Thursday, March 11, 2010

What does a customer want?

Brands are continuously trying to augment their relations with customers. But is it wise to invest in the front end of the business or on product modernization that will keep customers happy in the long run? What is the hush-hush recipe for any company or brand to retain its customers for life? Is it innovative product? Amazing services standards or engaging customer loyalty program? Unmatched store experience or store design of international standards? These are few million dollar questions that are faced by most of the CEOs today.

Today the customers have multiplicity of choices even in the same product / services category. As customers’ aspirations keeps on changing, his / her spends across various categories keep on shifting. When we talk about spending money on entertainment, there are plethora of options- TV to watching movies in a multiplex, to watching cricket matches or even hockey matches, as it is promoted off late, to seeing a musical program or a drama or many more. Each of these are mutually exclusive and cannot be consumed simultaneously and hence fight for the same wallet share. Also we should not forget the fact that, consumers are always hard pressed for time- either travelling for work or for leisure or spending quality time at home. In such a scenario, consumer’s make a choice by using their heads and hearts—the former helps them towards making a rational choice while the emotional appeal connects them to the heart. Whether it is a cute character called ZooZoo or a star brand called SRK / Sachin Tendulkar / Big B.

Besides, this is the age to flaunt. Many marketers believe that a larger than life marketing launch will pave way for brand’s success. They assume that breakthrough clutter free advertising, big stars as ambassadors or even owning media vehicles will lead to enhancing a brand’s connect with their customer. Many leading Indian companies have taken this trend seriously and have been spending big bucks on the touch points of the customers.

Since last 2-3 years, film marketing has taken a new edge. Several contests, events, appearance on the reality shows combined with tittle-tattle about the leading pair (KITES.. Hrithik Roshan -Barbara) or even trade in tie-ups have been able to create a pre-launch excitement about the film. Corresponding to this, technical aspect of film making has improved with bigger budgets, striking locations, better quality prints and sophisticated multiplexes. However, much efforts goes down the drain, if the core product is an average one. In spite of all the media glitz and hype some films vanish. (Chandni Chowk; Blue or even MNIK). We may contrast this with the success of IPL which is now a $4 bn franchise only in its 3rd year. The mishmash of film star power, international cricket star power, the backing of top brass of cricketing authorities, cheer leading ladies, the sponsors big advertising spends would have fallen flat if the games would have been trite and colourless. The triumph of the low – profile Deccan Chargers or Royal Challengers proved once again that at the end of the day, talent and cricketing prowess counts for winning a game rather than a star power.

Marketing fireworks is like Sone pe Suhaga…it cannot breathe life into dead product.. The key for connecting to the customers’ heart & head is the great product / service. Great products brings in large number of customers again and again, bringing in high profits. Winning businesses require such players to fuel their continuous growth making them successful and connect with the customers through a blend of great touch points and superiors products and collaborate with customers all the time.

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