Friday, January 28, 2011

The burden of expectations

Customer satisfaction is a pretty easy equation, when your performance exceeds expectations, your customer is satisfied.

So why are companies so bad at this?

Well, what seems like a simple equation actually isn't because expectations are the property of each individual customer and they change based on conditions. So what you did yesterday to make a customer happy may not be acceptable to a different customer today.

A case in point, my trip to New York yesterday.

With 15 inches of new snow on the ground from an overnight storm, I half expected not to make it to the East coast at the start of the day. But checking the airlines and other flight tracking websites showed that the first leg of my journey from Milwaukee to Detroit was leaving on time, so off to the airport we went.

Even with the snow in Milwaukee we were there early enough to check our bags, negotiate security and make a quick stop for a bagel and a bloody Mary at the Sky Club before having to head to the gate for our indicated on-time departure.

And that's where the trouble began. My expectation was that there would be no trouble getting from Milwaukee to Detroit. There were only a couple of inches of snow in the area and none in Motown. The airline did nothing to communicate there would be a delay. Even the sign at the gate indicated an on-time departure, yet there was no plane at the gate 20 minutes before our flight was scheduled to take off so it was pretty clear that wasn't going to happen.

Delta was not forthcoming with information about what the problem was, when the plane might arrive or when we would be on our way, so we all had to sit in the gate area and wait.

They had the opportunity to reset expectations for us, but didn't. Thus passengers became more anxious as the delay extended. Ultimately when we did leave, I wasn't happy, but I wasn't cursing the airline either because I still had time to make my connection. The person across the aisle from me was apoplectic because he would miss his. I'm guessing he was less satisfied with the experience than I was.

Our different situations created different levels of satisfaction even though we used the exact same product.

Could Delta have satisfied everyone even with the delay and missed connections? Maybe not. But by not lying to us about the "on time" departure and offering continuous updates about the situation, by managing expectations, they would have gone a long way to making the experience more acceptable for everyone.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

This is your fight, not ours

As anyone who knows me or reads this blog knows, I'm a sports fan. And an NFL nut. If there's a game on. I'm watching. So I was interested when I read that the NFL Players Association produced a spot to gain fan sympathies as we move closer to the negotiations of their new collective bargaining agreement.

Let us play? How about you, your leaders and your negotiators stop talking to us and start meeting with the NFL owners. Fighting this out in the media will only have a negative effect on your image. I know the issues are big: NFL alumni healthcare, an 18 game season, a rookie salary cap, etc. But most people aren't going to look that deep. They see it as millionaires arguing with billionaires fighting for a larger slice of very, very big pie.

Stop wasting your money and our time.

We can't help you get this deal done. Our signatures on your petition are meaningless. The only thing that matters is if you and the owners sit down, hammer out a compromise and don't utter another word to us or the media until its done.

We don't care about your contracts. We care about the game.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It's 1950 all over again

I've talked about the importance of brand consistency in the blog, but this is ridiculous. Kraft, mom's friend in the kitchen since 1903, seems to be recycling ideas from a bygone era.

Dad as idiot? I though we moved past this genre of advertising a long time ago.

And no, attempting to modernize the 'idea' by employing the mouthy, know-it-all kid as commentator technique that seems to be all the rage in advertising today, does not make it fresh.

Then again, why should I expect fresh advertising for a product that's anything but?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Maybe it really is Taco Hell

I shouldn't be surprised to find out that there's even less beef in that soft beef taco than I thought.

According to a lawsuit filed in Alabama, the actual ingredients in Taco Bell's "Taco Meat Filling" include just 36% beef. The rest is things like soy lecithin, autolized yeast extract, cocoa powder, silicon dioxide and  potassium phosphate.

Now at 99 cents, I never expected that beef in my Taco Bell beef taco to be of high quality, but I did expect it to be mostly beef with some seasoning, not the other way around.

I'm not saying that a beef taco from Taco Bell is bad for you, or that it doesn't taste good. Clearly those things are engineered to be freaking irresistible (especially at midnight after you've had a few adult beverages). But if they aren't made mostly from beef, you can't call them that according to the USDA.

So by value engineering the meat in their tacos, Taco Bell has a PR nightmare on their hands – I can only imagine what Conan, Jay and Dave are going to do with this information – and the potential for a severely compromised brand.

The number one rule in marketing: The truth comes first.

Monday, January 24, 2011

This is wrong on so many levels

How can one ad be so bad?

From the strategy to the copy to the art direction, right through to the call to action, there's not one good thing I can say about this ad. Was the CD on vacation? The ad manager out to lunch? Or did someone actually think this was good?

The headline, while blatantly obvious, also speaks to a product benefit that's got to be at least fourth of fifth on the ladder (and not one I'd care to spend any time thinking about). 

The main visual, our confident heroine, appears to be delivering the message as the headlines are in quotes. But who is she, and why should I believe anything she has to say is important?

Which brings me to the QR code. Why would I waist my time and precious data minutes to "hear what Victoria (if that is her real name) has to say" about anything, much less toilet paper.

Reading the copy doesn't make it any better.

Okay, so it's 50% stronger. Than what? It used to be? Its leading competitor? The late great Jack Lalanne?

And of course there's a guarantee, where I have to send in the UPC code from the package, my receipt and then wait for 6 to 8 weeks to get my two bucks back. There's an incentive. 

And finally, the request to join them on Facebook. Really? Why in the name of all that's good and right with this world would I want to be a fan of toilet paper? Social media isn't something you do just because it's there. You have to have a reason. And I can't think of one good reason I'd like all my friends to know that I'm a fan of a particular brand of toilet paper.

It's this kind of insipid, tone deaf, irrelevant advertising that makes people hate our business. Whoever is responsible for perpetrating this act of communications abuse on its readers should have their license to practice advertising revoked for a long, long time.