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Customer reactions make for great ads

Jaiboy Joseph

A customer's words of appreciation have a greater impact than the spiel churned out by endorsers, minor or major, in an advertisement.

REALLY great advertising comes from the product itself. Indeed, William Bernbach wrote "A great ad campaign will make a bad product fail faster. It will get more people to know that it's bad." Hence the importance of continued product improvement.

Conventional wisdom holds that it is the user who is most qualified to pass judgement on a product. That is why MRF's print ads carrying authentic letters of satisfied customers pack in conviction. In one of the recent compositions, there is the display of an unsolicited compliment paid by the user of a new car who replaced his original tyres with a set of MRF ZVTS which, according to him, made all the difference.

All would agree that an authentic letter equivalent to an affidavit from a real customer makes a far greater impact than the concocted spiel of celebrity endorsers or even of models impersonating the common man in an ad.

Ads strong in credibility are also those which cite the findings of an unbiased third party. MRF struck gold recently when J.D. Power Asia Pacific reported that its tyres and Bridgestone rank highest in their Original Tyre Customer Satisfaction Index Study. The 2002 study, it would appear, is based on evaluations of more than 2,600 owners of 23 different models. Overall performance is assessed on 15 attributes grouped into four factors: appearance, wearability, traction and highway performance.

MRF, enjoying the acclaim, was smart enough to advertise this verdict with print ads. J.D. Power bases its findings on customer reactions, which, as earlier mentioned, could be more valuable than celebrity endorsements, or even the customary hype by the manufacturer himself. J.D. Power and Associates, incidentally, is a global marketing information services firm operating from California in key business sectors including market research, forecasting, consulting training and customer satisfaction. The firm's quality and satisfaction measurements are based always on actual responses from millions of customers annually. Drawing on 30 years of experience in the automobile industry, it claims to be the sole authority on automotive consumer satisfaction surveys and quality reports.

In the study, Goodyear and JK Tyres recorded improvements compared to 2001, thereby narrowing their performance gap compared to Bridgestone and MRF.

Not so long ago, JK Tyre had put out an advertisement that it is India's No.1 radial with information sourced from the Automotive Tyre Manufactures Association and elsewhere. Apollo Amazer XL also touched a vital chord in its ads stating "To survive the Indian roads our tyres have to be tough. And not our prices." Reference to prices is understandably something that makes customers sit up and notice.

The J.D. Power certificate could not have come at a better time than when it was reported that there have been a number of accidents on India's expressways resulting from suspected quality flaws in tyres. The Ford Explorer sport utility car's accident in California comes to mind.

When tyres were blamed for the accident, the tyre maker said it would recall more than six million Firestone tyres fitted mainly on the Explorer vehicles. Now, of course, there is a new twist to the story with a California jury ruling that Ford Motor's Explorer itself was possibly "defective by design".

For the average customer who isn't a hot-rodder, technical aspects are of little consequence.

He is happy as long as tyres don't develop cracks and don't wear off before their time. It is widely acknowledged that a comfortable ride is, among other things, dependent on the condition of tyres, a fact highlighted in MRF's "Action Replay" TV spots carrying home-spun images which are good fun to watch.

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