Dazzling Customers Is Not as Difficult as You Might Think

 width=We have a “Director of First Impressions” at VantagePoint who, among her many other contributions, spoils us rotten by supplying a steady stream of snacks. I generally try to avoid sodas but, sometimes, a girl just has to have a ginger ale. And I’m not brand conscious in the least about clothing, but I’m a loyal fan when it comes to foodstuffs: I confess to a twinge of disappointment when I found Seagram’s in the drink pantry instead of Canada Dry. Craving will trump loyalty every time, though; halfway through the can, I had to admit it was good ginger ale: crisp and fizzy, not too much bite but enough to earn its name. A few days later, I helped myself to another, once again conceding it was pretty darn good and thinking I might have to give Seagram’s a look the next time I buy ginger ale.

Last week I’m drinking [yet another] can and notice (here’s proof that consumers don’t pay nearly as much attention to packaging as you might hope) it says, “25% FEWER CALORIES.” Fewer than what?, my marketing-oriented brain challenged instantly, but I wasn’t engaged enough to investigate. Next can, though, I read closer: “25% FEWER CALORIES THAN REGULAR GINGER ALES.” That pulled me in. I’d been feeling guilty over imbibing all these sodas and figured it was time to see how high my guilt meter needed to read. I turned the can to check the Nutrition Facts box: Calories 100. Seriously?? That doesn’t warrant guilt! But wait: how many servings in a can? That’s where they always get you — where truth in advertising falls by the wayside like catkins on a blustery day. Ever read the nutrition label for Grape Nuts? Serving size: 1/2 cup. Have you EVER, IN YOUR ENTIRE LIFE, poured yourself a 1/2 cup serving of cereal? And check out those “personal-sized” bottles of Coke: surprise! 2 and a half servings.

I was flabbergasted — yes, flabbergasted — and downright tickled to read “Serving Size 1 Can.”

What’s the moral of this story? Well, marketing guru Peter Shankman says we’re conditioned to expect (please pardon the language: his word, not mine) crap for customer service these days, so when companies offer even slightly better than crap, we’re dazzled. Seagram’s didn’t do anything astounding — their 25% calorie savings declaration isn’t even in prominent letters, for Pete’s sake — but discovering that their serving size matches up to their product size when I’m so used to being lied to has led me to embrace a brand I heretofore walked right past.

I’m sure companies that put 9 slices of ham in 10 oz. packages that say “Approximately 10 servings,” or whose sumptuous photos of sandwiches piled high with meat bear no resemblance to the paltry proxies handed out at the counter don’t view those practices as dishonest. From where I sit, though, it feels like deceit and I don’t buy products from companies that seem to be trying to “pull the bull,” as my big sister so succinctly puts it.

Why not give customers what they expect (or more!) and reap the benefits of their astonished delight? You’ll earn loyalty and word-of-mouth marketing — the best kind there is — that no amount of money can buy.

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