Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Marketing: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I received a direct mail piece recently that I thought was funny, effective and evil …all at the same time. It illustrated for me the power of marketing, harnessed effectively. I wonder how you might perceive it?

Many people over the years have complained about the lack of customer support from companies like Rogers. These providers made it difficult to reach a live person, they offered only web pages, frequently asked questions, chat and e-mail functions to respond to problem inquiries; and when you finally found a number that you could actually use you found yourself in an unending loop of automated voice customer service hell.

After having experienced this process on many occasions I perceived the tactic to be a short sighted cost cutting measure, although I must admit that it seemed like every company was taking that approach. In my opinion, it was not a very smart approach to marketing, branding or customer service.

Finally they have seen the light and they have decided to buck the trend with the launch of Live Agent, in May, 2010 - and use a person-to-person customer service approach, to differentiate themselves from their competitors and leverage it to spearhead a massive new marketing campaign. The direct mail piece proudly titles the cover with “WHEN YOUR BUSINESS NEEDS IMMEDIATE ATTENTION…” and then when you open up the direct mail piece and we hear a typical nasal voice message on a customer service telephone line, that could have come out of a Roger’s telephone response script from just a few months ago. A quick listen will bring back all those memories of telephone hell.

This is designed to be humorous and poke fun at competitors who are still using automated customer service and promote the idea of speaking to a person rather than a machine.

On one hand it’s good because it is an improvement to their existing service, on the other its bad since we all had to experience years of frustration while they toyed with connecting us to different flavours of automated machine responses. The ugly is the fact that our own worst fears, which they prorogated, are being used against us to help promote their superior service.

Having said all that, it is still is an effective campaign because it uses clever humour, a little technology and a standard predictable medium to tap into our revulsion of automated responses and leverage a long overdue response to customers unhappiness with their service to position themselves as a cut above the competition. It’s truly amazing that good marketing ideas can change opinions and fortunes so readily!

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