By Eric Balinski
Say what now? Why it's not good to skunk your customers
In the story, “Strategic Thinking—The New Game Board,” in our second issue of 2017, we discussed how the founders of Yeti figured out an offering that delivered better value to customers in a world full of popular low performing products. In the fourth issue of 2017, the story, “More Pie Please,” we discussed how a new competitor to Yeti could potentially take share from Yeti or create new customer share without pursuing Yeti’s customers. As a supporter of the NRA Foundation, a member of the NRA and a fan of Yeti products, it was intriguing from a professional marketing perspective to watch what transpired in April when Yeti notified the NRA Foundation (a group that raises money to support gun safety and educational programs) that it was eliminating the discount program. Yeti further explained it was offering an alternative program available to consumers and organizations, including the NRA. The NRA viewed the situation stemmed from early March when Yeti refused to fulfill a previously negotiated NRA order, citing “recent events” as the reason (presumably the Parkland shooting). Next, Yeti notified the NRA Foundation that it was terminating a seven-year agreement and demanded the NRA remove Yeti’s name and logo from all NRA digital assets, as well as refrain from using any Yeti trademarks in future print materials.
CRAFT BRAND AND MARKETING
My intention here is not political. Rather for any marketer, what’s particularly strange was Yeti told a long-time customer that it could in no way show or represent any identity of the Yeti brand with the NRA brand. This suggests something more going on than just a new discount program for the NRA. Regardless of where you stand on this debate, what you should consider is how your company can make the same mistake—alienating or even betraying long-time customers. Maybe your actions may not grab headlines, but nonetheless the result can be the same. All too often, companies lose-sight of what’s meaningful and important to the customers. This becomes more complex as you grow, as different customers types show up in your customer mix over time. Your original craft beer aficionado customers, now includes folks who are more casual about their beer consumption. This Yeti story is also similar to what plays out when a craft brewer sells out to a Big Beer producer. The Big Beer buyer just wants the customers of the craft brewer. The craft brewer’s beer is the hook to keep the customer, without necessarily keeping the same values and mission the craft