Often times while driving my car, I am reminded of the human genius that has gone into making the machine that takes me from point A to point B. I believe humankind owes much to Henry Ford for building the assembly line that ensured motor cars were within the reach of the masses. In 1908, when the Model T was first introduced, it was priced at $950. Over 19 years of its production the Model T price dropped, reaching a low of $280 in its final years. It has now been a century since that happened, but some things haven’t changed.
Like car manufacturers believing that cars are about moving people from point A to B and that a low price is what matters to consumers. Part of that is true, however that unfortunately is a primitive understanding of cars and consumers. Sure, cars take people places. Sure, consumers buy value-for-money cars so they can go places, but there’s more to that story that could be the difference between a successful car brand and one that finds no favour with buyers. Today, cars and everything like cars (read, conspicuous products and services) are about ‘making statements’. People express who they are through stuff they buy and ‘show off’. Now that has major implications on business and marketing. Manufacturers can no longer build cars that are limited to delivering to the need for private transportation. They have to go beyond and have cars ‘do the talking’ for their proud owners. That in effect means manufacturers have to get issues like design aesthetics, features, and branding right.
Another common fallacy that car manufacturers fall into is believing that the masses don’t care too much for ‘making statements’ via products and services. Truth is, they do! They may not be able to afford premium prices like the upper-middle and the upper classes, but they too want to partake of the esteem value that comes from owning a car (or any other ‘conspicuous product’). To me, the Renault Kwid is probably the best example of a company that has catered to mass consumers with a car that has high ‘drool value’. An SUV inspired design, the best of features, and a price to die for (via lower costs due to localisation) set the brand on a path to roaring success. According to the J.D. Power 2016 India Sales Satisfaction Index (SSI), when it comes to buying a new car, the factors dictating overall satisfaction are, sales initiation (17%); dealer facility (17%); deal & paperwork (17%); delivery timing (17%); salesperson (16%); and delivery process (16%).
Note, in the purchase of cars, other things matter too; like the enablers in place that put cars within financial reach of masses in India. These enablers include easily available car loans. Also don’t forget car loans at low interest rates. The benefits of availing car loans are many. First and foremost, loans ensure you don’t burn a hole into your savings. In addition, as a consumer you can opt for the time period over which you repay your loan ensuring that the outflow amount fits into what is affordable. What’s more, if the car buyer works with his bank for a loan, there’s a possibility he can avail of discounts, and therefore lower interest rates. Other than the decision on financing a car buy, service facilities and low service costs are issues that matter to consumers. All of this, in effect, shows how important it is for businesses and marketers to believe products are more than just that. Products and associated services in fact translate into a bundled solution to the consumer. The car, and other conspicuous products consumers buy, in the end are living-breathing things that ‘talk loud’ about their buyer-masters. They do the job of providing their masters with personalities they can flaunt in their social circles.
Want the buyer’s patronage? Get products and services to do the talking and make style-statements about their owners!