Simply Better by Patrick Barwise and Sean Meehan

Nice points on marketing from the book: Simply Better by Barwise, P & Meehan, S -

What really matters to consumers are often generic benefits, like a mobile phone that works (e.g. can reliably make and receive calls wherever you are), or a petrol station on the road you are on. “What the consumer buys is a brand, but what he or she wants or needs is the category”. But consumers will habitually return to brands that have provided satisfaction for them in the past at a reasonable price (not necessarily the cheapest). What they value mostly is the reliability rather than any specific differential attribute of the brand. Companies must therefore obsessively monitor their performance at delivering these core benefits. Innovation can change the fundamentals, but “Innovators must take care that the brand-specific benefits they provide are not trivial, peripheral or relevant only to a small minority of customers”.

Contrary to the theories of differentiation, most brands are perceived as similar by their users, i.e. users of brand A see it pretty much as users of B see brand B, on most dimensions of how they like it, what its characteristics are and its benefits (The Dirichlet Theory).To simplify their lives, consumers tend to spend very little time evaluating their choices; often just going straight for the brand they normally buy. If it’s not there, something else will probably do just as well. Occasionally a special price will drive the choice between otherwise similar options. Why then are the market shares of such similar brands so markedly different? Sometimes distribution is a factor, sometimes price, but rarely do they account for the five or tenfold advantage that the market leader often has over some other brand. Small differences in brand preference can lead over time to big differences in share, through the mechanism of salience: the propensity of a brand to come to mind when making a purchase choice. Big brands are salient for far more people. Salience is driven by exposure and use, through seeing the brand, experiencing it and hearing about it via advertising and word of mouth. In other words it is heavily conditioned by an individual’s history with the brand, but can be influenced by all aspects of the marketing mix.

The key to understanding and delivering what consumers want is to immerse yourself in customer contact. Not just formal market research, but direct executive contact with the customer. Do it right across the business. Keep your eye on the competitors at all times, and pay particular attention to the drivers of dissatisfaction, not just satisfaction. (A lot of marketing books and articles talk about delivering satisfaction; we need to look closely at factors that will lead to dissatisfaction as well.)

The key to understanding and delivering what consumers want is to immerse yourself in customer contact. Not just formal market research, but direct executive contact with the customer. Do it right across the business. Keep your eye on the competitors at all times, and pay particular attention to the drivers of dissatisfaction, not just satisfaction.

Customer focus, chapter six covers how successful companies develop a culture that is appropriately responsive to customer needs. This is perhaps the crux of the book, how to develop systems that deliver consistency, but are flexible enough to meet changing requirements, whether that is change in customer requirements or the competitive environment. It involves objective debate, tough decision-making and plenty of rigour. Experiment and risk should be tolerated in the organisation.

Many of this is taken from a review of the book by John Scriven. Got to go and have a look at this book. Wonder if it is available online?
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