Marketing is Propaganda, Customer Experience is Diplomacy

Apple & Microsoft

Knowing this comparison is about as boring as it gets, at least for me, I’ll take a different angle on it.  The first code I tapped was on an Apple II E.  It was at school, elementary.  At home, I couldn’t afford a Mac, so a PC running Windows it was.  I have been using a Windows OS since I was a child.  I write this blog post in Word, on Win 7.  The hardware though, it’s a Mac Book Pro.  I toggle between the OS’s now more than I ever had, but Windows is in the enterprise and I do like it.  But I have never, I repeat, never had a conversation, nor met in person, a MSFT representative.  I have however met dozens if not hundreds of Apple Reps.  For a while when I lived in Boston I had a favorite Genius at the Boylston Street store.  When I was trying to determine how to sell OS X as the standard for my company, I was given access to resources in Cupertino.  What I have received from MSFT were flyers thrown from a moving plane hoping the message of the enemy would ring true.

Volvo & Infinity

I have never owned an Infinity vehicle. This comparison is based on family members experiences and tales.  I am on my second Volvo, involving a mid-cross country drive purchase, which only further strengthened my affinity.  Owning a car for some is emotional, even if just practical. Owning a car is just the beginning of that relationship though.  Maintenance, upgrades, mechanical problems are normal for nearly all car types.  Add on user error and stupid human tricks, and needing a mechanic or dealer once in a while is a foregone conclusion.  Based on the experiences of my family with Infinity, I would never buy one. Not because of the vehicles themselves (I actually like the designs) but because of the experience I see people have with them.  I don’t hear satisfied people coming from their oil changes or tune ups.  Sure they have waiting rooms, loaner cars and free coffee.  The Infinity dealerships I have been into do a nice job of creating as pleasant physical space for their customers.  But the experience is lacking.  My Volvo experience extends from Boston to Las Vegas to Los Angeles.  The experience I have had at each of the dealers is nearly identical.  The concierge type service & human empathy is abundant.  I have never had to talk myself ‘into something’ with Volvo. They do the right thing, because, well, it’s the right thing.  They are prescriptive, anticipatory and friendly.  I actually like going to my dealership – there’s no one else I know who will geek out on my car with me the way they will.  I don’t remember the last Volvo ad or marketing campaign I noticed.  But I don’t have to. They are having a conversation with me at a deeper level.

Amica Insurance & Geico Insurance

I have been with Amica Insurance for almost 15 years.  I don’t recall I how I was introduced to them.  I know it wasn’t their marketing. It didn’t and still doesn’t resonate with me.  I see their commercials and sometimes cringe.  However, every step of my experience with their company is effortless.  I have only had a few occasions to file a claim (knock on wood) and each time I was cared for.  Not handled: cared for.  Moving cross country I took the opportunity to see if I switching insurance companies was worth the effort.  My insurance needs were shrinking, so why not.  So the research began and I worked with Geico to get some competitive quotes.  I talked to several reps, all of which were knowledgeable and courteous.  But I was being handled, not cared for and I could feel it.  The process and the care weren’t evident, even if it was present. But I sure knew who they were, who their spokespeople were and how long it would take me to save money.  Amica kept my business and probably will barring a major faux pas.

Final Thoughts

Applying this idea of propaganda and diplomacy to my own brand choices it is crystal clear which approach is working.  Propaganda is the mass disbursement of a promise; diplomacy is the realization of it. Restating the idea of expanding ones territory while defending ones sovereignty, it’s clear the modern execution of this is customer experience.  The speed of customer adoption and affinity is nearly untraceable. Brands are winning and losing customers in moments, not transactions.  A continued evolution inside the four walls of a business is the operational mandate needed to create a compelling customer experience.  The process of transforming from propaganda to diplomacy is difficult and ongoing; the ideas and determination of strategy is hard and time consuming.  But we must do it. For ourselves and for each other.