Friday, October 12, 2012

Using Listening To Move Your Brand Forward

"The Movement" Of a Brand

“The example of New Coke shows how powerful the customer can be in moving a company forward or backward for its own good. The important thing is the movement itself.” –Brewing Up A Business, Chapter 9 (page 160)

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When I read about the New Coke issue in Brewing Up A Business, I was reassured that companies have the capability of admitting their mistakes. Many love the classic Coca Cola recipe, and the brand proved to be loyal to their customers by recalling New Coke and putting the original Coke back on the shelves.

What really struck me was how Coca Cola used the backlash to create an opportunity to show their customers that they were on their side. As soon as outraged, loyal customers began to phone in complaints, the brand rushed to emergency mode to show their customer loyalty. The company created movement, which at first was spurred by negative reviews of a new product, yet turned bad press into a way to show their customers that they value their input. After all, brands should be a customer’s friend.

As a consumer of many products, I am much more willing to go back to a brand that values the fact that I was unhappy with their product. This mistake could have cost Coca Cola a lot of loyal customers, but they leveraged the situation to prove to customers that they are important in their business decisions. Therefore, the news went from negative to positive as Coca Cola regained the trust of their customers.

The Tylenol Fiasco

Coca Cola is not the only company that has used a bad situation to launch themselves forward (and prove the importance of brand customer loyalty). Tylenol famously “spent millions of dollars recalling Tylenol from stores nationwide” after cyanide was found in Chicago in 1982. Although the incident caused a panic for Tylenol buyers, master brand Johnson & Johnson recalled all products regardless of how much profit the company lost. They acted quickly and their safety concerns were so high that customers remained loyal to the company that promised them all products were safe as they went back on the shelves, as the FDA now required tamper-proof seals on all products.

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The Forward Motion: Listening To Customers

Both of these issues occurred in the 1980s. Both Coca Cola and Tylenol were able to use the motion of bad situations to prove to customers that regardless of sales, they care about them, as brands should.

Today, brands should try to try to go forward without going backward. Although the Coca Cola and Tylenol examples are wonderful examples of using movement to create buzz about your company, this day in age is all about listening to the customer on a regular basis. Forward movement is the key. To move forward, customer input is necessary.

Christine Crandell, a writer for Forbes, says, “Every time an experience disruption occurs the relationship diminishes, the customer starts to second-guess their choice, or, worse, a decision is made to make the vendor relationship short-term instead of a corporate standard.” Coca Cola and Tylenol regained their customer’s loyalty by recovering from moving backwards; they are a great example of how to recover by appealing to customers.

Nowadays, customers tend to want their voices heard before incidents occur. To become a well-received brand, listen now instead of later. The following quote is also by Crandell, and is one of the most insightful lessons that I have ever read about:

“Too often voice of the customer programs are based on automated surveys and tech support feedback. Instead of polling, surveying or subjecting your customers to automated, impersonal scoring mechanisms, why not just ask customers what they want. I mean really talk to them. Even the unhappy ones; especially the unhappy ones. In depth, honest and in-person interviews are one of the most efficient and fulfilling ways to understand the customer.”

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Examples Of Great Listeners

Examples of companies that do this are:

1) Dell 
Dell went through a rough patch in 2005, but eventually came to have the highest customer service rankings. The senior vice president and Chief Marketing Officer at Dell explained their turnaround in terms of listening: “Listening and responding to customers is so basic and fundamental. The emergence of social media elevates how companies can act on the feedback they get from customers.”

2) Zappos
When I think of a company that really listens to me as a customer (and takes care of me like a friend) I think of Zappos. The company, known for fixing small issues before they become bigger, credits their success and customer loyalty to listening. Their social media presence enables them to respond quickly and restore faith in their customers.

3) American Express
As Zappos was #1 for best customer service in 2011, American Express was #2. Like Zappos, they avoid big problems by keeping their social media up-to-date and having employees working around the clock to ensure any tweets, Facebook messages, etc. are accounted for and taken care of for the betterment of the customer.



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