Why you should avoid “high quality” or “good service” in your marketing communication

Here’s one of the questions from a brief you may encounter when working on your brand with an advertising agency: “If I am to choose between you and the competition, what would compel me choose you?” The answer I come across way too often is “high quality”. That’s why I eliminated it from our briefs by adding “High quality does not mean anything”. It did not help. In the brief that’s laying in from of me the answer is “effectiveness, honesty, integrity”.

A brand is a promise you give to your client. On one hand it’s the answer to “how can I help you?” question, on the other side the promise must contain the answer to “why you?” question as well. If you don’t keep your promise, you’ll lose the client forever. And promising him “quality” or “effectiveness” is the best way to achieve just that. Why? Because everybody imagines “high quality” differently. And trying to explain to a disappointed customer after the fact that “you meant something else” will get you nowhere.

The quality needs precise measurement units. They should be developed during the process of brand creation, and they should be upheld all the way.

Imagine you’re selling coconuts on the market. Simply stating that your coconuts are “high quality” must stem from understanding, why your customers need those coconuts in the first place. So, we’re back to the “how can I help you” question. If coconuts are to be used for making piña colada they should be sweet and the shell should not be very hard. Size does not matter.

But what about when a coconut is used to make a weapon? You know, the kind consisting of a stick, a chain and a spiked ball at the other end of the chain? “High quality” coconut for that purpose should be big and hard. Should it be sweet? Nobody cares.

It’s the same with “effectiveness” or “good service” — if your parameters aren’t concrete, if there are no measurement units, you’re left with empty words. And they can do more harm than good because a disgruntled customer will say out loud he’d expected effectiveness and what he’d got totally was not what he’d expected.

Do a little experiment: ask your customers why they are using your products or services. And then, after you’ve heard some of the “suspicious” words (such as “quality” or “good service”) ask them, what measurement units they use to judge that. You may be in for a great surprise. Because they may either each point out to different things or even to a parameter you haven’t thought of…

I did that experiment at my agency long ago. I asked how they perceived quality in advertising services. Why did they choose us over competition, freelancers? What I expected was “we like your projects” or “you submit great ideas”. None of the above. “You answer your phones” was what I heard. My quality unit is the time it takes for us to answer the phone. At a strategic branding agency.

How about you? Do you know what’s the “measurement of quality” at your company? Think about it…