Friday, January 16, 2015

Do Your Customers Talk About Your Products or Your Ads?

Image courtesy of Carli Jean
Are you delivering a great customer experience - or are you just relying on advertising to create awareness and sell your products?

On the eve (sorta) of the biggest day of the year for the advertising industry (OK, for commercials... we love to watch the Super Bowl commercials), I thought I'd share some thoughts on the common disconnect between advertising and the customer experience.

Or, as Robert Stephens, co-founder of Geek Squad has been known to say: Advertising is the tax you pay for being unremarkable.

Let's start with a good definition of what advertising is. Entrepreneur magazine offers up this:

Advertising provides a direct line of communication to your existing and prospective customers about your product or service. The purpose of advertising is to:
  • Make customers aware of your product or service;
  • Convince customers that your company's product or service is right for their needs;
  • Create a desire for your product or service;
  • Enhance the image of your company;
  • Announce new products or services;
  • Reinforce salespeople's messages;
  • Make customers take the next step (ask for more information, request a sample, place an order, and so on); and
  • Draw customers to your business.
Hmmm... convince customers, create a desire, enhance the image...

Those all make me think, why not let the customer experience speak for itself? Or let your customers speak for you?

If companies spend more time focusing on designing and delivering a great customer experience, they'll surely spend less money on advertising. Why, then, do companies spend millions on advertising every year? Why are their ad budgets and resources so hugely disproportionate (to CX strategy budgets) or so misplaced? Quick answer: advertising gets eyeballs and awareness, assuming people pay attention. And it's tangible. It's familiar. It's measurable. It's what we've always done.

I hate that last statement.

What does a great customer experience get you? Word of mouth. And that's much more valuable and has a greater return on investment than advertising. According to Nielsen's Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messaging report, 84% of customers cite taking action on word-of-mouth recommendations, while 68% say they take action some of the time on TV ads.

Companies should reallocate funds from their advertising budget to the budget for improving the customer experience to see a greater impact on the bottom line.

Forget the advertising. If you're seeing fewer customers, and year-over-year sales are down, take a good look inside. (And outside. What are your customers saying about the product and the experience?) Why on earth would you throw money at some huge ad campaign that will only result in even more dissatisfied customers in the end? Fix the experience. Make it great. If you’re doing remarkable things, then you don’t need to spend millions on commercials. Your brand speaks for itself. Or your customers speak for you. Or everyone in the industry talks about you. (Think Zappos, Amazon, Ritz-Carlton, Apple, etc.)

I think companies are slowly starting to get a clue that customer experience is important because I've recently seen and heard commercials that mention "the customer experience." That doesn't make it right or mean that they actually understand what that means; as a matter of fact, it makes me laugh. Don't advertise it. Just do it. (Apologies.) Actions speak louder than words.

This video, aptly named "The Break Up," reminded me of my post, How to Lose a Customer in 10 Days. It personifies advertising and what companies do to, well, lose customers. Have a look, and tell me you didn't laugh or nod your head in agreement at some point during the video.

We want consumers to say, "That's a hell of a product" instead of, "That's a hell of an ad." -Leo Burnett


  1. Great video Annette, pity it was an advert. Though I suppose that makes your point all the more poignant.


  2. Love this article. It reminds me that the best kind of advertising we can have comes from our happy customers telling potential customers how great the product is. And, when a great product is combined with a great service experience, that is a combination that is hard to beat.

  3. Hi Annette,
    Great video although it did make me cringe :)

    A while ago in an interview Gary Vaynerchuk asked why firms still pay $3 million on a Superbowl ad for very little return when they could hire 60 people at $50k a year to deliver better service on the phones, on Twitter or other social media channels or in store or......that'd probably have a greater chance of getting people talking about the right things. Right?


    1. I remember seeing that video, Adrian. I think it would!

  4. Hi Annette.

    The video is really good. Thanks for sharing.

    I will view this weekend's Super Bowl ads in a different light now. Will be interesting to reflect upon the customer experience those spending the big $$ are actually giving their targeted customers.

    1. Thanks, Marvin. I did just that a couple years ago... here's the post I wrote about it:

  5. just blogwalking.. Nice post and have a nice day :)