convenience. A couple of years ago, Disney started offering Extra Magic Hours at the parks for guests staying at Disney hotels. The program gets you into the parks an hour earlier and allows you to stay up to 2 hours after closing. Disney gets 3 additional hours of access to your wallet and you get a couple of extra rides on your favorite attraction. To the uninitiated, this is a pretty good reason to stay on Disney property. If you are a regular guest like I am, you know the real secret is to stay away from the park that has early entry because that’s where the crowds are going to be. With this program, Disney rewards their Resort guests with a tangible benefit.
Tomorrow, I’ll get into some other topics like how Disney is involving the customer in co-creating the experience. In the meantime, think about the experiences you create for your customers. Do you Surprise & Delight? Do you make your customers feel special? Do you reward them for their patronage? If you do, great. If you don’t, perhaps you should take a trip to Disney World and learn a few lessons from Walt and Mickey.
Part 2 of this series is here.
An article published today in Advertising Age really resonated with me. It makes the case that the maturing marketplace, combined with the hyper-connected, in-control consumer “has created a seismic shift from one-size-fits-all mass markets to millions of markets of self interest.” That assessment carries huge implications for retailers who are trying to move product that was once a specialty, but is now a commodity. Strategy consultants Booz Allen Hamilton explain it this way:
As every market matures, choice increases. Then competition drives up quality and convenience to the point at which offerings become commoditized. The only businesses that then thrive are those that move beyond “me-too” or incremental offerings to marketing more-relevant and more-differentiated products and services. The only way to accomplish this is to focus on a narrower target.
Technology & The Long Tail
Technology has played a major role in facilitating this shift. Marketers are now able to micro-target specific groups, engage customers with more frequency and intimacy, and customize to consumer specs. Moreover, technology has enabled consumers with the tools to seek out suppliers that offer just the thing they want.
Think about it. If you are a retailer focused on selling lots of stuff to lots of very different people, you are probably fighting a loosing war of diminishing margins, market share and profitability. On the other hand, brands that have figured out how to excel at attracting and keeping loyal a narrowly focused niche will probably continue to do well. And why is that? Once you, the customer, has experienced having your ever-increasing levels of self-interests met by a niche provider, you have a hard time going back. For example, why would I continue to go back to a retailer for accessories that I know from previous experience, they probably will not have (not even on their website).
As even a senior Wal-Mart official recently said, “no customer today will stand to be treated as part of a mass market anymore.”
This is a major disruption and marketers who fail to respond to it quickly will suffer. According to Advertising Age, the value propositions of those who ignore niche marketing…
“…will be less relevant than those of competitors. For those slow to adopt niche marketing, the future also is bleak. Attempts to recoup share will be difficult because competitors will have preemptively established closer customer relationships.’
A number of brands and marketers have embraced niche marketing. Names like Target, Crocs, Red Bull and American Girl. The all have the same objectives as any other marketer, but they have sensed the disruption and have responded by finding a new way of going to market.
Narrow, not Small
The other thing that has changed is what niche marketing really means in today’s environment. It’s still “the targeting of a more narrowly defined customer group seeking a distinctive mix of benefits”, but niche markets are not the “marginal opportunity” that they were once viewed to be. Today, niches are viewed much more positively.
In today’s marketplace, niches are flourishing. Some niche brands are generating hundreds of millions in sales. Sometimes, narrow niches, fueled by mavens and connectors, become the next big, disruptive thing. The big point of the article is that niches should not be equated with small. Instead, think of narrow. Then target very specific groups who will relate to and find differentiation in your offering. At this point, you are no longer a commodity and you can increase your margins by charging a premium. Do this over and over with different products and services, and you can generate volume and growth that makes up for your narrow targets.
Smaller targets, larger focus
Ten years ago, the medium was still the message. Eight years ago, we could still think of the 4P’s — product, pricing, place, promotion — as essentially independent strategies. Five years ago, everyone started to buzz about customer-relationship marketing. About two years ago, we got really excited about digital-marketing tactics and started to apply them without any real strategic purpose. All this has changed.
So what’s really new about the new niche marketing? It’s realizing that while our targets have to narrow, our definition of marketing communications has to broaden. Today, everything communicates what a brand stands for, all the time.
It’s like the old saying: If you are on the wrong train to begin with, every stop along the way is the wrong stop.
The article closes with 10 principle to harness the power of niche marketing:
- Position your brand as narrowly as is economically possible.
- Become the specialist that anticipates the needs of your target.
- Rapidly work with the target niche to co-innovate.
- Set as your goal such consumer centricity that the target niche will want to co-brand their identity with yours.
- Live by a higher standard of ethics.
- Embrace a business model and metrics that grow the most valuable assets of the new niched economy.
- Reap first-mover advantage by learning how to identify a niche of opportunity.
- Re-imagine your role as that of entrepreneurial founder of a special interest group.
- Forget push marketing; excel at pull marketing.
- Realize your brand is now “media” competing against all other media
What do you think? Does this make sense to you ? Can you think of companies that could immediately benefit from leveraging niche marketing?
(Source: Advertising Age)
A few weeks ago, there was considerable buzz about the Delta Airlines Twitter page. There were initial hopes that Delta might actually be behind it. In the end, it appeared to have been a Delta employee, but whether he/she was acting alone or for the company is not known. The page has been quiet for 2 weeks so one can assume that the experiment is over. That said, It looks like Delta is trying some new ways of connecting with their customers and adding value to the travel experience.
Today, I was invited to check out their new microsite: Siteseer Travelcast. It contains short video travelcasts of featured destinations presented by delta employees. Think about the air travel experience. It’s generally unpleasant. You do it for the destination. When you are traveling to an unfamiliar place, its great to get suggestions from people who have been there on what to do, where to eat, etc. Does Delta have untapped assets that they could use to provide this guidance to their customers? You bet they do! Flight attendants, pilots, ground crew live in most of Delta’s featured destinations and know the landscape. Now I am not naive enough to believe that there isn’t some “paid for” placement of advertising for the shops and restaurants presented in some of these videos. Nevertheless, I’m getting some really useful information presented with a human face, and that helps me to engage with the brand.
Siteseer is only one element of Delta’s new customer focused approach. On their website is a link to another microsite that discusses all of the innovations they are currently testing. Things like zoned seating, language lessons, RFID baggage tags, restaurant buzzers, etc. It also has a place for you to leave your ideas or travel tips and the plan is for the site to evolve into a truly collaborative forum:
Delta.com/change represents a whole new way for Delta to connect with the global community and, ultimately, redefine the travel experience. Out of the gate, this site will serve as an informative tool, tracking all the exciting changes going on with us and showcasing travel tips and ideas from people like you.
Very soon, though, it will evolve into something truly collaborative—truly revolutionary.
We envision a forum for open, honest dialogue between airline and air traveler. A place where your ideas may very well influence how we operate in the future. And a stockpile of user-generated tips that will make travel more enjoyable and sane for us all.
All of this is really good stuff and I applaud Delta on the steps they are taking. From a Sense & Respond standpoint, they are really reaching out to Sense what their customers want them to be. The challenge will be for them to consistently deliver all of these great new innovations while at the same time, getting the basics right. I have not flown on Delta in over a year. Perhaps you have. Have you noticed a difference in Delta?
Its been a while since I wrote critically of Sony, but a piece by Randall Stross in this weekend’s NY Times reminded me of a similar exercise that I did a few months back with Samsung and Nokia. In his article, Stross compares experiences at both Apple and Sony’s Style stores and points out some of the reasons why Apple is so wildly successful and Sony is not. Here are Stross’s key points with my commentary:
People vs Product: Everyone knows the Apple story. Over half of the store’s staff is dedicated to post-sale service; Free, one-on-one consultation, with “Geniuses”. This recognizes that your engagement with a brand is only starting at point of sale. The real engagement is made or lost as you use the product. Apple makes sure that you are going to get the most out of it. As a side note, they also get the concept of Marketing as Storytelling as demonstrated by “The Geniuses”. Sony, on the other hand, is all about the thing itself. They have a much broader product line of electronics, which could give them an advantage over Apple if they focused on the value those things can bring to your life, but instead, the engagement exercise is all focused on the pre-sale marketing of the stuff.
Function vs Fashion: According to Dennis Syracuse, senior vice president for Sony Retail, the Sony Style stores are intended to be a “fashion boutique for women and children” that incidentally happens to carry electronics instead of clothing. Wow, that seems a bit shallow. How successful are you going to be targeting women who only want that red notebook because it coordinates so well with their outfit?
Engaged vs Disengaged: Stross describes the experience of walking past a number of Sony employees who were ”so engaged in a private, and apparently amusing, discussion that <his> imploring presence failed to draw anyone’s attention.” He speculates that they have become so used to inactivity in the store that had “become accustomed to busying themselves with their own entertainments.” At a nearby Apple store, the employees were always alert and attentive, despite being very busy. I’ve been in a lot of Apple stores and this just seems to be part of the culture. For Apple, some of this has to be due to the enthusiasm of the owners to the products themselves. Engagement can be a circular thing. Engaged customers tend to make employees more engaged and visa-versa. Regardless of the source, the engagement is real and is a huge differentiator.
Stross closes the article suggesting that perhaps a key differentiator IS having some amazing piece of hardware (running Windows) which will bring in the people. Once they are in the store, they might see the other products in a different light. This is where I think Stross misses the point. Sure Apple has great products that people are passionate about, but it’s not because of their technical specifications, its the experience delivered by the product, the store and the employee.
What do you think? If you are a retailer, do you get it?