When I was growing up, my dad would often travel for business, and like most business travelers, he would rent a car. He would rent from Avis. How do I remember this mundane piece of history? Their buttons. Avis used to give out “We try harder” buttons.
The fun part was, the buttons were translated into more than 30 languages, as esoteric as Arabic, Japanese and Russian. They gave them out to their customers, who like my dad, would bring them home to their kids as a little novelty gift. This Madison Avenue-created, genius marketing idea got the point across: We may be #2 (to Hertz) but we’ll go the extra mile because we want your business and we will try harder to get it, and try harder to keep it. I don’t know if Avis is still trying harder (I haven’t seen any buttons lately) but they certainly increased their market share in the short term.
Good Word of Mouth is Good Marketing
Increasing market share for the long term, with good customer word of mouth (WOM) is what Fred Reichheld writes about in “The Ultimate Question.” Reichheld writes about a few simple, common sense themes: Follow the Golden Rule (treat others as you wish to be treated) and make sure that your company and every person in it does too. Because the answer to his ultimate question, “Would you recommend our business/services/company to others?” is the main determiner of whether the WOM is going to be good or bad. And good WOM means good profits; bad WOM means bad profits. The good CEOs want good profits from repeat, happy customers, and shy away from bad profits that result from unhappy customers who feel that they’ve been swindled and will proceed through their lives slamming the company.
Reichheld describes the success of a good company, HomeBanc Mortgage throughout his book. The company has become very successful over the past few years by paying close attention to who they hire, putting major resources into training new employees, and making each employee accountable for their actions. In fact, an employee with more than one bad customer experience per year is at risk of being fired, and, as a teaching tool perhaps, is not eligible for a bonus in the year the experience is reported.
It all sounds like a wonderful plan. If only the country could be run with enthusiasm and mottos such as the “treat others as you would want to be treated yourself” and “we try harder.”
Marketing’s Powerful Reach
On the front page today’s Washington Post, there’s a story about how the Pentagon is going to enlist the help of Madison Avenue to help win the war, or at help to stop making more enemies out of innocent Iraqis.
Karen DeYoung, of the Washington Post writes that the results of a $400,000 Rand study released this week concludes that “the “force” brand, which the United States peddled for the first few years of the occupation, was doomed from the start and lost ground to enemies’ competing brands. While not abandoning the more aggressive elements of warfare, the report suggested, a more attractive brand for the Iraqi people might have been “We will help you.”
The Post article continues, “The most successful companies, the Rand study notes, are those that study their clientele and shape their workplace and product in ways that incorporate their brand into every interaction with consumers.” We live in interesting times. Marketing is now shaping U.S. Army tactics. Wow.