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The marketing of quality is a loser’s game. Product quality can no longer be used effectively as a marketing tool. The quality of the products your customers purchase today is higher than ever and most items work as advertised well past their expected life. The improvements in product quality over the past 25 years has  customers expecting the products they purchase to perform as intended for a period of time commensurate with their cost. Marketing programs based around quality is akin to car manufacturers advertising that their automobiles come with steering wheels.

There are three reasons for this:

  1. The internet is the great equalizer
  2. Dr. Deming and “colored belts”
  3. Governmental agencies

The internet as the great equalizer

The ease of instant communication has homogenized the industrial world. This homogenizing has permitted corporations to base a large portion of their manufacturing capacity in Asia. This would have been nearly impossible without e-mail, shared cloud services, FTP sites, and other technologies enabled by the internet. The internet has also created the ability for customers to communicate among themselves quickly and effectively about products quality.

A business can no longer produce a substandard product and expect to survive for very long. Sufficient quality is expected by consumers so using “high quality” as a marketing tool is now meaningless. The ease of communications has raised the bar on quality.

An example of this is Mercedes-Benz automobiles. Mercedes is world renowned for their quality and luxury, and rightfully so. Until a few years ago, their tagline was “Engineered like no other car in the world.” This implied their level of quality was unmatched. They have recently dropped this tagline because their high-level of engineered quality is no longer unique. It is still great but other manufacturers now achieve these same levels of quality.

Dr. Deming and colored belts

When W. Edwards Deming went to Japan in the 1960s, quality industrial production went with him. Dr. Deming and others are credited with turning around Japanese industry. There is little argument that they accomplished this and the success is in large part due to their efforts to improve the quality of Japanese products.

Today, most manufacturers are following Dr. Deming’s ideas, those of his acolytes, or the “Six Sigma” model and its ranks of colored belts that was made popular in the 1980s. The widespread use of these tools implemented by today’s practitioners who signifying their rank with multi-colored belts have created an industrial world that produces quality products with excellent reliability.

Governmental agencies

The governments of the United States of America, and of most other countries, has wide-reaching power to monitor, regulate, and if necessary, prosecute corporations for harm caused by poor product safety and quality. Corporations do not want to run afoul of these government agencies because of the cost of litigation, lawsuits, and the resulting unfavorable press coverage.

Similar to the consequences described in the first topic, the ability of governments to communicate and cooperate to punish companies for unsafe products forces companies to ensure they are doing everything possible manufacture good quality and safe products.

Product quality is very important to the commercial success of a business. However, using marketing and advertising resources to prove how much quality you provide squanders these resources. Customers expect a level of product quality commensurate with the price paid, and no amount of marketing will change their expectation. If your product does not meet this minimum threshold, then customers will purchase from your competitors. If your quality is equal-to or better-than your industry, few will notice. It’s expected.

Doug Ringer is a product development and marketing expert and the author of The Product Rocket: Launching New Products to Out-of-this-World Success. Doug has held global roles in marketing, R&D, and manufacturing at General Electric, Ericsson, and Honeywell. Follow his work at www.dougringer.com and Twitter.

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