The “Godfather” Customer Moment

April 16, 2012

Brand loyalty is a tough thing to earn and sustain. I know, I know, this is not a particularly insightful observation to make. Marketers have been hearing for years about how gaining loyalists is as difficult as ever with with less consumer disposable income, more competitors, the powers of social media, etc. I bring it up now because I recently was very close to ending a long-standing relationship with a brand and want to discuss why.

I’m not always proud of it, but I’m an HBO brand loyalist. I regrettably paid for the premium cable channel as a college student who probably would have been better of investing his money on textbooks, food healthier than Jack’s pizzas, gas for his car, etc. But the content was so good, and as a film and media studies student, I couldn’t resist. Through think and thin, I’ve been a subscriber ever since. But a few months ago I almost did finally pull the plug. Allow me to take you through a quick series of events.

December 2011: HBO cancels two programs I enjoyed, “Bored to Death” and “How To Make It In America.” I stuck with them through the post-“Sopranos” phase, but this was different. The newest programming was just getting boring, so after several years of allegiance, I vowed to cancel my subscription.

February 2012: HBO announces its streaming service, HBO Go, would be coming to Xbox 360 consoles on April 1, 2012, allowing subscribers to access any episode of any season of any series whenever they want. I decide to wait and see.

April 2012: I install the HBO Go application, fire up a classic episode of “The Wire” and think “Dammit, just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” Bravo, HBO. Your customer retention tactics had me uttering quotes from “The Godfather.”

Good for them. Pulling off what I’m referring to as “The ‘Godfather’ Customer Moment” is no easy feat, but the company’s savvy digital experiment to bring added value to its subscribers got me stick with ’em. And that’s what it takes to retain customers in this era: prove that you’re listening, show that you’re willing to take risks, and embrace new tools that bring quality services to customers.

And, in case you’re wondering, I wasn’t frustrated like Al Pacino in the clip above, nor did I have a heart attack upon being lured back in, but whenever there’s an opportunity to reference “The Godfather,” I figure you’ve got to take it. What are some other interesting case studies of when companies pulled this type of move off successfully? Or better yet, can you apply other marketing lessons to quotes from “The Godfather”?