Renting The Perfect Brand Experience

AWSC,Observations June 29, 2012 8:29 am


I have an addiction to pretty dresses. And the general rule of thumb seems to be:

The prettier the dress, the prettier the price. Not a good thing for a girl on a budget.

Thankfully, the genius service Rent The Runway offers gorgeous dresses at affordable prices – just like anything you’d rent (like a tent or a car), pick out the dress, size, and the dates you need, and Rent The Runway will send you the dress for a nominal fee. They even include a free extra dress in another size (just in case the size you selected doesn’t fit!), and a pre-stamped package to make it easy to send the dress back.

Needless to say: I love Rent The Runway.

I’ve rented several dresses before – most recently for my brother’s college graduation. And I loved that dress so much, I wore it for two days straight! I even wore it on the long plane ride home. When I got back to my apartment, I sadly took it off, said goodbye, and slipped it in its package to be returned. I set the package on my dining room table so I wouldn’t forget to drop it in the mail on my way out to work the next morning.

Only, in my Monday morning haste, I forgot to pick up the package!

Leaving it sitting on the table left me so mad at myself – how could I have forgotten? But even worse, I felt guilty for the next girl waiting in line to wear the beautiful dress.

Now, my logical side tells me that Rent The Runway would not have a dress due back on the same day (or even the next day) it’s due to arrive for the next waiting customer, but I couldn’t help but worry that I would be ruining someone else’s day by sending in the package late.

I immediately emailed them as soon as I got to work and apologized for my error. I explained that I didn’t want anyone not to have the chance to wear the dress and offered to bring the package to their office (they’re local to NYC) after work.

I was blown away by the return email that I received.

The helpful rep (thanks Stephanie!) thanked me for contacting them and told me that it was more than OK to drop the package in the mail the next morning. Rent The Runway had every right to charge me a late fee or to be stern in their response – or even to not respond at all to my email! I had broken the rules of the rental agreement; I deserved a late fee.

Instead, Rent The Runway showed me what a customer-focused company they really are. I had already known that their service was impeccable – I had never received a damaged or late dress, and had always been impressed by their dress selection. But this experience made me think about their business.

Sure.

They’re in the business of renting dresses.

But they’re really in the business of pleasing customers – a business that I learned of first-hand when I was late in returning my dress.

The first three adjectives that come to mind in describing Rent The Runway?

1). Stylish

2). Graceful

3). Helpful

Only one adjective – stylish – is a direct indication of the product market they’re in. And OK you got me: The other two adjectives do describe their product.

The dresses do make me feel more graceful and Rent The Runway is more than helpful in taming my addiction to pretty dresses while on a budget.

But they also – and more importantly – indicate the level of service that their brand represents. It’s an interesting exercise:

How do you think people describe your brand’s offering?

Would the adjectives only describe your product offerings – or would negative or positive service attributions float to the top of the list? I’d argue that the customer service-oriented descriptions are the most powerful indication of a brand’s success – anyone can sell a dress, or a phone, or just about anything else, really. But it’s the intangible goods like customer service that really make a brand stand out amongst its competition.

What are you in the business of selling – a product or a brand experience?

If you haven’t already, go try Rent The Runway. Just don’t rent this dress – it’s mine! No seriously, it’s mine. Check out the email I received from Rent The Runway earlier this week:

A free dress, just because. JUST BECAUSE.

And I know I’m not their most valuable customer. Not by a long shot; I’m just a regular customer- and that’s what sets this service apart; every customer is treated with the same VIP treatment. Even ones like me that occasionally goof up.

But one thing is for sure- if I wasn’t convinced that I loved Rent The Runway, they’ve now made me a customer for life. I’ve already started ‘hearting’ dresses for two weddings this fall 😉

*originally appeared in Advertising Week.

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