Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Bad Medicine

Imagine selling a product or service that blatantly advertises its shortcomings.

Buckley's Mixture adopted that brand strategy more than two decades ago with its promise ...

"It tastes awful. And it works."

Buckley's Mixture has tasted horrible since it was developed by W.K. Buckley, a Toronto pharmacist, in 1919. He discovered several natural ingredients used in the treatment of coughs and colds (the recipe is a closely guarded company secret) combining them to create a signature product. By the mid-1980s, and with sales lagging Buckley's son, Frank, decided on a new campaign that trumpeted its truly awful taste and remarkable healing powers.The strategy worked as Buckley's won several advertising awards, gained significant market share as sales surged while lifting brand value with it.

Don't you feel admiration for brands that have no qualms about stating it the way it is? Buckley's isn't for everyone. And they have stuck to their guns even though there's been a lot of pressure to introduce a better tasting mixture.Of course, if Buckley's didn't work, all that taste-bud torture would be for naught and the product wouldn't sell. In other words, this brand delivers on its promise - warts and all.

And would you believe Buckley's customers don't mind one bit?

Another brand seeing the wisdom in keeping it real these days is Google. But not so much from their ads and what they say but more from what they actually DO in serving their customers. Here is part of an e-mail sent out last week, (August 27 to be exact), to a friend of mine who happens to be a Google Apps customer.

We're committed to making Google Apps Premier Edition a service on which your organization can depend. During the first half of August, we didn't do this as well as we should have. We had three outages - on August 6, August 11, and August 15. The August 11 outage was experienced by nearly all Google Apps Premier users while the August 6 and 15 outages were minor and affected a very small number of Google Apps Premier users. As is typical of things associated with Google, these outages were the subject of much public commentary.Through this note, we want to assure you that system reliability is a top priority at Google. When outages occur, Google engineers around the world are immediately mobilized to resolve the issue. We made mistakes in August, and we're sorry. While we're passionate about excellence, we can't promise you a future that's completely free of system interruptions. Instead, we promise you rapid resolution of any production problem; and more importantly, we promise you focused discipline on preventing recurrence of the same problem. Given the production incidents that occurred in August, we'll be extending the full SLA credit to all Google Apps Premier customers for the month of August, which represents a 15-day extension of your service. SLA credits will be applied to the new service term for accounts with a renewal order pending. This credit will be applied to your account automatically so there's no action needed on your part.We've also heard your guidance around the need for better communication when outages occur. Here are three things that we're doing to make things better ....

Once again, thanks for you continued support and understanding.

The Google Apps Team

Legendary advertising guru Bill Bernbach captured it best when he opined, "Here is a great gimmick, let's tell the truth". Bernbach successfully applied that philosophy throughout his career which included award-winning campaigns such as Volkswagen's "Think Small" and "We Try Harder" from Avis. Bill felt that no matter how skillful you are, you can't invent a product advantage that doesn't exist. And if you do, and it's just a gimmick, it's going to fall apart anyway.

Bad medicine is good business.

Are there other brands you've noticed that do a good job at delivering the unvarnished truth? Don't you admire people and brands a lot more when they give it to you straight, sparing you the candy-coated bulls&*%?

In what ways could your brand leverage good stuff that bad medicine brings?

"Your love is like bad medicine, bad medicine is what I need" JON BON JOVI


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