It's very fascinating how so many smart business people get stuck thinking about marketing in terms of advertising when it's obviously way more than that. If making a promise, either explicit or implicit, is in your job description, then congratulations, you're a marketer. Therefore, if even a simple promise is broken — for instance, if a restaurant's restroom is grungy — it's becomes a real marketing problem. These operational details never get the headlines or the credit that the new million-dollar campaign does, but perfecting the nitty-gritty stuff is vital to every brand.
The only time it becomes noteworthy is when operations go astray. The Sony Play Station's current tribulations are a perfect example of this. At Sony, the marketing department recently moved in with the IT guys after its major security breech, forcing PlayStation 3's online network to its knees and putting millions of gamers private information in jeopardy. According to AdAge, more than two weeks have passed since 77 million users have had service and early estimates suggest this problem could cost Sony $2 billion. Suddenly, its $61.4 million measured media expenditures feel far less significant.
This problem prompted Sony's marketing brass to offer customers a one year free enrollment in its "All Clear ID Plus" protection plan last Thursday. In his recent apology letter to customers, Howard Stinger, Sony's chief executive, made specific mention that the "All Clear ID Plus" includes $1 million of identity theft insurance, with the hopes of preventing angry customers from fleeing. This is certainly a nice gesture by Sony; however, I wonder if the strategy of offering extra insurance is reliable from a marketing standpoint. I'd compare it to similar "satisfaction or you're money back" guarantees. They actually imply the opposite of confidence in the brand. Offering a money-back guarantee is a brand's way of saying "we don't know if they will like us." Therefore, isn't Sony's offer of extra insurance to protect consumer identities just their way of saying, "We're not sure we can prevent this from happening again."
If they can't be sure of this, perhaps they should explain how it will try every day to make it so. The strategy should be to convince the customer that their personal information is being protected by some of the world's very most capable, um, marketers.
This post also appeared on Talent Zoo's Beneath the Brand blog.