Bentley College Marketing- Honors

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

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

"What Have We Been Talking About?

taken from Olivier Blanchard of the brandbuilder blog

In this posting Blanchard discusses Mercedes recent failure as a luxury car brand, falling to 21 on the JD Power Satisfaction Survey. He references Francois Gossieaux’s posting on a terrible purchase experience of a Mercedes E320. After spending a good amount of money on the car, it progressively broke down and fell apart over the next five years. Gossieaux became more enraged when shoddy service from Mercedes dealerships in the area was provided to him. The car finally blew up on the highway due to a hole in the engine and an antifreeze leak. Gossieaux was given the run-around by contacts at Mercedes headquarters. Ultimately he was angry at the company for violating its implied brand promise of quality, luxury and service, stating “Mercedes customers are stupid…for being motivated by emotions instead of economics.”

Blanchard comments on Gossieaux’s experience from a brand promise standpoint. He writes that “as a company you either deliver on this promise or you get the boot from your customers, plain and simple.” Part of Mercedes’ promise was a purchase experience in which “you expect to feel like you are receiving VIP treatment by a dealership’s sales and service staff.” Although Mercedes’ failed on many levels (namely providing a junk product), it was this most critical service level that they “dropped the ball” on. He goes further to say “the Mercedes’ experience (and yes it begins when you first drive up to the dealership) should be on a whole different level than that of other, more budget-friendly brands.”

This article is marketing related as it discusses the consequences of failing to deliver on a brand promise. If a brand promise is created, consumer expectations for that company are raised as a result of the higher premium that product is able to fetch at market. It is also interesting to note how many second chances Gossieaux was willing to give the company. It is significant that he spent thousands of dollars on repairs to the car in a five year period instead of simply dumping it after his first bad experience. Blanchard and Gossieaux’s postings show the direct consequences of providing product and services that do not meet the expectations of the customer.

This article informs marketing with its establishment of a relationship between brand promise and service. We have often talked about the relationship between brand promise and product quality. This article takes this idea further and instructs marketers that brand promise, quality and service must all be aligned. This may seem like a subtle difference, but can be easily overlooked by companies, as it was by Mercedes-Benz. If a brand is associated with luxury, it is not enough to provide a luxury product. The customer expects luxury service as well and it is not enough to provide one without the other. Gossieaux seem most enraged and dissatisfied when he was consistently given poor service from dealership after dealership and was then brushed off by the corporate office.

The flip side is also true, although it is desirable to provide all customers with good service, customers purchasing a brand that does not promise such high ‘superquality’ will not be expected to provide ‘superquality’ of service. It is important for marketers to be sensitive to where their products fall on the ‘brand promise continuum’ so they can provide service that matches that level to retain a satisfied customer base.

This article improved my understanding of marketing by explicitly adding service to the brand promise-quality equation. It also seemed significant to me that consumers are willing to give second chances to the company, apparent in Gossieaux’s account. Despite the extremely poor, even dangerous, quality of the car Gossieaux still gave the company a sliver of slack, still wanting to believe that “this was just a bad movie and that nobody at Mercedes corporation would want anyone to perceive their brand this way” after fighting with the company over the hole in the car’s engine. He gave the company multiple chances to redeem itself, and instead was increasingly dissatisfied after every interaction with the firm. It seems to me that Mercedes seriously missed the boat by constantly excluding service (among other things) from their equation, especially because their promise is associated with ‘superquality.’

More of a comment than a critique: it would be interesting to see how Gossieaux would have reacted if the product was well made and it was only the service that was poor. This would be a true test of the importance of aligning brand promise, product quality and service and would display a more accurate measurement of the importance of service in the brand-quality-service equation. Otherwise, Blanchard’s posting is well done and informative and uses Gossieaux’s example to effectively illustrate his point.


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Friday, April 07, 2006 3:40:00 PM  

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