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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Revival of the Lowest Common Denominator

Can you guess what DHL, Travelocity, and Citi have in common? Well, as you guessed, I plan to tell you.

Besides the obvious fact that they are service providers, they have all brought back the theme of better or guaranteed service in recent campaigns as part of overall brand re-positioning.

DHL touted the fact that service is back in the shipping business. Travelocity has the 'Travelocity Guarantee' that your orders will be correct without fail, and Citi now offers a credit card that helps you to better manage your account by being able to press '0' on your telephone to speak with a real person.

These occurrences and their success are all very interesting from a strategic marketing perspective. I say this because it defies so many of the assumptions that are so frequently clung to by marketers in industry and academia.

This includes the belief that service businesses must provide a certain level of quality to stay in business, however quality may be defined: speed, personalization, reliability, etc. Many agency folk, academics in higher education, and more senior-level literature on the matter assume that this is the lowest common denominator for business survival and therefore are not uniquely viable long-term positoning strategies.

In the fact of technologically-optimized (read: computer automated) businesses and increased outsourcing, it will be interesting to see if "better service" remains viable in campaigns or actually finds itself defying textbook strategy and becoming a pillar of successful brands and their overt positioning and messaging platforms.


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