Inspiration vs Manipulation
In the current market, there’s zero scope for creating an exclusive product or service that is not available elsewhere. Be it an electronic gadget or an automobile, in the 21st century, there’s an alternative, replacement, and a cheaper, less expensive option to everything. All of this establishes a simple truth: the first mover’s advantage doesn’t exist anymore. A decade earlier, the first mover could stand to make the greatest profit of all; but in the current era, the first mover’s advantage may last for a matter of months at most, if at all. In such a case, the dynamics of business-to-customer relationships become more sophisticated to understand than ever. While a superior product or an offering could build a loyal customer-base, in the current times, where superior products show up all over the market, what makes customers loyal to a particular brand? If not service and products, what else must it be?
If you ask any business, why it attracts a wide group of loyal customers, the common answers will include reasons such as a superior product, customer service, pricing, and features. However, not many organisations and individuals know the cornerstone reason behind customer loyalty. Before we try to understand the key-reason why customers love a few brands dearly, we have to first understand what brands normally do to gain consumers and how several tried and tested methods of the past are slowly failing to prove effective.
Customers can be appeased by doing any one of the following: manipulating or inspiring. If you take a brief pause and think about all the ad-campaigns you have ever come across, it becomes increasingly evident that most brands try to do any one of the aforementioned two things. What’s more is the fact that several companies resort to manipulating their customers instead of inspiring them. While manipulation may not necessarily be an evil thing, offering discounts, slashing prices, and other gimmicks generate a hefty profit in the short term alone. In the long run, such manipulation tactics turn out ineffective as they do not build a following of loyal customers. They merely allow companies to sell their products and services to a group of people looking to take the most lucrative deals. In the business world, there’s always someone out there who can outdo you in terms of offering the lowest price, most discount, and so on.
As mentioned earlier, manipulation, generally speaking, isn’t a malevolent tactic used by businesses to lure customers. Most companies try to manipulate their customers with the sole motive of offering their products and services. If we examine a little further, it can be understood that companies resorting to common manipulation techniques such as dropping prices and running aspirational messages are the ones who are unsure why their customers turn to them in the first place.
Any business comes into existence when it solves a common pain point that bothers a considerably large number of people. Solving such a pain point involves devising a solution and a scheme, for which any business needs to answer three questions: why, what, and how.
Why are they solving a particular problem?
What are they doing to solve a particular problem?
How are they going to do the “what” that they decided to do?
While answering the questions ‘what’ and ‘how’ are fairly easy, finding an honest answer to the question ‘why’ isn’t as simple. An overview of the present market trends clearly state that the companies with a clear idea of their ‘why’ have never failed to shine above everybody else. Consider companies such as Nike or Apple; both these brands have loyal followers who are head over heels with the products produced by these companies. There is no doubt that other alternatives of both Apple and Nike offer equally good products. The reason for this, as discussed above, is simple to understand. Companies such as Nike and Apple have a clearly stated ‘why.’ And on top of it, they make it a point to communicate their ‘why’ very clearly, which ends up inspiring their customers. While manipulation has a short-lived effect on a customer’s mind, inspiration leaves a lasting impact.
For instance, here’s an advertisement by Apple:
“Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently.
The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly.
And we happen to make great computers.
Wanna buy one?”
From the advertisement, it is apparent that Apple has spoken about their company’s belief system more than their products. Their first two lines, which also happen to be the lengthiest ones, simply speak about the ‘why’ of the company, with a conclusion that tells people they make computers and sell them. An advertisement such as this clearly highlights the fact that Apple attracts consumers based on a set of commonly shared beliefs, but not price gimmicks and other manipulations, highlighting that motivating and inspiring customers always offers a better return-on-investment than manipulation.