There is an interesting (but not surprising) post at the Economist YouGov on the results of a poll describing the priorities Americans have governing their purchasing decisions. The essence of it is contained in this chart from their site:
The conundrum most companies find themselves in is the conflict between price and quality – the two aspects of the buying decision at the top of the priority list. Under the misguided belief that low prices can only come from low costs and low costs can only come from cheaper labor, they run off to places like China, India and Vietnam. Only China, India and Vietnam are not exactly fountains of high quality. In fact, whatever else Motorola did when they conjured up Six Sigma, they proved that time and quality are hopelessly intertwined and the cycle times between creating defects in Asia and finding them in the USA or Europe months later makes excellent quality impossible.
In the old days they could count on blunting the less-than-perfect quality of their products with a blizzard of brand management strategies, but as the poll shows, brand means little these days. Too little regard for the old Will Rogers adage, “If advertisers spent the same amount of money on improving their products as they do on advertising then they wouldn’t have to advertise them.” The poll also shows that, while consumers have no problem buying stuff that came from elsewhere, they are not terribly impressed with the political correctness of the seller or the green-ness of the product.
Lean companies understand that low prices are possible from the elimination of non-value adding waste – not cheap labor – and that high quality and low cost are not in conflict, but actually complementary. They also nail the importance of the third most important attribute – ease of purchasing – because they understand that logistics does not add value. They know that most of the money spent on promoting the brand is non-value, adding as well.
All in all, a company that really gets lean will look at the results of the poll and see an encouraging re-affirmation of their strategy; while the P&G’s and others of their ilk (as Kevin so accurately described) will look at it and think it proves they need to find a cheaper place, hire more quality inspectors and think up a different tack for their spinmasters in marketing in order to make their brands relevant again.