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How Microsoft, Lenovo and Clickfree Damage Their Collective Brand Experience

By Jeff Kagan
Oct 3, 2014 6:40 AM PT

What is a collective brand experience, and why is it so important for companies to understand and manage it correctly? It can't be ignored, because it will grow on its own and in harmful ways. However, most don't even understand the concept and are shooting themselves in the foot on a daily basis.

How Microsoft, Lenovo and Clickfree Damage Their Collective Brand Experience

Companies understand the brand. Even so, only some do a good job at building, nurturing and protecting their own brand. A collective brand experience goes beyond that. It's something we all experience on a daily basis, but don't realize. It can either build or break a brand.

A collective brand experience is when in order to use one product you must rely on another product -- for example, peripherals, software and add-ons to your computer.

A customer's good experience with one product depends on other companies. If the product works, great. If the product does not work, that's a problem. There is no way for the customer to figure out where the problem lies and how to fix it -- and that damages every participant in the collective brand experience.

Finding the Source

Take Microsoft, Lenovo and Clickfree, for example. Separately, they have strong brands. However, when you try and make them work together, sometimes there are problems. Finding out where the problem lies can be impossible for the customer, which results in lasting brand and loyalty problems.

This hurts the brand experience of each company. So companies must work hard, separately and together, to solve customer problems.

Why don't they? Good question, since not doing so hurts their brand.

I love innovation. What I don't like is when things stop working after innovation. Typically there is a busy period after any new product cycle when every company tries to catch up.

For example, every time Apple updates its iOS, all the apps must be updated over the first few weeks to make sure they still work well.

That annoys the average user. That's why only early adopters typically jump right in. They find the problems, the companies fix the problems, then the next waves of users jump in. Over the next couple of years, users are generally happy.

So after a few years, you would expect the bugs to be worked out, right? Wrong.

Somebody should tell that to Microsoft, Lenovo and Clickfree, because they are continually damaging their own brands in this process. Consider this:

  • Microsoft Windows 7 Professional has been around for years and generally works well.
  • Lenovo has an excellent line of computers, laptops and tablets, but even its best devices are limited by the operating system they use from Microsoft.
  • Clickfree is a terrific backup device that connects to the computer and sits on the desk.

Over the years, I have used all three and they seldom let me down. However, I started to experience problems during the last year.

So where is the problem coming from -- Microsoft, Lenovo or Clickfree?

Compatibility Problems

A year ago, I bought two new Clickfree devices because they were larger and faster. They worked great for several months, but then both simply stopped working. Curious. That never happened before. That was one chink in my loyalty to Clickfree.

Fortunately, I had older Clickfree devices that still worked, so I used them while waiting for the new devices I just purchased to arrive.

The two new devices worked great for a few weeks, but then one of them stopped working. Very curious. Another chink in Clickfree's armor.

After spending hours trying everything I could think of, I eventually called Clickfree for help. After spending too much time on the phone, I finally asked them to replace the unit. They agreed.

After nearly a month of waiting, my new replacement finally arrived. That was another problem. The exchange should have been much quicker. After all, companies shouldn't tick off good customers if they want them to remain customers.

Bottom line: The new device didn't work either. However, the other Clickfree device of the same model name still worked. Very curious -- it just doesn't make sense.

I started thinking that perhaps the problem was not just with Clickfree. The problems with the two I purchased last year are still a mystery, but I am getting closer to figuring out the problem with this new device.

What is it? It works, but it is not compatible with one of my T430 laptops.

Even though that is hard to believe, that must be the problem. What's hard to believe is that I have two identical Clickfree devices and several nearly identical T430 Thinkpad computers all using Windows 7 Professional.

The reason I have the same devices is so I don't have to spend time learning the quirks of each -- or so I thought. As it turns out, even though all these devices have the same name, they are not the same.

Fading Customer Loyalty

The Microsoft Windows 7 Professional OS is obviously a different version on each computer, even though the computer name and model say they should be the same.

So the question is, where is the problem? Is it with Lenovo on its Thinkpad or Microsoft with its Windows 7 Professional or Clickfree with its backup device?

To answer the question, let me just say at this point that after investing so much time, I don't really know and I don't really care. I simply want the system to work. Period.

The strong brand experience I have with each of these companies now has been weakened. That can't be their goal, but that's the result.

I'm busy running my own life and business. I don't need to be an expert on computers, software and peripherals. They should simply work. Period.

These three companies should work together to make sure everything works well for the customer. The reason is simple. They want customers to stay customers. If they don't, the result is they damage their own brand in the collective brand experience.

When customers call on Clickfree -- or any company -- for help, it should be able to determine the problem and quickly solve it with a download so its customers are up and running quickly.

When I had a problem with my Apple iPhone last year, a tech support person walked me through several fixes over several weeks until it finally worked. Why can't Clickfree, Lenovo and Microsoft do this to make the customer happy?

Since I have not been able to fix this problem, I blame all of them. Is that what they really want? I don't think so, but that is what they got.

The collective brand involves every company that works with other companies to make its product, software or service work. That's why companies need to pay close attention to this customer experience.

Currently I still use Microsoft, Lenovo and Clickfree, and I don't see myself changing -- not yet, anyway. But to tell you the truth, if you asked me the question five years ago, I would have said I would be with them for life. Today, I am not so sure.

That means customers are at risk of being lost. That's the power and importance of successfully managing the collective brand experience.

That's also an example of the problems that occur if companies ignore it. So, are you doing a good job with this? Think about it. This is a very important question for every company to ask itself.


E-Commerce Times columnist Jeff Kagan is a technology industry analyst and consultant who enjoys sharing his colorful perspectives on the changing industry he's been watching for 25 years. Email him at jeff@jeffKAGAN.com.


NICE inContact February 12 webinar
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