My dryer broke. Again. This time for good. It’s dead. D-E-A-D dead. A dryer is an important utility for any household to run smoothly, but when you have 6 females under one roof, wife, daughters, au pair, dog, it is a mission critical as it gets. We had the dryer for 12 years, a gas KitchenAid, the first major purchase after my wife and I got married. I still remember the store, Western Appliance, and the sales guy Lenny, who won my wife over with the ‘Extra Delicate’ cycle feature on the dryer, it was a classic selling move, I never forgot it. Our dryer needed only a few repairs over 12 years – each time we called Sears – including this time. The Sears repairman showed me the repair bill was likely to be as much as much as buying a new dryer, and offered a coupon to do so. I am somewhat sentimental to see the dryer go.
I quick stream of consciousness went through my thoughts, I wondered how Lenny was doing. I wondered if Western Appliance knew I bought every appliance I owned in three houses over 12 years was because of Lenny. I wondered why I hadn’t heard from Western Appliance in a very long time. I wondered if anyone ever actually filled out the survey Sears prints out on its receipts, and wondered if Sears would know that their repairman remembered working on our dryer years ago and was always on time and courteous. I wondered if KitchenAid would think 12 years was a good life for a dryer and why I never heard from them since the purchase.
In my experience, whether for small purchases or large ones, consumers remember buying experiences and have some type of emotion attached to it. Buying something in a small way is an expression of you who are. I also have seen that we as consumers tend to remember the brand (in this case KitchenAid and Sears) much more than the product itself. And good experiences with brand leads to loyalty and hopefully additional purchases at non-sale prices. If anyone were to ask me where to buy an appliance I have always said Western Appliance – ask for Lenny. What strikes me in this age of digital shopping research is two things, first that the brands I am most loyal to (Jeep, Rudy Sunglasses, Specialized Bikes, Nordstrom’s shirts) have no idea that I am and second that there isn’t an avenue for me to naturally express my brand enthusiasm. While I like these brands a lot I certainly am not going to spam my friends to get 10 people to sign up for newsletters so I can get 10%, and I’m not going to enter a sweepstakes to write a review. But I would glad volunteer my experiences if given the right content and context.
In the meantime we needed a new dryer badly. My wife did what she always does, immediately went to research online for the best dryer. She Googled ‘Top Dryers’ and found site near the top of the list that had “Top 10 Dryers”. She saw some comments and a dryer she liked. She went to KitchenAid’s site, but looks like they discontinued selling washers and dryers. She then went to Whirpool’s site and saw 1 review. Then she went to Sear’s site and saw 3 reviews with the quote “Some reviewers may have received a benefit, like a sweepstake, entry, or rewards program points, in exchange for writing this review. The benefits were not conditioned on the positive or negative content of the review.” Anonymous reviews never have credibility – we were stuck – both of us were working, but she was driving by a Sears and ended up venturing in.
My co-founders and I started ReadyPulse to give e-commerce marketers a platform for their brand advocates to naturally express their brand affiliations, loyalty, and enthusiasm, which we call brand advocacy, on social networks, namely Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. We found motivations for these brand advocates (some call them champions, loyalist, enthusiasts) differ; but the most influential advocacy is not anonymous, is authentic and meant to be heard and shared. While ReadyPulse provides automated abilities to score and segment audiences and content, to find the advocates and advocacy, the real benefit for marketers is to be able to develop campaigns to provide content and context to unleash advocacy from those who have declared their affinity to what the brand is and stands for. And bottling those positive, authentic recommendations, from known influencers and placing them at the point where it matters most – research and buying decisions online – is where true value is captured, for brands, for advocates, and for those looking to buy a new dryer.
My wife did go to Western Appliance’s website www.westernappliance.com, there were no reviews on any products we saw. And Lenny? He retired a while ago. Lenny was a handshake and phone type of guy, I doubt he handed over an online profile of us, a 3×5 card maybe. My wife ended up going to Sears, dealt with a couple of knuckleheads over a couple of hour period, and ended up buying a new washer in addition to a dryer, it was a Whirpool, coupled with an extended warranty. Not a great buying experience.
My hope is that we like the Whirpool products as well as we liked KitchenAid. My hope is that Whirpool somehow gives us an opportunity to keep in touch, maybe for preventive maintenance, energy saving tips, something of value. I look forward to sharing my feedback. I think Sears has a repair customer for life, though I would just assume buy our next appliance online as their in store ‘help’ was out to lunch for an hour when my wife got there. We do miss Lenny and hope he is telling shop floor stories in Vegas or Florida how 12 years ago he sold the last two discontinued KitchenAid appliances at list price to a couple newlyweds…