Monday, December 5, 2011

Is That a Guarantee?

Fotolia_23136298_XSA guarantee is a great marketing device. 

In a world of new marketing ideas, the guarantee is a stodgy, old tactic - not cutting edge, not sexy, but it works. Guarantees are a pledge by a company to stand by their work and to make good on any mistakes. This has strong consumer appeal simply because it so starkly stands up to the consumer fear of being let down.

Consumers love guaranteed performance. They really want to trust and fall in love with their favorite brands, and a guarantee provides rational reasoning to balance emotional appeal. Consumers have been burned by products that don’t live up to expectations. Worse still, the fault for poor performance is often placed back on the consumer when companies say “Be sure to read the fine print” or “click here that you agree to the terms and conditions”. Our culture teaches us at an early age to never trust an offer that is “too good to be true”, and on and on.

Some brands seem to take their marketing cues from the world of politics – a world which cannot offer guarantees. Messages that are “shaped” to not say much of anything, but sound good, or place blame on the other guy when things fall apart (Wouldn’t it be great to have a money back guarantee from a politician?).

Corporate lawyers advise marketers against using a guarantee claim on a product because it represents an implied contractual obligation for the company to stand by its product. “Increasing the likelihood of liability” is how a lawyer views a guarantee and it is, therefore, not a lawyer’s favorite marketing tool. So much so that there is often quite a bit of fine print associated with any guarantee, trying to negate any chance of a consumer filing a false claim. I recently saw a disclaimer stating the company has the “right to cancel this guarantee at any time for any reason”. Wow. This does more harm than good for reputation.

Warrantees, unlike guarantees, are not so much a marketing claim as they are a product feature indicating how long a big ticket item should last with some agreement as to remedy. Companies use statistical analysis to determine length of warranty, and they can be extended at additional cost. The U.S. auto industry famously used the “power train warranty” to combat low quality perceptions years ago.

Guarantees can be on specific elements of delivery or a specific result. For instance, the cable company guarantees a certain arrival time at your home. So does the pizza delivery guy. Any particular aspect of your product or service where the consumer is afraid of being let down is a good place to offer a guarantee, no matter how specific.

When a brand can claim that it honestly stands by its product or service, no matter what (without silly disclaimers), it is one of the most powerful claims that can be made.

How about your brand? Do you guarantee your products, service, or delivery? If not, find out why and work on that area. If so, lead the market with a bold guarantee of quality, then watch what happens.

“You’re gonna like the way you look, I guarantee it” – George Zimmer

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