Posted by: Bill Griffin | August 5, 2009

J. D. Power, Social Media and Lessons Learned

me thumbnail #1      Often in history people can’t comprehend a new invention or cultural upheaval. Most folks need to compare the new to the old to get some kind of semblance of understanding. When the Ford Motor Company started selling cars, people couldn’t relate to the contraption, so they marketed automobiles as horseless carriages because folks could relate to a horse and buggy but not a motor run machine that wasn’t on tracks and required gasoline. On a social level the youth uproar of the 1960’s was quantified as the American–French Revolution by the press and say-so establishment of the time. The mainstream just couldn’t understand what was happening, hence all the social turmoil.

   I recently finished reading a non-fiction by Emily Ross-100 Greatest Businesses and the Minds Behind Them. This is a very good book chock J D Power pic #1full of the information the title suggests. I came across a chapter about J. D. Power and I recognized how his life, personal brand and work contrast to today’s Social Media phenomenon. I also like to compare the new to the old and couldn’t put my finger on how to do so with the new media. I can already see what social media does with information, opinion news and entertainment. How can this new medium be used effectively in business marketing, promotions and advertising?

   James David Power III was a marketing researcher for the automobile industry in the early 60’s. He was a pioneer in customer satisfaction work. He brought his customer suggestion data to Ford and General Motors and they subsequently ignored or bent his findings. With a volatile mixture of arrogance and ignorance, Detroit told the public what they wanted instead of listening to their needs. Disenchanted, Power moved on to work for chainsaw manufacturer McCulloch Motors Inc. McCulloch were forecasting sales based on the amount of lumber trees there were in the forest, not based on the people who actually use them. He told them “You don’t sell to trees, you sell to people”.  Power quickly reversed this tactic and also asked their customers how to improve the product. The response was to make a lighter more affordable chainsaw that could stand to be idle for longer periods of time. It worked and the company went through the roof .

cars under water   Power founded his own marketing company, J. D. Power and Associates in 1968. His trek to success can relate to today’s social media. First he established his personal and professional brand. Already known as a proven maverick in marketing and admired for his integrity and expertise in the automotive industry. Second, he used his own experiences and strategies. He began his business by surveying  American automobile owners. Third, he shared is information with everyone. He reported and rated his findings and published them free of charge to the public. Fourth, the payoff, he also sold more in depth research to the car manufactures themselves. Fifth, he had great sway and influence in his niche. Some say J. D. Power and Associates were responsible for the uprising of the foriegn auto makers and the decline of the American brands.

   J. D. Power was social media marketing before the Internet, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the rest. He understood that the ideas to improve products and services the company must go right to the source. That’s exactly what is happening today through Tweets, Friends and social-media2Contacts. Word of mouth advertising is the best direction to a purchase. Very few companies understand this new communication. If someone has a complaint about a product or had bad service and relayed that back to their social media connections, it could effect the companies’ public relations drastically. Worse, if it was a complaint, that information could impede profits and the company would never know why. If the complaint came from a particularly savvy on-line personality, the information could reach millions of people by the end of the week.

Just as today’s social media, Power was a commerce filter. He asked consumers what they wanted and reported what needs to be improved. Detroit didn’t care about the public’s opinion. We all know what’s happening there. What companies are ignoring the public now? Where will they be if they keep talking at customers instead of engaging in this new dialog?



  1. Check out this incredible tone deafness regarding United.

  2. Ha ha, remember when having someone write a song about you was an honor? I wonder what United is doing about this?

    Great example Don thanks a bunch.

    United broke his “Taylor Made” Guitar— Smooth

  3. I use the united guitars as an example in how not to do it but I also use the video repsonse of the president of Taylor guitars as an example of how to do it.

    taylor guitar responds

    JD Power figured out that the voice of the customer in to the organization needs to be at least 1/2 of the equation. What we are seeing today is more customer voices in more places. It will be impossible for companies to ignore them. Thanks for the thoughtful post.

  4. Thanks Deb,

    Wow! Super job by Taylor Guitars, they saw an opportunity and put out a very inforamtive and conscientious video, good for them. This is how it’s done. No sign of United on this. Hmmm

    Thanks for sharing Deb

  5. Bill

    I’ve heard the name JD Powers but knew nothing about the man or the firm. Thanks for sharing info. I found it very interesting.


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