Not to put too fine a point on it, marketing is there firstly to make us aware of stuff, and secondly to make us want to buy it. On the way, it may amuse or annoy us, pique our curiosity, give us ideas, leave us with a mental image. In summary, it’s a commercial tool which can add a little sparkle to life. At some point the consumer wants to come face to face with the real product, or concept, or whatever is being marketed. That’s when the marketing has to be backed up by the ability to deliver.
Recent events with a pretty mundane product started me thinking about the links between marketing and delivery. The product is a shampoo, and it became obvious a few years ago that the marketing people had lost interest in it. It disappeared from big stores and the customer service email address wasn’t bothering to reply to questions about suppliers. Eventually I tracked it down in an independent shop and bought in a stockpile. When the stockpile ran out I tried customer services again. No reply. The phone number was only manned a few hours a week. Eventually someone answered – ‘we sold that brand last year’. ‘Brand’, note, not a product which needs to be delivered to customers.
Armed with the name and phone number of the new ‘brand owner’ I tried again. Interestingly, the first question I was asked was whether I had already phoned about the product – there’s obviously a market for the stuff if others are making as much effort as me to track it down. The new brand owner couldn’t name an outlet, either physical or online, and passed me on to their wholesaler. The wholesaler could say which outlets they supplied but not whether they supplied the shampoo to those outlets. In the event, neither of the outlets named stocked the shampoo.
A simple view of the world suggests that if customers are making an effort to track down a product, then that’s a *good thing* It’s marketing itself and all the manufacturer has to do is get it out there in the shops, and maybe give it a bit of a boost from time to time. And it’s a lot cheaper to retain existing customers than to attract new ones. So what’s going on here? With companies failing all around, surely no manufacturer can afford to ignore the existence of a product with such a loyal customer base that it requires no marketing to make people seek it out.
A look at the Keyline website offers no help to the customer, it’s all about marketing and brand acquisition. There’s a huge disconnect here. Physical products need physical delivery to customers and if that doesn’t happen, the marketing is a complete waste of time. There’s a lesson to be learned here.