Dear Brands, Your Product Is Now Your Experience

The medium is the message. 

If you’re over the age of… well let me take that back for even if you’re in college right now, you should know this very famous phrase.

In case you don’t know it or have forgotten…

As per In 1964 Canadian educator, philosopher, and media theorist of the University of Toronto Marshall McLuhanOffsite Link published Undertstanding Media: The Extensions of Man.

In it McLuhan proposed that media themselves, not the content they carry, should be the focus of study — popularly quoted as “the medium is the message.” McLuhan’s insight was that a medium affects the society in which it plays a role not by the content delivered over the medium, but by the characteristics of the medium itself.

Or put another way: “The medium is the message” as a phrase sums up a much deeper communication theory, which is that the medium through which we choose to communicate holds as much, if not more, value than the message itself.”

Paraphrasing 101

To paraphrase McLuhan, brands today need to wake up to the fact that their products are now their experience. In fact, I paraphrased someone else to then in turn paraphrase McLuhan.

I was reading an article entitled Customers turned off by inaccurate personalisation and bad customer service via when I came across a quote from Stacey Epstein, CMO of Freshworks.

In discussing the findings, she said:

“The take-away for companies is that they can no longer separate their product from the customer experience; instead, it is a business imperative for companies to make it easy to delight their customers through thoughtful, easy and speedy interactions that reflect customer values.”

As soon as I read the quote, it hit me: The product is the experience ala the medium is the message. It is a brilliant line and I absolutely believe when Epstein writes that “(companies) can no longer separate their product from the customer experience.”

Now, I realize some of you highly-literal folks may be thinking “But Steve, my company doesn’t make products, we offer a service. So this doesn’t apply to us.” I cannot believe I have to write the following but: Your service — or whatever you peddle — is your product.

Are we clear?

It All Starts With the Product

The year was 2007. Over the previous three years, Facebook and Twitter launched. Not long after companies far and wide were trying to best capitalize on this hot new trend; they could suddenly engage and interact with customers and prospects via heretofore unavailable avenues.

I was doing some work for a small ad agency and I can remember like it was yesterday sitting in a meeting with a prospective client who insisted on using social media as a means to grow their business — which in this case was a chain of dry cleaners.

In doing my research ahead of the initial meeting, I noticed some very poor online reviews on Yelp and sites such as Epinions.

Once the meeting began, I mentioned these reviews to the prospect as I wanted to know more; what was he doing to address these, etc. He looked me dead in the eye and said: “Yeah I’ve seen them, that’s why I need social media; I need to distract people from those reviews online.”

So, basically, his idea was to NOT deal with the poor reviews/poor products but instead try and overcome them by distraction. I very respectfully told him social media or ANY kind of marketing or advertising will not solve his problem. Only by delivering a better product will do that.

Getting Them In the Door Is Easy, Getting Them Coming Back Is Another Story

Here’s the thing, kids. Any ad agency in the world can create the single greatest, most moving, emotionally-driven ad or story as a means to draw attention to your product, service, ware, restaurant, dry cleaner and on and on and on.

Advertising can get people in the door. No problem. But once they’re inside the door, proverbial or otherwise, unless you have a damned good product, service, ware, restaurant, dry cleaner and on and on and on, they ain’t coming back.


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