Somewhere in Germany is a Siemens engineer who sat there one day and had an idea. It went something like this.
My consumers love the way my beautifully engineered dishwasher washes their dishes so much that they need to know instantly when it has finished. Then they can run excitedly to it and admire their clean sparkling crockery. How should I do this? I know I will add a nice little beep! beep! beep! noise and in case they don't hear it first time I will make my dishwasher beep! beep! beep! until they open the door to wonder at the miracle that has taken place inside.
The consumer reality (I did a qual poll of 10 people very fast) is that most people have filled their dishwasher by the end of the day and then they switch it on after dinner, as they go to bed. The dishwasher then finishes 2 hours later and starts beeping. This wakes you up. You think shall I get up and admire my clean dishes or try to ignore it. You ignore the first one, possibly the second but the third results in an explosion and you stomp down stairs 'defeated' to open the door. You don't look inside, you simply swear and curse that engineer in Germany. You probably stub your toe in the dark and then try to get back to sleep - you fail and go to work bleary eyed. The Siemens brand becomes a source of irritation and any notion of bonding with Siemens goes out the door.
So where were the marketeers in all this? Who took the decision to add a beep!beep! beep? The market research must show Siemens clear consumer usage habits. The internal marketing team must know 80 -90% (my quick straw poll) of people turn their dishwasher on just before they go to bed. It does not take a genius to work out it will beep! beep! beep! when people are asleep. Why do they need a beep! beep! beep! anyway?
Clearly they were nowhere to be seen or they were too busy doing useful things like creating digital banner ads and tweeting about their new dishwasher that has a beep! beep! beep!
Take for example the growing number of businesses who ask you to complete an online survey after every brand experience (somewhere there is a salesman working for GFK who has made a lot of money selling these instant surveys to large companies) - airlines, hotels, retailers, everyone seems to be doing it. The result - I get asked to participate in 3-5 surveys on some days! If you travel a lot it is crazy. British Airways seem to be one of the most enthusiastic users of the 'new' and 'exciting' location based text surveys. Seriously BA do you really think your frequent flyers want to be asked on their mobile their opinion of the Terminal 5 lounge within 3 seconds of walking in (and then asked every time they fly). No they want to chill or get on with their work. If you don't believe me do a survey!
There is a very serious point here. Marketeers are supposed to understand their consumers. They are the experts in consumer buying habits and behaviour. Good marketeers know that to build a deep bond with a brand takes time and their organisation needs to design a total brand experience that helps build loyalty once the purchase has taken place. These bonded customers are the ones who then tell other people about your wonderful product or service. They are your greatest and most valuable advocates. To my knowledge personal referral and word of mouth (online or offline) is still the most powerful form of marketing by far.
So as well as getting the product or service to market marketeers have make sure over zealous engineers don't put features into products that aren't wanted or might alienate the consumer. They are supposed to work out that over-surveying really irritates busy people and get the market research team and excited GFK person to get the timing of delivery and frequency of contact right. To do this they have to analyse and understand the complete consumer journey and work out how to make the whole ownership experience as enjoyable and painless as possible. That is key part of marketing.
So my question today is are marketing professionals still doing marketing or is marketing now just becoming communications? I see more and more evidence it is the later which I believe is a danger for the long term future of the profession. This could explain why fewer and fewer companies seem to be putting a marketing professional onto their board.
PS If anyone from Seimens reads this could you tell me how to switch off the beep! beep! beep! - I will love you forever.