Navigating the waters of brand perception can be tricky, but if done right, customers will remain fiercely loyal to your company’s product or service offerings. This is accomplished by providing positive experiences for your customers. If, however, brands provide inadequate, inauthentic, and unsympathetic customer service, those companies’ perceptions will sink and customers will flee in droves.
One company that is in very real danger of scuttling their brand is Adobe, an iconic brand that provides software for the creation and editing of content. The vast majority of creative professionals use Adobe’s Creative Suite of products (which includes Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Acrobat, and many more content-creation and sharing products).
Adobe has been a leader within the creative software space for over a decade, and customers loved their products. It also enjoyed a solid brand perception; that is, until May of this year, when Adobe drastically changed its business model by abandoning traditional software pricing models and moving instead to a subscription based one. Now, customers who rely on the software will find themselves paying more—much more—to keep their software up-to-date.
For the past ten years, Adobe’s Creative Suite has offered bundled software packages to users for a one-time fee per license, with upgrades priced at a percentage of the full version cost. Each version’s features could be counted on to serve customers’ needs for at least 2–3 years, meaning that it was possible to leap-frog at least one full version of the software before upgrading. With the subscription-based pricing of Creative Cloud (what Adobe is now calling their Creative Suite of products), users will have to pay from $50–$70 per month (that’s $840.00 per year) PER computer. What’s worse, if users stop paying for their subscriptions, they will lose the ability to view, edit, print or export their work. In essence, Adobe is holding users hostage to their products so they will continue to pay for a subscription— indefinitely.
Adobe’s drastic pricing shift has caused users of their products to question the value of the brand: not only does it appears that the company is trying to increase “shareholder value” at the expense of its customers, they are sending a message of arrogance and mistrust (part of the reason why Adobe wants to verify subscriptions monthly is to decrease or eliminate software piracy) to their customers.
In turn, creative professionals and users (this one included) are lashing out at the company. In a survey of over 1,600 users conducted by CNET and Jefferies, 76% of respondents using the latest “boxed version” of Creative Suite (6.0) indicated that they would “never” move to the subscription-based Creative Cloud. Users of earlier versions said they were strongly disinclined to move to the subscription model as well. The lesson Adobe should learn from these types of surveys is that customer loyalty must be earned; it cannot be forced upon users. In doing so, the company has irreparably damaged its brand perception.
Ironically, Adobe is facing a similar fate to its old archrival in desktop publishing software that it vanquished in the early 2000s: Quark. Quark Xpress had been the industry standard software for years, but when Apple updated its operating system and the company refused to immediately recode its software to work with the new system, users jumped ship and adopted Adobe InDesign instead; it was this foothold in creative professionals’ toolkits that allowed Adobe to saturate the market and become the leading brand.
What will end up happening, in this author’s opinion, is that Adobe’s customers will seek cheaper alternatives…there are a plethora of other software choices out there for users to buy, and for a one-time fee. Though other products may not be as comprehensive as Creative Suite—yet—within a couple of years these alternatives may finally drown Adobe’s brand.
By: Ryan Hembree, Principal | Brand and Creative Strategy