The best customer experiences tend to come from companies with major service components, like Disney and Ritz-Carlton. Their business models place them face-to-face with customers, and their fortunes rise and fall on their ability to provide compelling experiences, as Starbucks discovered a couple of years ago. But most product companies, especially those that don’t sell directly to end-users, don’t think quite as rigorously about customer experience.
Enter Method Products. Method is one of those delightfully quirky entrepreneurial stories. In the late 1990s, two 24-year-old guys — an ad man and a climate researcher — take off on a ski weekend and decide that the home cleaning products industry is ripe for a shakeup. Never mind that it’s a mature, relatively stagnant market dominated by powerful brand names like Procter & Gamble and the Clorox Company. Never mind that everybody else is starting e-businesses. Never mind that they are two 24-year-old guys on a ski weekend talking about cleaning products. By 2010, their privately held company is generating annual revenues somewhere north of US$200 million; it counts major retailers, including Target, Whole Foods, and Auchan, among its accounts; and the big dogs are tracking it.
How did Method do it? One way, as detailed in the excerpt below from the new book by Method cofounders Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry, was by zeroing in on the abysmal experience associated with so many home cleansers, such as the eye-tearing, nose-burning, skin-irritating sensations that can transform a minor decision about who is going to clean the bathroom into a domestic negotiation of epic proportions.
— Theodore Kinni
Excerpted from “Obsession 6” of The Method Method: 7 Obsessions That Helped Our Scrappy Start-Up Turn an Industry Upside Down
Most companies underestimate the power of emotional differentiation, focusing instead on functional differentiation. Rational, fact-based, “hard” attributes always play well in boardrooms and focus groups, but they don’t reflect the real way consumers think and act. Consumer loyalty is the result of a brand’s ability to stand out on both functional and emotional attributes. Sure, most consumers consider functional attributes more important than emotional ones, but what if all your competitors have the same functional attributes? You’ve got to stand out somehow — and studies by Forrester have shown that brands that distinguish themselves on emotional attributes can capture 60 percent greater loyalty.
So to achieve high levels of loyalty, today’s new brands have to focus their resources on a select few functional attributes on which they can double down — often requiring them to divert resources from less important ones. An example in nearby Berkeley, California, is Berkeley Bowl [Marketplace]. It’s a foodie’s paradise, with a ridiculous selection of fresh produce and exotic goods. Problem is, it’s a customer-service nightmare, with long checkout lines, overwhelmed stockers, and crowded aisles. The store purposely overinvests on delivering great selection while willingly sacrificing on service. Walking through the store, you can’t help but wonder, “Don’t these guys value customer service? Is the produce that good?” For a select group of devoted Berkeley residents, it is — and Berkeley Bowl has built its business on that emotional response. Most of us, however, would rather go to a place that satisfies our desire for strong quality and great service. This is the most effective way to deliver emotionally distinct experiences — by linking them to your brand’s “shared values” with a specific consumer. This reinforces the importance of mission, purpose, and POV [point of view]. And emotional connections via shared values can be built faster than you might think! That’s why, at Method, we match the sensory experience to our advocates’ shared value for “the love of clean.”