Tuesday 28 May 2019

You can't put customers anywhere

The notion of "customer-centricity" has always seemed an odd one to me, and one of the hugest gulfs between what brands and companies rattle on about via their websites, and what they actually do in the day-to-day.

I have nothing against "customer-centricity" if it means providing goods and services that customers need or desire, and ensuring an excellent experience before, during and after purchase (or similar).

But shouldn't businesses be doing this as a matter of course?

Didn't we move on, in the last century, from a production-led world through a sales-led world to a marketing-led world?

Why do companies have to boast about "customer-focus", "true customer-centricity", or "looking through a lens of customer-centricity"?

Possibly the worst cliche of the lot is the one about "we put the customer at the heart of our business." Apart from having an aversion to customer/consumer in the singular (if there is just one, it's easily understood and controlled), I find this yet another example of the arrogance of brands - or I should say, the people behind them.

The whole phrase suggests a glorified game of piggy-in-the-middle, with the (single) hapless customer pushed into the centre of an organisation by an omnipotent brand, then held there trapped while balls fly over their head. The reality is that no organisation can "put" any customer anywhere - they will come of their own accord if you get your marketing right. And then move onto the next thing that takes their fancy.

I mentioned the 2019 Workforce Purpose Index from Imperative last time:

People are more likely to report being fulfilled when they perceive that leadership makes employees a higher priority than customers.

This makes so much sense. With your employees, you stand a good chance of:

Reaching them in the first place.
Knowing and understanding them - at least in certain aspects of their lives.
Building a relationship with them.

And with employees who are not just engaged and satisfied, but fulfilled too, you stand a far better chance of fulfilling your many individual customers' needs and desires, too.

Monday 20 May 2019

Blooming Amazing!

There used to be a joke that BA stood for Bloody Awful, and I have to admit that I found the official ad to celebrate the centenary of British Airways this year, if not completely awful, then certainly underwhelming.

Retailers, airlines and other service brands are highly dependent on their people. Employee Engagement is often spoken about in conjunction with Purpose when it comes to brands with a significant public interface. But is Engagement enough? I read an interesting document from Imperative - The Workforce Purpose Index 2019 recently, which puts forward the notion that perhaps we should move on from Employee Engagement to Employee Fulfillment. Probably not a bad thought - "Engagement" for me has connotations either of busy bees or toilets. The report also contains a radical suggestion - "put employees before customers" - which is definitely worthy of discussion at a later stage.

Cut back to BA, and I was delighted to discover another idea to celebrate the centenary. To me the film above - and the idea behind it - couldn't say more about the ingenuity, creativity, dedication, skill and teamwork of BA people. 

BA Quality Engineer Lyndon Ooi is also a composer, violinist and leader of the BA Colleague Orchestra. He has taken the Flower Duet aria from Delibes' opera Lakme, that everyone associates with the airline, and composed/arranged 10 variations to take the listener through 10 decades of the airline's past, present and future.

What a supersonic idea - blooming amazing, in fact!

Tuesday 14 May 2019

Past my sell-by date?

Last week, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. There, in my local REWE store was a giant array of wine bottles, on sale for the price of €1 each. Just in time for Mother's Day, I thought. I started rummaging through the bottles, slightly embarrassed that I appeared to be the only customer with any kind of enthusiasm for these bargains. There was a lot of dross, but also some good-looking labels, possibly past their best but certainly worth taking a chance on at that price.

Amongst my haul were three bottles of Schloß Johannisberg Gelblack Riesling 2015, which my Vivino app tells me normally retail at around €15. I felt almost heroic, rescuing these wines of noble pedigree from the rummage sale in a one-pig town where hardly anyone would recognise their class, quality and heritage.

The experience, for some reason, brought to mind an article I'd read about ageism in the ad world, particularly in relation to creatives. It's by Madeleine Morris, who has formed a Society of Very Senior Creatives to strike back at feeling of being "invisible and expensive."

Normally, when I'm feeling bright and chipper, and have plenty of work, I don't take too much notice of these articles about ageism, in the same way that I take a lot of the sexism articles with a pinch of salt. I get the feeling that such articles send out messages about how I should be feeling and what I should be experiencing, and there's a slight sense of victimhood about it, which makes me uneasy. I'm sick, for example, of hearing that "women over 50 are invisible in the media" - turn on any medium and you're likely to see Angela Merkel or Teresa May within the first headlines. I think planners may have it easier than creatives in general - it's easier to play the "wisdom and experience" card when you are a strategist.

But sometimes, when I'm having one of my pathetic days (and I do have them), when people don't reply to emails, when I come up against closed doors, when I hesitate about filling in an application form as I know some algorithm has been set up to chuck out anyone born before 1970, then I do start to have nagging doubts.

We drank the bottles of Riesling at the weekend, by the way. The first was distinctly musty and I began to get depressed.

But the second, and third - we couldn't stop at two - were deliciously splendid - in their absolute prime.

Wednesday 8 May 2019

Gordon(s) Bennett!

You can't beat a good G&T, and it has long been a tradition in our family to knock back one or two on Christmas Eve. It's always been Gordon's and Schweppes, mainly because, until a few years ago, that's all you could lay your hands on in rural Germany.

When the gin craze started, both here and back in Blighty, I felt a little smug, but also pleased that gin was becoming more available as an alternative to the ubiquitous Aperol Spritz. But as time went on, I wondered about Gordon's and how it would fare. The brand did seem to feel a bit staid and dusty in comparison to all the new pretenders to the throne down at the Gin Palace.

But while all those new pretenders are trying to outdo each other on authenticity and pedigree and  credentials, Gordon's have gone unashamedly for the mass market. It's a move that I am sure will rake in the sales short-term, but what will it do for the brand?

I tried Gordon's Premium Pink Distilled Gin  the other day and rather wished I hadn't. It tastes of sickly strawberries, a bit like what they call Gummibärchen here. It has absolutely nothing to do with what I know as Pink Gin, beloved of retired navy officers, Royal Air Force heroes and people from Somerset Maugham stories. That was made mixed with Angostura bitters.

But back to the sweet new abomination. It is promoted with a rather questionable nod to authenticity: Inspired by Gordon's original 1880 pink gin recipe.  That's on the bottle. On the website, however, it's slightly different: Inspired by an original Gordon's recipe from the 1880s. This makes it clear enough that this concoction has precious little to do with any original recipe for Pink Gin. Most of the "usual suspect" 21st century descriptors are used: "crafted" "balance" "blushing" "berries" "vibrant."

This stuff is undoubtably enjoyed by overgrown girls at Ladies' Day and the Gin Bar down at the Brexit Arms, and I am sure it will rake in some good short-term profits. I can't help thinking, though, that they might as well have put a unicorn on the packaging instead of the traditional wild boar and been done with it.

Call me an old fuddy-duddy, but I think Gordon's have sold out.

Saturday 4 May 2019

Just right

Sometimes advertising and communication ideas feel just right. Perfectly simple and hit exactly the right spot. No more, no less.

That is how I feel about the IKEA campaign The Lagom Collection from Proximity London. What's clever here is that it's not about products as much as ideas - ideas and inspiration being as much in the IKEA DNA as the unmistakeable product range. And of course, the Swedish concept of Lagom fits beautifully to the Swedish retailer. The simple executions reflect typical IKEA style and that quirky lateral thinking humour.

Finally, the message of reuse, recycle, repurpose couldn't be more spot-on for today, culturally. IKEA may have been responsible for the perpetration of a "throwaway" mentality in days of yore, and, yes, you could argue that this is another example of Homegrown Problem:Solution advertising.

But when something is done with such charm and aplomb, that would surely be churlish.