Durability – is it losing power as a customer driver [part 2]

by Dina on March 31, 2010 · 7 comments

in Market Insights

Some of my blog readers have left really thoughtful comments at my last post on Durability. I’m attempting to synthesize them here, (and I hope I’m not killing the wonderful nuances they’ve shared), as each thought adds a unique and new facet to the many dimensions and interpretations of durability, in a rapidly-changing market like India.

Vinuth’s thought on durability expectations being inversely proportional to the price of a product, and directly proportional to the range of options, and rate of change what makes up durability – these factors define perceptions of durability – and the perception of what’s durable or not depends on whether the product ‘breaks down’ during that period between old and new. This is sweet, and provides a great framework for placing needs and expectations from durability in the context of price, rate of change, and range of options!

Vinuth: Interesting Topic !! I think it is a function of two things:

1. inversely proportional to Price of the Product.
2. Directly proportional to the Rate of change of the Product or range of available options/varieties.

1. Lower priced products tend to be changed more frequently than higher priced. Mobiles tend to be more frequently changed than cars. And dress materials and makeup materials even more than mobiles.

2. Products which rapidly change or have a very large option set to choose from also tend to be changed more frequently. There must be a justifiable difference between old and the new, for almost the same price point… either through better technology or a very different variety…

Based on these two factors each product has it’s own usage duration. Between this duration of discarding old to new, if the product goes broke, it really is frowned upon… no matter which product… so it is implicitly expected that the product lasts for at least this duration. What say?

Karthik’s contention of the growing need for real-time, bite-sized slices that result from info overload and being spoilt for choices often results in a reduced need for durability. However, this changes, when the effort (not price alone) to replace, or find the ‘new’ is much greater as in the case of car batteries. Also, invisible products like car batteries are expected to last, whereas the car itself may become outdated in terms of image need fulfillment. I agree with the first part, and like the ‘invisible’ angle particularly – it brings in a unique dimension to explain why for some products, durability is important as a customer value.

Karthik:What a fascinating topic! Going a level or two above durability, aren’t we also collectively losing our attention span? I mean, even our attention span is not ‘durable’ these days. Is it to do with the overdose of information? Possibly. Back in the 80s, I remember waiting all week for a 15 minute episode of Spiderman cartoon on Doordarshan, on Saturday noon. Now, I can see as many spidermans as I want.

So, is the loss of durability a factor of increased choice? Another example! When I started my music blog, Milliblog, people pounced on me for belittling Indian music soundtracks by doing a 100 word review. They said I was doing a disservice to all those musicians who toil to bring out a soundtrack. My blog is 5+ years old and going strong and now people say it helps them glance the soundtrack’s flavor fast and simple!

That said, do you recall the tag line, ‘Lasts long. Really long’? I don’t recall the brand, but I think it is Amaron car batteries. So, if people want car batteries to be durable, does that say anything about select products/ product categories that we still want the ‘durability’ factor? It is not decided by cost, for sure, but could it possibly be decided by the effort it takes to replace?

A car sure takes time and effort to replace, but the pay-off is showoff value and status symbol. But a battery? Who cares what battery I’m using in my car or mp3 player? I just want it to last as much as possible! I’m sure this is a random ramble, but some food for thought, I suppose.

Syamant locates durability in different contexts that customers respond to brands in: a. the brand-customer relationship – where customers buy more products from a particular brand – a dimension then, of brand equity? b. the brand-customer experience – I’d add here, the alpha – beta phases and upgrades as further examples. c. how much stretch does the brand or product provide the customer – does it allow you to ‘extend’ its durability while you actually use it?

Syamant: The first thought was that durability was earlier referred to in the context of quality. Now that quality is given or at-least expected, there are perhaps other contexts..

1. In the context of relationship with the brand – More products from the brand portfolio being sold to the same customer.

2. It has now been built into tenure of use – Use xyz product for some number of days is an example. Another related example is Extended Service Packs. These provide extended relationships as well as assurance, but in a sense are related to the durability of experience.

3. Another example is in the context of consumption of fuel. Products are sold on the basis of how much more one can extract out of the fuel. So is this durability as you consume?

Anita Lobo adds an important dimension – resale value into the equation. I’m currently studying the car-buying process for a client, and how often I’ve heard the refrain – “resale value is very important when i decide on a car brand”

Anita Lobo: Durability has got into bed with a fancier friend – resale value. While we may replace cars and other high-value purchases faster, we usually buy something that delivers ‘give-away’ value, when we decide to sell/ exchange/ recycle/ give away.

Sameer Patel, like Syamant brings in the dimension of durable (enduring) relationships companies forge with customers as a new order.

Sameer: My sense is that you cant fight the trend since its customer driven. As I commented on twitter, this highlights the need for organizations to focus on durable ‘relationships’ with customers that can outlast their seemingly shorter experiences with a single product they purchase.

And Stuart links to my post with this comment, where he talks of how this shift in thinking (moving the durability discussion into one on efficacy) is affecting behaviour in the mobile phones market in India.

Stuart: This is a great post about how our perspective of durability is changing or more locally in the US long ago changed. In India this shift really has an impact on the mobile phone market where many will now trade-of the tradition of “drop-it many times”, dirt dust proof, and long battery life. I suggested a few comments to Dina too and she picked them up. I argued for efficacy as an internal distinction. So what do you think? Is durability losing its power as a consumer driver?

The series – Durability – is it losing power as a customer driver?
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3


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1 niti bhan April 13, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Along with Vinuth’s excellent synthesis of the price/performance value re: durability, have you looked at any patterns on perception of durability as a value wrt rural vs urban customers and also by their income level. I may have overlooked a comment or insight but at the moment, parts 1 and 2 make sense, but imho, in the context of urban, metro india with disposable income / mainstream consumer culture

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