“So, why marketing?” Friends, family and new acquaintances frequently ask me this question, trying to understand my decision to go back to school. I can tell by their nervous looks that in their experience, marketeers have been solely responsible for pushy advertising, junk mail and general interruptions to their lives.
What I find fascinating though is that as much as we protest that advertising has little effect on our purchase decisions, you can ask just about any skeptic about the car they drive, or if they use a Mac or PC, and they will undoubtedly have an opinion on the brands that define them. Often a very strong opinion. And this I credit to organisations who have invested consistently in reinforcing their brand values – not necessarily through extensive awareness campaigns, but in they way they treat their customers.
The organisations that I feel the strongest about, are those which offer a product which is tailored to my needs, and ultimately makes my life easier. Uber, Dropbox, Netflix, LinkedIn and Amazon are all services that empower me or my business, and I’m happy to pay a premium to be their customer.
None of these organisations ever sent me an email, or coerced me into signing-up (at least not as a prospective customer – their retention marketing is another story). In all cases, it was a friend or colleague that recommended their services. Rather than push marketing, these websites were there when I needed them, provided a delightful user experience, and before I knew it my credit card details were flying out of my fingertips. And I’ve never looked back.
What this means for their brands, is that I in turn become an enthusiastic ambassador. I feel part of the company’s journey and am invested in their success, and I want my friends to benefit from this too. Brand loyalty is on my terms and I’m likely to stay with them through thick and thin.
My friend Casey Lau, once tweeted that people in San Francisco would rather use Uber than wait for an ambulance. I love that anecdote and share it often. Uber is probably one of my favorite brands, because of what they stand for: a start-up on mission to disrupt the taxi industry through mobile technology. As a city-dweller who can’t drive, they had my attention immediately. I first had the chance to use Uber when they launched in Singapore. Their app was seriously impressive, and after the VIP service, I was putty in their hands. If world-domination is what they are after, I’m on board.
Uber has recently been criticised for their surge pricing policy, and certainly more transparency is needed to keep their customers happy. Once understood, it is clear that the strategy is entirely in line with their business model of free market economies. But to customers who just need to get to their destination in a hurry, they need to cut to the chase.
“So, why marketing?” I hope that by dedicating this time to learning more about best practices and how to better meet consumer needs, that I’ll soon be working for an organization that puts customers and their experiences first. And I’ll know that we’re achieving our goals when the brand is associated with these values.