Sunday, 29 November 2009

One man’s baggy pants is another man’s well fitted trousers

This is the wisdom of Homer Simpson shown in the episode “Homie the Clown” where Homer Simpson decides to join clown school. On trying on his clown outfit the following exchange takes place:-

imageKrusty: OK, we'll start off with the baggy -- wha? [sees Homer] Those are supposed to be baggy pants. Baggy!

Homer: Ooh. I've never had a pair of pants that fit this well in my life.

Ok, so this is just an excuse to put some Homer Simpson into my blog, however it does raise an interesting question. When we try to second guess how people will use our products and services we don’t always get what we planned.

Microsoft recently started taking action against people who have modified their consoles with this resulting in kicking them off Xbox live or rendering some of their modifications useless.

Apple similarly plays a cat and mouse game with people who jail break their iPhones, essentially freeing themselves from both the Appstore and their cellular network.

Whilst both Apple and Microsoft would claim their activity is to prevent piracy and the creation of security holes – something which has some merit given the recent worm virus issues on jail broken iPhones in the Netherlands – it does also smack of an overly controlling corporate trying to dictate how people use their hardware.

This isn’t just limited to hardware manufactures. Customers are increasing promiscuous, choosing how to use brands as part of an overall portfolio. Loyalty has never been about getting 100% share of wallet, but all retailers or FMCG companies are looking for customers to “shop the shop” or fill their needs from across the range.

Whilst it makes sense to highlight other services or departments that a customer doesn’t yet utilise, this needs to be done sympathetically -a customer may not trust you for that type of purchase or may not consider it relevant.

I’ve been working with a retailer who provides two related services which are offered in different ways. It was interesting to see the research around the audiences using these services which suggested that they were completely different and there was little or no cross-over.

Looking in from the outside you may assume there was an opportunity for cross-sell between these services but when you understand the customers, what they do and when they do it you can see that there is little opportunity.

This also applies to the recognition and rewarding of customers.

Ideally your loyalty programme should align with profitability – rewarding customers for profitable behaviours and essentially “nudging” them in the direction you want. However this can backfire if you don’t understand how customers are working with your brand.

When reviewing an airline Frequent Flyer programme it was interesting to see that some of their most profitable customers weren’t being recognised in any way by their loyalty programme.

The problem?

The programme was tuned to recognise long haul business class customers, not short haul economy. However some of these short haul customers were essentially commuting by plane – racking up more flights and hence profitability than their top tier customers – but not miles, the standard measure used for recognition.

When considering how to retain and grow customers we need to ensure that we don’t assume how customers want to interact with us or what they want to buy from us.

Instead we need to take the time to understand different customer segments and ensure products and services are aligned to these customers in the context to which they utilise them.

Just because you sell baggy pants doesn’t mean you can’t market to a segment who like how they fit.

5 comments:

H said...

Whereas I have nothing against hardware modification and using devices in the way I see fit I do agree that these decisions are made against those that try to gain an unfair advantage. This maybe to improve their game and spoils the enjoyment of others who play fair.
Another reason for Xbox to do this is that consoles can be used to play leaked copies of games which harms the industry and ultimately the development of further quality games.
What I do agree with is that devices/services should be more flexible and this is where it is important for organisations to listen to their customer base and community. This will make them more engaged and feel they are part of building that offering.

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