Thursday 17 June 2021

Your customers choose you

Back in the days, when I could sell my books at live events, I’d get into conversation with people at the museum, or bookshop, or school, or wherever it was. Some of these conversations were unexpectedly fascinating, and could have been the basis for new stories in their own right. Then every so often, a customer would say something - express an opinion - that I didn’t agree with. What was I to do? Snatch the book back, climb onto my high horse and proclaim that I didn’t want people of their sort buying my books? Of course not.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a video entitled “Thank You, North Face”, which is part of a wider campaign from Liberty Energy to create provocation/put the facts straight (take your pick) about the oil and gas industry continually being cast as the villain in the climate change and sustainability story. In it, the CEO enthusiastically thanks The North Face for being such a great customer. I think this campaign pricks over-inflated corporate virtue-signalling puffery with a very sharp pin. It’s also a reminder that while you can choose your suppliers (although you may not want to shout to the rooftops about who those are), you have little choice in reality about who your customers are.

This all goes back to the arrogance of brands (or the people behind them) that I’ve written about before. However many idealised personas your marketing department draw up - clean-living, well-adjusted people who share your wonderful brand values of inclusion, diversity and wellness, and are passionate about making the world a better place - there will be countless numbers of people who’ll buy your brand who might smoke like chimneys, drink like fish and hold unfashionable, uneducated views. Some of them may even be Brexiteers.

I’m in the UK at the moment, and read about brands boycotting the new news channel, GB News . I haven’t watched the new station - I’m not particularly interested to be honest - but it would seem to be a rather bumbling post-Brexit channel for the sort of people who comment in the Daily Mail. Fair enough.

But advertisers boycotting it? Unless you’re a bijou boutique exclusive brand-thingy that maybe can hand-pick its customers to a certain extent, this seems to make little sense. Especially for a mainstream brand like IKEA that has always claimed to be “for the many people.”

As Batman might have said: “They may be GB News viewers, but they’re also human beings."

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