Matthew Ferrara, Philosopher
 

Branding: Novelty and Performance aren’t the Same

Today’s customers are too demanding to take “good enough” from trusted brands. Yet many companies release untested products and services on their customers every day – damaging more than just profits. Just ask Samsung.

After months of frustration, I’m throwing out my Samsung Vibrant. I won’t sell it or donate it. It’s that bad.

When it was shiny and new, the Vibrant showed promise: A novel AMOLED screen; touch features; voice commands. All of the specs you’d expect from the latest . As a loyal Samsung customer – TV, monitors, tablet – I accepted the brand’s claims that its new phone would also deliver a great experience.

So what went wrong?

It’s clear that Samsung never tested the Vibrant in the real world. The battery life is terrible. Not even in the cellular dark ages of NiCad batteries have I charged a phone so frequently. No matter what “smart feature” I disable, the Vibrant won’t last a half day. And turning off the smart features is a step back from my previous two-year-outdated phone. Yuck.

How did this happen? Simple: In the rush to bring a new model to market, nobody actually put the Vibrant in their pocket for a week. A couple of days of real-world testing would have indicated it wasn’t ready for public consumption. No consumer wants a disabled, dumbed-down smartphone. Ordinary consumers don’t carry two batteries, either.

Samsung’s Vibrant failure teaches us a lesson about what customers demand from their brands. They expect a brand’s actual performance to live up to its marketing promises. This is true of products. It’s also true of its people. If your brand stands for something – value, performance, luxury, cutting-edge, whatever – your products and people had better live up to those claims.

Otherwise, in a world of social big-mouthing, you can kiss your reputation goodbye.

Let’s apply this to a typical real estate problem: the ages-old mantra. Over the last two decades, a strange and dangerous  transference has occurred in brokers’ minds. As they added novel tools (websites, software, social media) to their operations, they subconsciously accepted the idea that “newer” was “better.” fits right into this association: Just add some new agents to solve your company’s problems, right? New people meant new capability, new market share, new performance levels.

But is it really so?

Constantly recruiting the next agent leaves too little resources or attention for existing ones. Many new agents are recruited and released into the market without sufficient – any – real world testing. Not simply training. Learning a skill is just step one: Customers demand we go beyond the concept to proof of performance. In the real world. Yet how many brokerages actually field-test an agent’s skills in pricing, marketing, negotiating and selling before asking customers to trust them?

It’s dangerous. Some companies look good on paper, but their people lack performance when it matters most to customers.

Granted, many companies deliver real-world performers to customers. And recruiting is a technique for expanding your business at certain times. But when should you focus on recruiting new, rather than developing existing agents? Would you be willing to commit to perfecting current agents before adding new untested ones?

Are you willing to risk your brand otherwise?

It takes more than new tools and certifications to satisfy modern customers. Actual performance matters. For today’s sale and future ones. Just as Samsung should have put the phone in their pocket and watched it perform in the real world for a few weeks, brokers should put themselves in an agent’s cars for a month, and work closely to fine tune and optimize their performance. That’s what does: It manages performance.

And it should do it before going back to the drawing board or losing customers and brand reputation along the way.