By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.
August 15, 2023
April 13, 2021

Brand promises, customer experience fit, and the cost of marketing

In our previous article, we (Christopher and Akos) discussed the importance of Product-Market Fit. We promised to get back to how customer experience is impacting it and what business impacts it can have. This is the first installment of what is planned to be a series.

Product Market Fit has two layers: features and perception. The rational meets the irrational.  

If we look at products that outperform the competition, achieving Product-Market Fit for the winners is more about meeting the irrational criteria of the customer.

When the irrational and rational coalesce, you have features that are emotional. Think of a cohesive, corresponding set of features, design, and communication.  Connecting to emotions, all pointing in one direction: a unified, focused customer experience. As much as customer experience professionals try to simplify it, customer experience is more complex.  The holy trinity of design doesn’t necessarily describe the customer experience your target market is expecting.

Assuming you get this part of the equation right, you still see products that were huge flops. So it doesn’t make sense to you, right?

Hear me out as there is one final piece in the experience funnel that’s missing: brand experience or how you keep your brand promises. Again, here we refer back to our previous article, and in particular to the Moment of Truth phenomenon.

What is the brand experience or brand promise?

Some of your key services or products will shape your brand, sometimes independently from your marketing efforts. My favorite example is Nokia. Robust, reliable, battery lasting 7+ days. The gold standard for mobile phones between 2000-2007.

How come Nokia failed? Their product portfolio was similar to Samsung, Motorola, Sony Ericsson all had the same issues when transitioning from the black and white screen and adding new features to the operating system: The Battery only lasted a day if you were lucky, constant reboots, and in general a lackluster experience.

The problem for Nokia was that the brand promise and the innovation were contrary to each other. From the innovation perspective, they were on par with the rest of the pack. From the brand promise perspective, subpar.

The brand experience and brand expectations become the final filter for successful innovations. If the irrational promise of the innovation is in line with the brand expectations, you win. If it’s not in line, you will fail, independently of how the innovation compares to your competition.

This long introduction will help us with understanding why some companies have to spend more on marketing than others and still fail. Some think it’s because of Product-Market Fit. Not necessarily. This might be a problem of Brand-Promise Fit.

On rare occasions, you have an irrational (emotion or customer experience based) Product-Market Fit, and it’s in line with your brand promise. The way you can discover this is to look at marketing spend. The less the spending (for established brands -- startups are another story) to reach the same success, the better this funnel works.

To sum it up in a 2x2 matrix:

If we look at the Product-Market Fit, marketing spending chart, adjusted with the brand promise, it would look like this:

So the breakdown of the graph occurs earlier, and the company or brand usually has some uncontested marketing channels. Think of the introduction of Tesla’s Model 3, and the preorder numbers. In line with the brand promise, huge Product-Market Fit for the target market: 450k preorders. But you can find many-many good examples for that phenomenon: AMD - affordable computing power, Razer - uncompromised performance, are other examples of a perfect innovation funnel fit. 

The struggle of Swiss (luxury) watches

Luxury watch brands also offer the same and the struggle of the Swiss watchmaking industry can be rooted in the above problem as well.

The traditional Swiss watches, artisan watchmaking, attention to detail, knowledge passed from generation to generation, and perfecting the timekeeping devices.

Quartz movement, mass-marketed in the 1950s created a brand promise issue for the Swiss watchmaking industry. Brand perception and the perception of innovators were not aligned. 

The Swiss watchmaking industry was almost obliterated by the demand for precision via Quartz movement. Getting back to the roots and understanding the brand promise led to the resurrection of the Swiss watchmakers. Seiko, on the other hand, has a brand perception and price issue even though it creates high quality, high precision watches. Reviewed rave about its luxury efforts yet it struggles with price due to brand - it’s not Swiss.  

What can you do about the Brand-Promise Fit?

First of all, what you need to check how the essence of innovation fits your brand. There are multiple ways to solve if the match is found low:

  1. Create a new brand. If the promise is relatively far from your existing brand, one way is to create (or acquire) an independent brand. Where the baggage of the original brand is not present, no promises have yet been made. While this sounds dramatic, it may be less expensive and perform better.
  2. Sell it. If you are confident that Product-Market Fit is achievable, you could sell the product to a brand that will be successful. Your model would be licensing. The Xerox mouse is a great example.
  3. Shelve it and use it when the brand has changed. This is advisable when you have an innovation portfolio consisting of multiple products and a handful of them need different brand perception. You can shelve all the innovations and start turning the tanker around, e.g. change the communication, the customer experience, and in the end the perception of the brand. It will take several years, but it’s not impossible as proven by none other than Microsoft. Microsoft and design or even agility were phrases not even in the same dictionary. We all remember how Windows was buggy as hell 10 years ago, needed rebooting, and all Microsoft Software just looked bad. Although Windows Phone failed, it was the advent of a new, design-inspired Microsoft and the change keeps happening since. Now Microsoft is an exciting, agile, innovative company. Kodak could have been included in this example. They invented the digital camera yet chose Item 1 above. Had they waited……?

How do you figure out the irrational expectation of customers? And why focus on irrationality? That’s a story for next time.

If you want to learn more about the decision-maker/problem matrix we employ to prioritize the target segments, book a call with us on the following page: