The definition of marketing I was taught was ‘satisfying customer needs, profitably.’ What I loved about marketing was the constant focus on the customer; researching their views on their habits, their tastes, their needs, their preferences, our competition and our offering. The constant objective was to create better and unique value for customers whilst making a profit. I was brought up in marketing on the wisdom of Theodore Levitt, Philip Kotler and Michael Porter and was lucky enough to study with the late Martin Marshall (Emeritus Professor of Marketing at Harvard). Nothing in the canon of marketing even mentioned confusing or exploiting your customers. Hero companies for me were those that delivered great products, memorable advertising and always seemed to be offering something that was a genuine solution.
More than a few years back I invested a nest egg I had acquired with a certain northern building society which was advertising a great rate of interest. Happy with my investment I promptly forgot about it until I noticed that the interest rate had dropped to almost zero; I had become a victim of what must have been the first ‘obsolete’ account trick, designed to capitalise on customer inertia. I then started to see that this trick was being copied by almost every building society and bank. The most outrageous aspect is that we, the now alert customers who switched to better accounts, are now being referred to in the trade as ‘rate tarts’!
Marketing seems to now have become merely the cynical pursuit of bewildering the customer. Have you ever really tried to compare mobile phone tariffs? Gas or electric tariffs? Do you really think that these have been designed to make life easier for you or to generate loyalty?
But the worst, the very worst trick now being perpetrated on us is ‘drip pricing’. Have you noticed that, following the lead of the low cost airlines, it is now almost impossible to buy many categories of product or service online without being taken through a series of steps that purport to be offering us additional choice but in fact merely add to that basic price you thought was so attractive.
Whatever you do in your own company, satisfy your customers, don’t con them. The public has a knack of fighting back; look at the success of CAMRA in rolling back the march of the brewing giants’ Euro fizz, spawning the growth of micro breweries. If I can’t travel on a ‘full price’ airline (which invariably doesn’t cost more and often less) to a destination, I don’t go there! There are still some great companies our there, focussed upon customer satisfaction, Lakeland, Landsend and Viking Direct are some of my favourites for service. Want a better rate of interest on your savings? Try new lender Zopa, they are truly different. So, don’t be a drip, you’ll only live to regret it.