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Why great marketing cannot sell a bad product?

In the world of digital marketing, there is a common misconception that great marketing can sell anything. While it is true that effective marketing strategies can certainly persuade people to consider a product or service, they cannot compensate for a product that fails to deliver on its promises. In other words, no matter how persuasive your marketing efforts may be, if your product is subpar, it will eventually be exposed and your reputation will suffer.

So, why is it that great marketing cannot sell a bad product? Let's explore this idea further and understand the importance of having a high-quality product to back up your marketing efforts.

1. Trust and Credibility

Trust and credibility are the building blocks of any successful brand. When customers purchase a product or service, they are placing their trust in the company or brand to deliver on its promises. If the product fails to meet their expectations, not only will they be disappointed, but they will also lose trust in the brand. This loss of trust can be incredibly difficult to regain, even with stellar marketing campaigns. The expectation may not be around only the product itself but also how the brand fulfills the whole process, including regular communication, logistics, delivery and in the case of some products, after sales service.

Effective marketing can create initial interest and attract customers, but if the product does not live up to its claims, customers are likely to become disillusioned. On the other hand, when a product consistently meets or exceeds customer expectations, it builds trust and credibility, leading to repeat purchases and positive word-of-mouth recommendations. Some examples of such brand promise include behemoths such as Apple, and Amazon –that focus on relentless customer promise.

2. Customer Satisfaction

Customer satisfaction is perhaps one of the greatest metrics to meet as a brand in today’s on-demand and instant gratification driven customer behaviours.  Customers today have higher expectations than ever before, and they are quick to voice their opinions on social media and online review platforms. Today a customer review drives the conversion in more ways than one when there’s not much else to rely on for digital first brands. If a product, or brand consistently receives negative feedback or fails to meet customer needs, no amount of marketing magic can save it. Typically, NPS ratings or net promoter scores at the end of the purchase cycle is a good way to gauge whether a customer is likely to recommend the brand to their friends and peers. This is an important barometer because aside from offering referrals if the NPS score is positive, if used correctly, any CRM team can investigate and learn where the process or experience fell short of the customer’s expectations. Apart from showcasing a business’s customer centricity, it’s a cheaper and more effective way to conduct market research into your own users and buyers. 

In contrast, when a product is of high quality and meets or exceeds customer expectations, it creates a positive customer experience. Satisfied customers are more likely to become brand advocates and spread the word about their positive experiences, which in turn leads to increased sales and brand loyalty. This happens even without an NPS score, and is perhaps the most difficult form of brand recognition to earn. For any brand to earn an anchor space a number of things must happen well –communication, product buying experience, product or service experience itself, and finally, the comfort or happiness the customer feels in their choice, i.e. a venn diagram that validates their purchase decision with happiness, and right price point for what they have spent money. 

3. Long-term Success

While great marketing can generate short-term sales, it is the quality of the product that determines long-term success. A bad product may be able to generate initial sales through clever marketing tactics, but once customers realize that it does not meet their needs or lives up to its promises, they will move on to competitors who offer a better product. This is a common phenomenon we see with ecommerce companies looking to acquire customers. Once they reach a critical mass, typically, with the idea of looking at cost optimisations tend to cut corners and lose their product qualities. This also happens to MNCs and sometimes the brand’s loyalty or fan-following is so intense that it forces companies to roll back products. An example of this has brands such as Coca Cola having to roll back a version of coke, Vegemite, and even Pizza Hut. The customer backlash is often unrelenting and forces a company to ignore all the typical business rationale it may have applied to rebrands, product launches, or new product extensions. That said, even gaining such product or brand loyalty is the outcome of sustained delivery of products decade upon decade.

Great products create loyal customer bases that many times turn into heirloom items. An example of this being used well is the Pateke Phillipe brand that uses the tagline: you don’t own a Patek Philippe; you preserve it for the next generation. That very motto is the driving ethos behind the brand value of this famous watch company brand over time. Whether it’s everyday items such as groceries, apparel brands or even something equally momentous as a home purchase, people choose brands they recognise, and know either themselves to be reliable, or have heard repeatedly from different sources to be creditworthy. It’s worth noting that earning brand loyalty is never a one-time effort and must be done over every single iterative transaction with every single customer. For every 1000 customers, there might be a few who are unhappy but unless this ratio remains constant, the credibility of a brand is often affected if this trust doesn’t stay constant. 

4. Reputation Management

In today's interconnected world, reputation is everything. Bad product experiences can quickly spread through social media, online reviews, and word-of-mouth, damaging a brand's reputation in an instant. Once a brand's reputation takes a hit, it becomes increasingly difficult to regain customer trust and rebuild a positive image.

Effective marketing can certainly help in managing and improving a brand's reputation, but it cannot completely overshadow a bad product. Eventually, the truth will come out, and customers will not hesitate to share their negative experiences. Therefore, it is crucial for businesses to focus on developing high-quality products that consistently meet customer expectations, as this will ultimately lead to a positive reputation and sustained success.

While great marketing can certainly attract attention and generate initial sales, it cannot sell a bad product in the long run. Trust, credibility, customer satisfaction, long-term success, and reputation management are all dependent on the quality of the product itself. It is crucial for businesses to prioritize the development of high-quality products that consistently meet customer needs and deliver value. By doing so, they can create a solid foundation for successful marketing campaigns and build a loyal customer base that will support their brand for years to come.