Lately, I have found myself in a lot of brand-related conversations. This ranges from looking closely at FE&S’ products to discussing the market position of other foodservice companies. For better or worse, it seems as if the foodservice industry has branding on the mind these days. So imagine my surprise last week when I saw a headline that simply said “Microsoft is a Dying Brand.”
Every day when firing up my laptop I am greeted by my operating system’s chirpy little anthem and a quick glimpse of the red, blue, yellow and green Microsoft flag and I log on knowing I am a citizen of Windows nation. So how could it be that Microsoft, that ubiquitous information technology company, is a dying brand? But in reading the comments made by Ray Ozzie, Microsoft’s outgoing chief software architect, the headline and article became not as unrealistic as I first thought.
With a workforce that’s more than 90,000 people strong and products that remain the default standard for word processing, number crunching and Internet browsing, Microsoft has a stable of quality products that would be the envy of most any supplier in any industry. Still, this product catalog and legacy of quality and value are not enough to keep the Microsoft brand from dying, as the article points out.
Companies like Apple and Google have stolen Microsoft’s thunder by providing products that consumers perceive to be highly customizable and easy to use. Microsoft needs to do a better job of implementing new products so it can remain competitive within the always evolving mobile field and in other areas to remain relevant not only to today’s consumer but tomorrow’s, too.
If you think what’s happening to Microsoft can’t happen to you or your company, think again. If this can happen to Microsoft it can happen to any company regardless of industry or size. I’ve said this many times before: customers expect your products to provide tremendous quality and value. It does not matter if you are an operator, dealer, manufacturer, consultant or service agent. Value and quality had better be part of the equation. This is even more pronounced in a mature industry, like foodservice equipment and supplies, where new product development is more the exception than the norm.
Foodservice operators, dealers and consultants are placing greater emphasis on the performance of the sales reps that call on them, the product information made available to them and the service that comes with the product after the sale. Basically, what customers are saying is their suppliers and the products they provide need to be easy to work with. Remember that your brand applies to more than the product you provide. It includes the entire experience your customers have when doing business with you and your company.
The Microsoft example shows us it is not enough to be looking ahead with new products and ideas to meet emerging customer needs. Rather, you need to execute against your vision for the future in order to remain relevant in the eyes of the customer.
So much of this is easier said than done, particularly during a time when many foodservice companies are chasing fewer customer projects. Still, each member of the industry needs to keep their eye on the horizon and look for ways to evolve with their customers or, at the very least, be in a position to move forward with their customers when they are ready to evolve.
From the perspective of your brand, it is a matter of life and death. Just ask Microsoft.