Friday, 16 November 2012

Brand loyalty

Moving to a new town sometimes reveals some unusual problems.

I was unpacking the dishwasher this afternoon and, as I packed away some Tupperware into the Cavernous Plastics Drawer of Wonder  it occurred to me that there wasn't as much there as I had expected. Indeed, it appeared there has been an amount of Tupper-attrition over the past 12-18 months and something ought to be done about it.

Which led me to the realisation that we are yet to make contact with the local Tupper-pusher.

In Canberra Mrs G had a regular Tupper-pusher, a lovely lady from her church who was not in any way actually pushy and would do lid replacements and standard "lifetime-guarantee,-oh-darn,-that-didn't-last-your-lifetime,-here's-a-whole-new-one-but-it's-the-new-series,-so-you'll-have-to-hope-the-lid-fits,-I'm-kidding,-we-make-sure-it's-all-compatible,-ah-ha-ha-ha!" replacements without batting an eyelid.

Yes, there's an amount of squeamish Suburgatory angst surrounding party-plan selling but, I have to admit, it has a definite place in the economy: it is a legitimate form of sales in its own right; it provides employment in settings and at times that suits a niche sector of the labour market; and it is an unorthodox but effective way of forging social links for people who both host and attend such parties.

(Having helped organise a few of these things and then run away to safety, though, I recommend alcohol be plied to the attendees at some point.)

I think I must be lucky that my personal acquaintance with Tupperware*, Enjo (yes, I just put that song in your head, didn't I!) and UnderCoverWear salespersons has left me with an overwhelmingly positive impression. I mean, these are people whose business in a defined territory depends on return bookings. Each party needs to leave the host, at the very least, with the impression that they'd like to do it again. Repellent over-selling behaviour is not going to lead to business success, and I can confidently report that we've had some solid reps in our house.

But I digress. I refer to the Tupperware lady as a "Tupper-pusher" because Mrs G would invariably return from one of these occasions with something that we absolutely must have and can't do without, but which we would never have imagined we needed before she left the house. And yet, to be honest, the Tupperware can-opener and garlic press are two of the most impressive tools in our kitchen! How could I complain about a result like that? And who now doesn't have one of those orange peelers? Or a kiwi-fruit spoon-knife-speculum? Or three? The Tupperware people have clung to the idea that quality products that just work and last are the things they should be selling, and I like that. So, as an addict, I am comfortable with the dispenser of Tupper-delights being described as a "Tupper-pusher".

What you've read so far is pretty much the train of thought that occurred to me as I was emptying the dishwasher (and I'm so, so sorry to have subjected you to this). Then I started thinking about brand loyalty.

I realised that, like it or not, Family GP has a lot of brand loyalties. We know whose products we like, because we have come to trust the consistency and standard of their products. For plastic containers we'll prefer Earl Tupper's product if possible (though we do have some shoddy knock-offs in the drawer). James Dyson convinced us some time ago that his vaccuum cleaners are simply the best and, although we still have a DC01 (now considered a "classic", and still going strong), when the time comes to replace it, it'll be another Dyson. They're that good. Our best cleaning tools and fibres do, indeed, come from Enjo. There is no substitute for Vegemite, Nutri-Grain or Kraft Peanut Butter. As much as Aldi serves a very useful shopping budget purpose, there are some things you just can't fake.

Most people do the brand loyalty thing with bigger things, too. Witness the very many adults wedded to their Holdens or Fords, Toyotas or Hondas, and who won't hear different. And I know Mrs G and I go on about our IKEA stuff, but we haven't yet been disappointed with anything we've bought from there. It. Just. Works. And that is surely the best attribute to encourage return business.

We all form brand loyalties, through repeated positive experiences, and this is what producers of quality goods want. I think that the day entrepeneurs decided there was a way to make a buck through making something other than the best they could was a very sad one - emphasising volume over quality certainly makes variety accessible to a broader consumer base, but it degrades the quality of a market and makes it possible for the top quality in the market to be less than it could be.

I think my point today is about appreciating quality workmanship. When people make something really good that is in demand, a rich market is created, and that's what's so great about not working under a five year plan.

Oops. Kinda went all capitalist there.

Regardless, the day Mrs G turns to me and says she's received an invitation to a Tupperware party from the mother of one of our children's classmates I'll be saying "Go!". Not just because we need to make some friendly contacts in this town but also because the stuff is just good.

* No commissions offered or accepted for the content of this post.

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