Communicating Product or Service Obsolescence
What happens when you suddenly find a familiar product or service terminated or decommissioned? Besides a sense of loss, what does it remind us of in business or marketing continuity?
At our place, there is something I look forward to every two weeks - putting out the pale blue bag containing recyclable trash that I would have dutifully collected. The blue trash bag is placed just outside our gate, and sometime over the morning of such a Saturday, it would be collected and in its place, a new trash bag (or two) would be replaced and placed neatly on the gate.
It is a symbiotic service where we collect recyclable things for this service provider, and they can do their bit, albeit commercially, for the environment. I am happy to help them and the environment, however humbly.
However, a couple of months ago, we realized the trash bag was not collected. The neighbors have done the same - putting the recyclable trash bag outside their gate, and theirs were not collected either. We thought it was a simple lapse. We continued to keep up our own collection, and placed the recyclable trash bag out again at the designated weekend, and again, those were not collected. Finally, after a few more tries, and observing that recycle bins are placed at various corners of the neighborhood, we decided that this service is no more.
The trouble with the recycle bins, compared to the recycled trash bags we put outside our gates, is that they are placed far away, with small openings, and intended for small items, rather than larger items or collections.
The recyclable trash bag is an analogy to the concept of obsolescence. Obsolescence is a necessity in life. We understand it, we accept it.
When we decide to snuff out a product or a service, the sudden demise of such products or services may simply be our own hope to fine-tune our balance sheets, to maximize profits or reduce costs. However, such changes may create psychological ripples that may affect our brands and our painfully built reputation. After all, humans are still governed by emotions.
It is certainly no easy decision to put products or services to pasture, but there must be some means to communicate the dire need to make such decisions to our customers, and to find ways to build bridges that continue to endear our customers despite such difficult decisions. It won't be easy, but worth every bit of hard work and bruised egos. In the age of social media, mobile apps and web media, there is a greater need to keep communicating with our customers, and be even more open and transparent than before. Word-of-mouth advertising is a double-edged sword - it can work to build brands and endear customers, or it can work against the brand in tearful ways.
I still have an unused recyclable trash bag. I am hopeful and nostalgic, that perhaps they may return to service. Call me an optimist.