Bentley College Marketing- Honors

This blog is for MK 402-H01 and the greater Bentley College population.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Quality is free! Freely abused, anyway

This article deals with the idea of using the concept of “quality” in marketing. There most likely isn’t a company in the world that would claim publicly that it sold a product or service that wasn’t of at least “good” quality. Thus, the actual concept of the word and its value is diminished and holds no value to the consumer. In Scott Dalgleish’s column in Quality Magazine, he states the following:

“Do you know of any company that does not claim to have good quality? I can’t think of a single company that ever said, ‘Our quality is fair to poor.’ My experience has been that very few companies deliver the good quality that they claim.”

The reasoning behind this is that the claim to quality is free, which is the problem with its diminishing value. The author continues to assert that claims of quality are not supported in a substantial manner and management does not care whether or not claims to quality are valid. Because of this, customers do not consider “quality” when purchasing most products; rather, price becomes a more important criterion.

Dalgleish blames his fellow IT professional for removing the legitimacy of a once-commonly used quality rating system, the ISO-9000. Years ago, this rating system was considered incredibly valuable. However, today it means nothing in the eyes of other companies and consumers.

Further, the devaluation of the term “quality” has caused consumers to be increasingly price sensitive. This is termed the “Wal-Mart Effect”. Dalgleish believes that educating investors and consumers about product quality and its value will cause the management to care about claiming quality. However, the author of the blog questions this assertion:

“That’s an okay idea if it is done well so consumers will listen, but how much will they learn? The new Gillette razor has how many blades? We’ve been given that concrete information in a Super Bowl commercial. But the first question everyone asks is: does this really make it better? Without any worthwhile, concrete, and verifiable information on quality, buyers rely on inference and word-of-mouth, both of which are unreliable.”

This story is marketing-related because it addresses claims of a company regarding its product or service and how over time this has altered consumer behavior. When claims are thrown around about a particular aspect of products, it becomes generic and holds no value. Consumers will eventually adjust to this and will stop to hold any value in such claims. Thus, it is important, as a marketer, to note what matters in the eyes of the consumers and what is simply fluff, for lack of a better word.

This story informs marketing by helping to gain some insight into consumer behavior. It is important, particularly in the era of Wal-Mart, that the majority of consumers are price sensitive above many other criteria for purchasing a given service or product. Depending what the product or service is, quality might not have any bearing on the purchase decision. It is important to note which claims about a product will actually drive the customer’s decision.

The concept of “crying wolf” is very familiar to everyone. However, reading about how this type of story effects the world of marketing is incredibly interesting. I have been able to gain some insight as to how invalid claims regarding many products by many companies can create a sense of fluff. The claim means nothing. I have learned that finding manners of promoting a product’s attributes in new and not over-done ways is incredibly important in differentiating it from other products.

A main critique I would have for this author is that there were not many examples in this piece. He was very good at explaining concepts, but fairly poor at actually applying the concepts to demonstrate a point. The Gillette example was effective. (THIS IS MY NEW BLOG!! I CLAIM IT!!)


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