Does Marketing have a right to overpromise for Operations?
Many a time when I think about Marperations, I think about Operations not being consistent. My recent experiences with my iPhone made me start thinking, when Marketing over-promises, does Operations even have a chance?
The AT&T dropped call story
Being a single dad and small business owner, most of the time I am on my cell. Lately, AT&T has made that a challenge. When I leave home and get to the intersection of Chambers and Crestline, my calls drop every time. As I drive on, I have discovered six spots within five miles of my home. AT&T has now made my life challenging. I am constantly trying to find new routes or have shorter conversations so that I do not drop a call before I get to the next drop spot.
Now look at these ads. They clearly state more bars and fewer dropped calls. Wake-up AT&T marketing! Why would you pick the one benefit to promote that you cannot deliver on?
I think sampling is an age-old, proven method to introduce a new product. But does a brand realize that a promotion like this means Operations needs to have the flexible capacity to meet the demand? There could be one person or one thousand. Operations needs to fulfill every sample order to perfection, as only then will the customer decide favorably to come back and buy from McDonald’s.
JetBlue’s Human Touch
Most airline employees other than Southwest employees have forgotten to smile. With the uncertainty of the economy and the airlines constantly coming in and out bankruptcy, I do not blame employees for being stressed. They are performing their tasks with fewer employees (it is called efficiency).
But in that context, when Jet Blue promises the human touch, it raises an eye brow. What were they doing before? Are they going to be any more human now? When my flight is delayed will they listen to me and make a sincere apology and walk me down to the nearest Starbucks at the airport and buy me a tall non-fat chai? No they will not. Then why the promise?
Domino’s / McDonald’s Smiles
Domino’s pizza and McDonald’s have been advertising over the last few years that they serve smiles. Yes, it is good to find a pizza delivery driver who is professional and has a smile on his face as he/she delivers my pizza on time. But when was the last time a pizza delivery person smiled at you, unless you tipped him/her generously. Same with McDonald’s. When I go through the drive-thru, after I survive the screeching noise made by the speakers, where I have to repeat my order three to four times, and make it to the pick-up window, finding either me or the employee smiling would be liking playing Where’s Waldo. There is nothing wrong with a McDonald’s employee, but as they try to be efficient and gather all my food items and take the orders from the cars behind me, do they have an opportunity to pause for me and share a genuine smile?
Best Buy Knows
The Best Buy ads of informed “better than WalMart” employees always fascinated me. Hence this Saturday, I visited a Best Buy to purchase a GPS system for my car. As I entered the store, I realized it was going to be a challenge to find the “men and women in blue”. As I got to the car accessories section, found the GPS systems, and shortlisted my choices to three models, I needed help. I remembered the ads showing me these helpful “men and women in blue” who knew it all. When I finally found and flagged down a Best Buy employee, she looked at the GPS systems for a minute, and then explained to me that she would go get me the “right person”. After a wait, the “right person” came to save the day. He looked sharp and had a smile on. When I told him I needed his help choosing one of the three models, he started reading the information signs below each product. When he was ready, he started by reading aloud the information sign from the first GPS system. As he was reading about “lifetime traffic”, I pointed out to him that the other two also has the same text on their respective info sign. He paused for a second, looked at me, and said, “You are right.” Somehow, this time I was not happy to know that I was right. Finally his advice came down to, “this one looks like it has a bigger screen.” Now that is not what the ad promised. Why would Best Buy marketing advertise its informed team members, when in this down economy they, like every one else, are trying to stay profitable by controlling labor? The false promise goes even further to make Operations’ life difficult.
Taco Bell and the Fresh Fruit Fable
This to me is the best example of a “over promise”. I saw the ad and went to Taco Bell for fresh fruit in my smoothie. I have to admit, if they had fresh fruit in any form, I would have been dancing on cloud nine. But instead I saw the team member add a spoonful of liquidy fruit filling to my drink. That was not real fresh fruit, at least to me.
When I look at each of the above examples, I realize the following three things:
1. In each case Marketing has chosen a fantasy message that will really connect with customers without taking into account Operations, who has very little chance of fulfilling the promise.
2. Marketing, in each of the examples, believes in getting customers in the door, but does not take ownership of the disappointment caused by over promising advertising.
3. A true test of marketing would be to identify what they can actually offer, that customers love, that will differentiate the brand.
We all know in the advertising world in U.S., puffery goes unchallenged. I can get away with advertising the world’s best pizza but cannot say that my pizza is better than Pizza Hut’s pizza. But does that still mean that marketing has the right to over-promise? Or does that mean that we consumers have become so smart that we can see through the ads and filter what is true, just as we see through a little child who walks in and tells us that he saw a blue monster in the street.