Today, like yesterday, I’ve been inspired by Mark Simms, Editor of Industrial Technology magazine. I was his predecessor there, and I think he’s just passed my ten years in the hot seat, so we’ve seen a lot of changes between us.
Mark reckons that the immediacy and effectiveness of modern product advertising, coupled with a decline in brand advertising, could be detrimental to the quality of product design. If a component which will just “do the job” can be sourced quickly and cheaply, without any real advice from a knowledgeable supplier, he argues that buyers will find themselves with no more resources than are needed to do just that. What’s more, with no brand marketing, they will feel less inclined to stick with the same manufacturer in the future (if they can even remember who it was). The cycle will be ever cheaper, less fit-for-purpose components, and poorer end products.
It’s an intriguing argument. However, I think that it assumes that branding through advertising plays a larger part in customer loyalty than it does nowadays. What the irritatingly flippantly-named “social media” offers manufacturers is the opportunity to engage more closely than ever with their existing customers, and create levels of brand loyalty which advertising and sponsorship has never been able to manage. Of course I’d say this, because one of the things I do is to set up email newsletters, blogs and Twitter feeds for companies like yours. But these allow you to create real user communities for less than the cost of wasteful branding advertising, and reach far more customers than corporate golf days ever could.
Many companies I’ve done business with now ensure brilliantly that I never “get away”, but in acceptable ways that make me want to do more business with them. I’m sure you can think of a few who’ve kept you on board you in the same way, such as banks, car dealerships and utilities companies. Is your engagement with your customers moving on to the next level?