In so many (though not all) of my past work experiences there was always this weird dividing line between the people that made the product and the people that told the world about the product. I never understood it. To me the customer’s experience with our company and our software always started at seeing the first ad or hearing the first comment from a friend and continued all the way through usage of the product itself. I used to tell the marketing folks that the effective budget of the UX people in terms of making an impression on the customers dwarfed the dollars the marketing guys were going to spend. Users spend countless hours in front of the software they use all the while forming and reinforcing brand impressions both positive and negative. Customers don’t all of a sudden consider themselves dealing with a different company when they transition from potential purchaser to purchaser. So why do so many companies so obivously and unceremoniously hand off the customer from marketers to product development and support?
In the worst case the promise made by the marketers is completely out of sync with what the product actually delivers. The marketing may over-promise or under-promise or it may just be off-base altogether. Either way, the customer is left feeling confused and disappointed. Even when the product may be good, if it doesn’t match what the customer was expecting it’s an opportunity lost.
And the truth is that so many of the things that preserve continuity between the promise and the delivery are small. Little visual cues, coherency in message expressed in word choices. Companies trying to build relationships with customers need to present an authentic voice that is coherent in multiple situations. If you meet a person and they act one way in one situation and then give you a completely different impression in another, you will like not quite know how to feel about them. Which face was authentic? Were they both just a put on? Is there any way to know what to expect from this person?
I like reading books with gossipy tales from various business debacles. I especially enjoy stories where there’s lots of nutty spending and inappropriate behavior. (We’re using these tales to write our HR manual. ) The latest (for me) of these quick reads is Hit & Run — How Jon peters and Peter Guber Took Sony for a Ride in Hollywood. I haven’t finished it yet, but it’s fun. One passage struck me the other night. I don’t know why I was surprised to find this same disconnect in the movie industry but in retrospect this might just be a function of (many) larger companies. This passage discussed the marketing of the first Batman movie:
“‘Jon made the Batman campaign,’ says a Warner source. ‘It was Jon who insisted on no music in the first trailer.’ By bringing Furst [the production designer from the movie who designed the Batmobile and the whole look of the film] into the marketing process, Peters unified all the film’s visuals including the merchandising tie-ins. He even turned down a $6 million offer from GM to build the Batmobile because the car company would not relinquish creative control.”
Whatever you may think of Jon Peters (if you even know much about him), I love the commitment of turning down the cash to make an experience that has no weird moments that don’t work (other than Kim Basinger’s performance of course).