Customer Experience Beats Advertising Every Time

Dad and his two sons couldn’t stand it anymore. Out of the house and into the car they went, off to one of the world’s most famous hamburger happy places. Once up to the menu speaker, the boys blared out their requests. The world seemed like a better place as Dad drove up to the drive-through window.

What happened next, though, was unexpected. A huge rat darted onto the driveway, its steely eyes glaring into the headlights. Still, even one of America’s most beloved brands deserves a break, the startled father thought. He told the assistant night manager what had happened. “Yeah, I know,” came his reply. “Customers tell me all the time. But by the time I come out, it’s gone.”

Company should know better

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Meanwhile, the family, their appetites pretty much gone, sat squirming in the car waiting for their order. Dad, knowing a little about marketing, spent his time thinking how ironic it was that this fast-food giant had recently held an agency review for its huge advertising account. How “creative” could any advertising agency be to change the impression made that night? More importantly, he reasoned, was one of the foremost marketers in the world even focusing on the right thing?

This baby-boomer family, and millions like it, had not grown up going to fast food restaurants like this one, with its unkempt grounds and roaming rodents. This company, above all, should know better, since it is sandwiched among a hungry assortment of head-on competitors that are taking more than bite-size morsels out of its super-sized market share.

Can you grow a company when you don’t put your customers first? The company has also saturated the marketplace with new store locations, squeezing profits from individual units and franchisees’ pocketbooks. This is no way to please b-to-b customers – the real customers – who annually give the company a big bite of their revenue.

Advertising alone is not nearly enough

The company’s founder, now deceased, once said, “We are not in the restaurant business, we’re in show business!” There has never been a more brilliant strategy, nor one better executed. Now, however, it seems to have been tossed aside like a bag of day-old french fries. What is this company’s purpose now? Does everybody inside know it and work to make it true?

Companies across the U.S. spent nearly $200 billion last year advertising products and services, yet so many complain that they never get their money’s worth. They must accept the fact, along with advertising agencies, that advertising, in and of itself, cannot increase revenue until the company focuses on giving consumers what they want and need to buy and buy again.

The notion that advertising alone “sells” in a marketing vacuum remains an expensive fallacy for U.S. business. Advertisers, paradoxically, waste billions of dollars in advertising every year, even though the problem is not necessarily with the advertising. Often it is with poor product quality, inflated pricing, poor customer service or too few salespeople – or not understanding that sometimes the real customer is not the end user, but the retailer, franchisee, distributor or agent.

This is crucial for companies to recognize. Otherwise, an occasional dark and stormy night can quickly turn into El Nino.

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