06 May 2014

I’m allergic to smells: probably the most poorly architected sentence I utter on a monthly basis. The sensitivity is severe enough that I actually voluntarily purchased a year’s supply of fresh rain scented All - the only flavor that doesn’t actively make me sneeze - from Walmart when I moved to Miami. So you can imagine my delight when I started seeing this seemingly obscure scent at stores like Publix and Target. Naturally I stocked up, just in case it was a fluke. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to cut Walmart out of my life for good. Flash forward a few weeks and I go to do laundry and I swear, All changed the smell I’d been using - no, relying on - for YEARS. 

I spent most of last night searching for the sneeze smell source around my apartment. I kept telling myself it couldn’t possibly be the detergent. All wouldn’t do that to me. It goes against the brand. It undermines my loyalty. It means I own about 132 loads worth of soap I can’t use!::sigh::I decided to call it a night and resume laundering this morning, hoping the fragrance proved phantom. While waiting for the spin cycle to terminate, I caught myself reading the bottle: “now with improved scent.” Liar! First of all, who are you to tell me what’s improved? Secondly, if you’re going to muck with the flavor, change the bloody name! Would Fresher rain been that hard to print? Anything to signal to loyal purists that they were about to purchase a giant bottle of nose tickle. The whole mess got me thinking about brand purity.

As companies grow, sometimes rapidly, strain is placed on both the culture and the product. AppDynamics’ CEO offers some advice in this article from Inc., but what about those of us who came on board before changes ensued? How do we communicate the new marketing message to our existing customers when we barely have the shtick down ourselves? Or worse, how do we explain dramatic shifts in product or road map to those partners and consumers who’ve staked their reputation, and perhaps their business’ success, on our continued supply of reliable product?

Personally I think it comes down to transparency. Had All not so grossly mishandled the change, I might not have been so eager to take Ralph up on his suggestion to explore more yuppy, er… I mean “natural,” soaps at Whole Foods. Customers will forgive small changes when you trust them enough to communicate. We all understand that the market shifts, but once you tick someone off the likelihood of them bothering to explore alternatives within your product line goes way down.

So this week, don’t bury the lead. When you rely on fine-print to disseminate “improvements” you disrespect the most loyal of your customer base. Remember people are lazy and spending an afternoon sniffing soap, while fun, takes time. Save ‘em the bother; be upfront.

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Last modified on Thursday, 08 January 2015 20:04
Erin Wilson

I find great amusement in everyday absurdities and am constantly surprised by how my bar-ventures, my travels, and even my food-qusitions relate to the shenanigans that is software sales. I am grateful for the opportunity to leverage the Sapient Salesman as an outlet to share with you my follies, and I hope you can enjoy the schadenfreude.

Website: ebullienterin.com/

Erin Wilson is the author and publisher of the Sapient Salesman

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