The Absolute Truth About Marketing
Where's Geoff? (Dixon, CEO, Qantas)
(This post is about my experience trying to get an answer from Mr Geoff Dixon, CEO of Qantas. I am asking him if he has flown economy lately and endured the 'torture' Qantas - and most other airlines - inflicts on its customers because 'economy is economy'. I have included the string of correspondence leading to this email. Start reading from the bottom, to get the full story.)
“We’re not going to answer your questions,” said a pleasant voice on the telephone. It was Marianne Hedl, Executive Communications, Customer Care Executive, Qantas Airways Limited. Marianne read to me a section of their procedures manual that described how all complaints were reported ‘high up’ in the organisation – to the Board, no less – in aggregated form. The same day I got this one line email from Malcolm, a friend and ex-colleague: “May I ask what sort of response you were expecting?” I’ll tell you a story. I once wrote a lot of letters to companies , suggesting ways they could improve their marketing and advertising, hoping to get noticed and break into advertising. One afternoon the telephone rang and it was Brian Walsh, the managing director of David Jones. He made it “there’s no other store like David Jones”. I asked him did he respond to many letters. “All of them” was his reply. He also insisted that his management team spend time every Friday behind a cash register. He could identify a DJ’s shopper at 500 paces. It was not long after this that Waters & Peterman made “Management By Walking Around” a watchword. The book they wrote was In Search of Excellence. David Jones was an excellent company. Is excellence a relic of the 80s? Geoff, Google “Qantas Sucks”. Your customers and your staff are talking about you. “Where’s Geoff?” they wonder.
MANAGING EXPECTATIONS – A THOUGHT-A-DAY EMAIL
The Qantas Poll currently stands at 10% "Unreasonable" 85% "Go Get 'Em". (5% "WHat's happening?") So, continuing the lessons learned from this exercise (It's like a field trip into Customer Experience Land, isn't it?) Big Company had an opportunity to identify a case of "complaint" that required individual attention, to engage the customer and give them the sort of response they expected, and failed. Now the problem escalates, and leaks into the blogosphere where it becomes a permanent part of the online brandscape, accessible easily via Google. If they mishandle their response to this phase, the result in many cases could become a "www.F---Qantas.com" of "www.QantasSucks.com" site of the type attracted by McDonalds and other multinationals. (Lesson: Make sure your company has bought every combination of URL of this type to block their use by feral activists and disgruntled customers. DO you think Qantas owns QantasSucks.com? Go check it out.) The overall lesson of this excursion has been the importance of managing expectations. In the US they warn you "It's gonna be soooooo bad..." before you get on the plane that you're pleasantly surprised that the hostesses don't spit at you when you're boarding...
Geoff, if you're reading this, it's not personal. We're just observing your company's behaviour, like entimologists would. (From the point of view of the insects.)
DUDE, ECONOMY IS ECONOMY – A THOUGHT-A-DAY EMAIL
Jay, one of your fellow Thought-A-Day recipients, replied that he thinks I am being unreasonably hard on Qantas. You might think so too. Here was my response to Jay's note:
You are so right, Jay. I am being unreasonable. When we paid a pittance for our tickets we knew what we were in for. But the collective sense of misery in that cabin was something to behold. Toyota would never inflict it on customers, even on the most economy of economy buyers. It’s not in their nature. Ford's marketing staff used to have their cars serviced at the factory in Campbellfield. They never entered a dealership as a customer, so they didn’t know how bad things were. Holly Kramer changed that when she was Director of Marketing, and consciousness of the customer experience started to seep into the corporation. Even Qantas flight crew fly business class when relocating for a shift. I guess what started as a bit of a joke has developed into a demonstration of how a fine corporation can act like a machine from the customer’s point of view. I think it also demonstrates how dangerous it is to ignore the danger signals. I told the company I was sharing their response with you and the list of 450 readers, as well as the world via my blog. They obviously did not read my note. We live in a viral world; a dangerous world for service companies. I am waiting for Qantas to react in a human way, with or without Geoff.
Am I being unreasonably unreasonable?
I RESPOND FORMALLY TO QANTAS
Customer Care Executive
Qantas Airways Limited
Thank you for your reply, attached below. Did Geoff see my note? Can you ask him these questions for me?
1. Does he reply personally to any customer communications addressed to him?
2. Has he heard the old story about the cockroach letter?
3. Do all customers complaining of the same issue receive the same letter?
4. How long has it been since he flew economy class? (10 years? 20 years?)
5. Does he ever eat the food served in economy?
6. Does he have to play 'elbow scrummaging for the arm rest'?
7. How can narrower seats be more comfortable? (Is Geoff a fan of Monty Python?)
8. Will the refurbished aircraft feature more legroom? (1cm? 2cms?)
9. How does Qantas decide how much space there will be for the economy class passenger? Does each technician sliding the seats closer together wear an executioner's hood?
PS. "The cockroach letter" is an old story about a man who had encountered a cockroach in his hotel room. He wrote a letter to the management and received what he felt was a thoughtful reply that strongly stated their regrets and determination to address the problem. Then he noticed a memo in the envelope. It said, “Send this pain in the ass the cockroach letter.”
QANTAS RESPONDS OFFICIALLY TO MY EMAIL
Remember my inflight letter to the CEO of Qantas? (Attached below.) Well I sent it to him, telling him I had sent it to you and blogged it... and this is what I got in reply:
Ref No: MH/93051893
08 November 2006
Dear Mr Kiely
Thank you for taking the time to write to Geoff Dixon, Qantas’ Chief
Executive Officer. I have been asked to respond on Mr Dixon’s behalf.
I was disappointed to learn about your recent encounter with Qantas.
We strive to offer our customers a comfortable and enjoyable inflight
experience. I am sorry that this was not your experience on your recent
We have recently refurbished our aircraft with improved seating. This has
increased the space between the rows, and the ergonomic design of the seats
enables them to mould around you to make your journey more comfortable.
Although the seats are slimmer, the design offers the same width as before
and our legroom still compares well with other major airlines.
Qantas is committed to acting on what our customers tell us, and we closely
monitor customer feedback. We run a continuous improvement program, which
uses customer feedback to help resolve and improve our product and service.
I appreciate you taking the time to write. I hope we have an opportunity to
welcome you aboard Qantas in the near future.
Customer Care Executive
Qantas Airways Limited
LESSON: Qantas customer complaint strategy: 1. Don't respond yourself. Flick the task to a functionary so there's nothing personal in the interaction. 2. Don't admit fault. 3. Dismiss the issue in a couple of lines, then spend the rest of the letter celebrating the joys of using your product.
Geoff. Remember the comedy routine that has the punch line "Send them the cockroach letter"? I think I just got one.
MY RESPONSE WARNING THEM IT WAS LEAKING INTO THE BLOGOSPHERE
------ Forwarded Message
From: Michael Kiely
Date: Wed, 01 Nov 2006 20:51:47 +1100
Subject: Re: About Qantas - Our Company/3767862
BTW I blogged it on http://michaelkielymarketing.blogspot.com
On 1/11/06 2:28 PM, "email@example.com" wrote:
THE INITIAL RESPONSE FROM QANTAS TO MY EMAIL
> Dear Mr Kiely,
> Thank you for your correspondence.
> I have forwarded your email ont Customer Care for their attention.
> Qantas Websupport
cc: 01/11/2006 01:29 Subject: About Qantas - Our
Please respond to
> Reference number: 061101-000171
> E-mail submitted by Mr michael Kiely on Wed 1 November 2006, 12:29 (AEST)
> Region of Residence: Australia
> State: NSW
> Phone: 0294846761
> E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Frequent Flyer Number: 3767862
> Category: About Qantas
> Sub-Category: Our Company
> I sent the following under the title "Qantas tortures its passengers" to my
> regular email newsletter list of 450 marketing executives, and many of them
> asked me "What did he say?" So I am sending it to Geoff to give him the
> opportunity to respond.
> Mr Geoff Dixon
> Chief Executive Officer
> Qantas Airways
> Dear Sir,
> Have you flown your own airline economy class to an overseas destination
> lately? I can’t believe you have. No sane person would knowingly subject
> fellow human beings to such discomfort. Only the rich and the footsoldiers
> of the rich can afford comfortable air travel today. Forget the toxic food
> and queues for the toilets. I can live with that. It’s space I need. As I
> sit here on QF129 to LA (13 hours) I cant open my laptop far enough to see
> the screen and type.
> I know who decides how much space I have. You. Because you set the revenue
> targets and they determine how many rows of seats you put in each aircraft
> and therefore how little space is available to the passenger in each seat.
> I can see those little rubber strips on the floor covering the train tracks
> you slide the seats along. How do you determine how much space to allow
> between seats? Measure out how much a normal human being would require for
> a comfortable experience, and then shove it back far enough to guarantee no
> sitting position is painless? If the aim is to cause sufficient pain that
> you force us into business class for a fat margin, I can help you there.
> Why not hire some really hard bastards with big sticks to whack economy
> class passengers on the head until we agree to pay for an upgrade? This is
> only slightly more ridiculous than what you do to us already.
> Michael Kiely
> www.michaelkielymarketing.com.au> 0417 280 540
> Http User Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; U; PPC Mac OS X; en)
> AppleWebKit/418 (KHTML, like Gecko) Safari/417.9.2
THE ORIGINAL ‘THOUGHT-A-DAY’ EMAIL
My apologies for missing yesterday. I lost a day (and my mind) over the Pacific flying to the USA for a study tour of the carbon credits market, a special interest of mine. As I am paying my own way, we flew cattle class which inspired today's "marketing thought".
Have you flown your own airline economy class to an overseas destination laytely? I can’t believe you have. No sane person would knowingly subject fellow human beings to such discomfort. Only the rich and the footsoldiers of the rich can afford comfortable air travel today. Forget the toxic food and queues for the toilets. I can live with that. It’s space I need. As I sit here on QF129 to LA (13 hours) I cant open my laptop far enough to see the screen and type.
I know who decides how much space I have. You. Because you set the revenue targets and they determine how many rows of seats you put in each aircraft and therefore how little space is available to the passenger in each seat. I can see those little rubber strips on the floor covering the train tracks you slide the seats along. How do you determine how much space to allow between seats? Measure out how much a normal human being would require for a comfortable experience, and then shove it back far enough to guarantee no sitting position is painless? If the aim is to cause sufficient pain that you force us into business class for a fat margin, I can help you there. Why not hire some really hard bastards with big sticks to whack economy class passengers on the head until we agree to pay for an upgrade? This is only slightly more ridiculous than what you do to us already.
“An Opportunist’s Guide To Global Warming (and How To Make Money From It By Doing The Right Thing)”
Is your brand "Carbon Credited"™ yet? The time to start thinking about Global Warming is now, when your can gain maximum leverage by early mover advantage in your category. Our "Carbon Credited"™ program is an advisory service that covers mapping your organisation's carbon footprint, developing options for becoming a 'carbon neutral' brand, developing opportunities for engaging your brand's stakeholders and helping them learn to manage Climate Change in their own lives. You and your clients can avoid being lost in the upcoming rush of 'me toos', and be seen as visionary and proactive. Make a buck while making a name for yourself for making a difference. Email me or phone 02 9484 6761. You don't have much time. The issue is getting hotter.
That was the ad. Sandy from a marketing communications agency in Melbourne, Australia asked me to explain the issue and how he can help his clients. This was my reply:
Every company and every individual has a “carbon footprint” or CO2 load that is shed on their behalf as a result of their energy consumption – whether it be a power company burning coal to provide electricity to run their lights and appliances and equipment... or the car they drive or the bus they ride on... or the factory burning carbon in the form of coal (for electricity) or oil (for combustion engines). Just by living a modern consumer lifestyle we are emitting greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, etc), either directly or by proxie. This would not be so bad if the carbon cycle remained in balance. Carbon cycles through the air, is sucked into the soil or the ocean by photosynthesis and other processes, released again by plants at night or by farmers ploughing fields or burning stubble, or people burning wood in fireplaces, or green waste rotting, etc. The world was able, until 200 years ago, to keep the CO2 in balance. But 200 years ago man’s impact on the atmosphere increased as he started spreading out across the face of the globe after the Industrial Revolution gave us the power to do more labour with fewer people. The machines were powered by wood, then coal, then oil. Coal and Oil were once organic matter – plants and animals are mostly made of carbon – that was locked up under the earth’s crust, retired from the cycle. Man released it and the world was incapable of sucking up (“sequestering”) enough of this ‘free radical’ CO2. And the natural level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, for so long held at around 250 ppm (parts per million), rose to 300+ ppm. It is climbing inevitably towards 400ppm. This is a problem for the earth’s atmosphere because there is a natural layer of greenhouse gases which regulates how much of the sun’s rays bounce around on earth and how much passes back out. When this layer gets thicker, more of the sun’s rays are trapped, like in a greenhouse. The result: the temperature rises. If the mean temperature of the earth’s atmosphere rises 1°C we get unusual weather events and ice caps at the poles start to melt. If it rises 2°C, we encounter severe weather events, higher temperatures, lower rainfall in some places, higher/heavier rainfall in other places. Greenland could melt and the sea level rise to inundate low lying islands and coastal regions. If it rises by 3°C, a major ice melt in the North Atlantic could completely stop the ‘conveyor belt’ in the oceans that distributes warm water around and maintains the water temperature. The last time this stopped, it caused an Ice Age in Europe. Extreme weather events such as typhoons, catastrophic landslips and wind storms are likely... At this level, crops could fail, transport and distribution infrastructure is destroyed, the complex economies that underpin our lifestyles could break down, millions of people are displaced and converge on other countries, causing a refugee crisis of Biblical proportions. A leaked scenario document from the Pentagon predicted that Australia could be invaded by a flotilla of people from Asia forced to search for living space. Our military forces are not large enough to withstand the sheer volume. The world’s scientists have agreed among themselves that, no matter what we do, the temperature is going up at least 2°C. What can we do to avoid 4°C? Two things: 1. stop emitting as much CO2 as we can asap. 2. Suck up as much CO2 out of the atmosphere that we can (Sequester it) asap. The nations of the world spent 10 years negotiating the Kyoto Protocol which would phase in limits on what companies could emit, hoping to reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2030. 167 nations signed and ratified and two nations refused at the last minute: USA and Australia. All the others agreed to start a ‘cap and trade’ system. (Some developing nations were allowed to stay out of round 1, ending in 2012, and join round 2. Australia and USA objected to this because China and India are fast becoming the world’s 2nd and 3rd largest emitters. The USA is responsible for around 35%-40% of the world’s emissions (when you factor in their footprint in other countries which manufacture goods to be imported into the USA.) Cap and Trade means you are given your target as a nation and the nation in turn gives its industries their caps or reduction targets, and the companies get their caps. And they set about finding out what their emissions are and how they are being produced. They look for ways to cut down emissions, eg. reduce power usage. There are lots of ways to do it. But few can meet their caps, so they “trade” carbon credits with companies or organisations who have ‘sequestered” carbon. This can be done by growing a forest, setting up a wind farm, and there are other techniques. These ‘credits’ enable the buyer to become ‘carbon neutral’. By doing this the company or family or individual have done their bit in the global effort to avoid the worst outcomes predicted for the earth if we allow the temperature to rise much more than 2°C. But other steps will need to be taken to prepare for the expected disruptions to business as usual. Risk management projects could be launched within the organisation to develop responses to potential threats, ie. Loss of power, increased temperatures, disruption of transport systems, and the like. Insurance companies will want to know what their plans are. SO stakeholders (shareholders, customers, suppliers, regulators, financiers, insurers) will need to be engaged in the ‘story’ of carbon and how it could affect the company and them. Companies that act early based on a vision and a sense of leadership will gain a brand bonus. Those who do it because they are forced to do it will not. Cap and Trade is a reality in NSW and VIC. It will be a reality as soon as Bush steps down (if he is not shamed into it sooner) and John Howard will follow. Industry (including some power companies but no coal companies) are demanding a market-driven regime to help them plan their liabilities and gain certainty. The majority opinion in the USA is that it is inevitable because, try as they may, Governments cannot control the weather. The upcoming elections for the US Congress and Senate are expected to deliver control back to the Democrats, who are in favour of cap and trade. Corporate leaders, such as the CEO of the world’s largest financial institution, GE Credit, are planning for it. Many companies in both countries have voluntarily entered into arrangements to reduce their emissions. It is better to start now when demand factors mean carbon credits are less expensive than they will be once the tsunami arrives.
What we offer:
We help companies like yours introduce the concept to their clients.
We help your clients determine their carbon footprint.
We help them analyse their potential emission savings.
We help them choose ‘abatement’ instruments – Clean Development Mechanisms, Renewable Energy Credits, Carbon Credits.... There have emerged a range of vehicles. Some of them are kosher. Some of them are ‘junk’. Some of them will blow up in their buyers’ faces when the environmental lobby ‘outs’ them. We know which is which.
We help companies plan their stakeholder engagement process.
We help their communications suppliers to put together the education platform for each stakeholder group.
We help the company start the journey confident that they are on the front foot.
There will be no marketing
There will be no marketing if our governments don't take real action on climate change. All the experts agree, a cap and trade market is the most cost efficient and effective solution. It moves companies and emitters to take action quickly. It doesn't destroy economies - the EU is still afloat. John Howard and George Bush are arguing over the price of lifeboats on a sinking ship. Already the US media has tagged Bush as "The worst president in history" for his track record of bad decisions: Rumsfeld, Iraq, climate change, mega-deficit, allowing Osama to escape during the Afghan War, the erosion of the Bill of Rights... the list goes on. The worst is yet to come - the humiliation of defeat in Iraq, the economic crisis due to trillion dollar debt, the extreme weather events, all will come home to roost after he has stepped down. The American public have finally seen through their 9/11-induced paranoia and decided the President has no clothes. He is just a poor, ruthless, dumb redneck mofo with spin. What's Howard's excuse? Obsessed by right wing ideology, blinded to reality, he too will go down in history as the Prime Minister who took us into Iraq and Global Warming.
Here's a question for all you Clever Conservative Climate Sceptics:
How much stuff can you sell to people when the rail system shuts down because the rails buckle in the heat and the road system falls apart because the surface breaks up... when cities run out of water for industry... when a relative of Cyclone Catrina slams into a coastal city in Australia... when, as the pentagon predicted in a leaked secret report, a huge flotila of refugees from Asia and the Pacific arrive in such numbers from their sunken lands that our military forces are overwhelmed?
WHy are climate sceptics all conservatives? Why are conservatives unable to understand the environment as anything other than as something to be pillaged as a source of wealth and a dumping ground? Such intellectual homogeneity. How is it possible? Do they have a gene missing?
Qantas tortures its passengers
Have you flown your own airline economy class to an overseas destination
laytely? I can’t believe you have. No sane person would knowingly subject
fellow human beings to such discomfort. Only the rich and the footsoldiers
of the rich can afford comfortable air travel today. Forget the toxic food
and queues for the toilets. I can live with that. It’s space I need. As I
sit here on QF129 to LA (13 hours) I can't open my laptop far enough to see
the screen and type.
I know who decides how much space I have. You. Because you set the revenue
targets and they determine how many rows of seats you put in each aircraft
and therefore how little space is available to the passenger in each seat. I
can see those little rubber strips on the floor covering the train tracks
you slide the seats along. How do you determine how much space to allow
between seats? Measure out how much a normal human being would require for a
comfortable experience, and then shove it back far enough to guarantee no
sitting position is painless? If the aim is to cause sufficient pain that
you force us into business class for a fat margin, I can help you there.
Why not hire some really hard bastards with big sticks to whack economy
class passengers on the head until we agree to pay for an upgrade? This is
only slightly more ridiculous than what you do to us already.
Alan Jones calls global warming "pretend science". (LOL)
I just spent 3 weeks in the States where the papers were full of two topics: Congressman Mark Foley's follies and Global Warming. We met with some of the top scientists dealing with climate change in the USA and here's a fact they all agree on: no matter what we do about global warming, we can't stop it. We can only hope to reduce the speed of its increase and the maximum temperature it eventually hits. It won't be long before the real 'crisis' of Climate Change sets into the public mind. Inevitably we will have a fearful consumer. Lacking confidence in the future, they will be less inclined to spend. They will spend on entertainments (the Great Depression coincided with the rise of Hollywood's dream machine) and protection (survivalist products for coping in extreme weather events). Some areas will boom naturally. Some will be caught like rabbits in a spotlight. But the brands that have engaged their customers in the Climate Change story and shown they understand the issue, these brands will endure and contribute to the important work of maintaining morale. (See "Carbon Credited Opportunity" below.) As Winston Churchill told the people of Britain in their darkest hour, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."
Who's taking stupid pills?
I stayed in a hotel on the campus of Ohio State University in Columbus. The hotel was named after a high profile professor of marketing whose name I forget, but he's a prolific author. The Hotel was part of the Fisher School of Business which promotes itself in a way that calls into question the marketing smarts. It declares proudly in posters and brochures that Business Week magazine ranked it 13th Business School in the world. 13th? You can hear the marketing department struggling to convince the Head of School to use their higher ranking in the USA as the headline. But no, the good professor insists that his institution is world class and should be presented as such. Who wants to be known as 13th, to go to a school that is 13th? You're either top 10 or you're not telling.
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Blurred Vision In The Land Where Nothing's Free
This is the head of the queue waiting to register to have their luggage sent to them the next day after American Eagle unloaded their bags on the runway at Dallas Airport when the pilot decided the aircraft was overloaded. After waiting more than 6 hours for a flight, having been bumped several times off several flights, after arriving in College Station, Texas 2 hours after kickoff time for the Texas A&M University home game for which they were all coming down to see, they were told the
y had to wait while a clerk could be found to take their details. Everyone was pissed off. But nothing surprises me about the US airlines.
We heard them
appealing to passengers waiting to board flights to surrender their tickets in return for ttavel vouchers because they had overbooked the flights - how does this happen in the era of real time computing? It was pure Seinfeld. No wonder they ahd to put signs in the bars in the airport warning people carrying guns to behave themselves.
Why put up meaningless Vision Statements about reliability? Why not tell the truth: "We are only human. They don't pay enough to get really good people, because you won't pay enough for an airline ticket. If you get shitty service, it's all you can afford. Don't take it out on me."
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The lynch mob and Alan Jones
Alan Jones is hurt. Alan Jones is angry. He harbours a lot of bitterness. You can hear it when he is burning a hole in someone with words like white phosphorous. He is conflicted. He longs to be a leader. But he can only be the leader of a lynchmob. He is a divider. A man of prodigious talents, he is content to spend them ranting against minorities. "Going off," as one of his station managers once told me. "They tune in because they love to hear him going off." I guess every white city has at least one. Like pornographers, they grow rich by appealing to the worst side of human nature. It's a living. Yesterday, Alan was pushing the view that all immigrants should learn to speak English and uphold Australian values. It was the Lebanese this time. His broad implication was that they all rort social security, can’t speak English. His greatest moment was just before the Cronulla race riots which really put Australia on the map. He was whipping up audience fury against the Lebanese, and proudly declared “I have led the charge on this one. No one was interested before I got onto it.” In Mr Jones's Orwellian view of the world, the Lebanese provoked the riots. The white rioters' behaviour was 'understandable'.
Contrary to what many people believe, Alan is not a racist, nor does he hate people from Asia and the Middle East simply because they are here, like many of his listeners appear to. No, Alan clearly has a business model that includes inciting hatred for marketing purposes. Some may call it unethical. The owners of 2GB - John Singleton, I believe - call it business. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. Alan Jones does so much good on a micro-level. He does a lot on the quiet for charities. He'll take up the cudgels for the little person. But at the same time he does so much damage at the macro-level by dividing the community. He is divisive. Imagine what a nation we would have if he put his talents to uniting us as a community. If he focussed his immense power as a communicator and leader on celebrating that which unites us rather than those things that divide us, he would be a nation-builder of greater influence than any prime minister.
The tragedy for Australia is that we have lost a great leader in Alan Jones.
Truth has many faces
Here is the last 2 weeks of "Michael's Marketing Thought-A-Day" email ezine ethingy. If you like what you see, sign up at www.michaelkielymarketing.com.au
Confucious, when asked for a blessing that could contain a curse, hidden within its folds like a dagger, responded: "May you live in interesting times." We live in such times. Old securities are swept away. Living conditions are shifting. The world is in crisis at so many levels. But Confucious would tell you that the Chinese script for the word "crisis" is made of two characters, one representing 'danger' and one representing 'opportunity'. Instability creates opportunity. Every silver lining has to have a black cloud. The Industrial Revolution, which made our modern consumer society possible, was itself made possible by the Black Death, the plague which killed a third of the population of Europe. This disaster in turn made possible the agricultural surpluses which were converted into capital and invested in steam engine technology and factory production models. Shakespeare wrote: "Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so." The lesson: look for the silver lining, and patent it, secure distribution for it, promote it and sell truckloads of it.
This is not about politics. This is about marketing. The Australian public prefer as their leader a PM who they believe tells lies over his deputy who they believe tells the truth, according to a recent survey reported in the media. (Uh-oh...) Forty percent of Australian journalists say they can’t report the truth, according to a recent survey published on crikey.com. They have to shape their reports to suit their media company’s interests. The only organizations required by law to tell the truth are marketing companies. “Marketing” is a synonym for ‘rip off’, ‘rort’ and ‘con job’ in Australia. Yet if politicians and journalists were subject to the same regulatory regime, they’d have little to say. The Lesson: each one of us decides the price of truth and either pays it or is paid it.
I go through an interesting process coming up with these 'Thoughts". Occasionally something will come up in my daily work with agencies and clients. Yesterday an agency asked me to help them formulate a "Mission Statement". I think the statement that came out of the process should be adopted by all agencies:
"Our mission is to make our clients famous."
That's it. All other statements to this effect are merely derivative. What does the individual marketing executive want, in the final analysis? Not just successful campaigns and high ROI and profits. They want to be recognised as the author of that success. They ultimately want to be heroes and rewarded as such. Career progress, esteem of colleagues, industry profile, and a feeling of having achieved a new level of personal growth - arriving at a new self-image, breathing the pure exhilarating air of success. The agency shouldn't try to take all the glory. (But they all do. Fools.) Reflected glory is all any agency can afford or deserves.
There was a book written in the 1970s called 'The War of The Flea' about guerilla warfare of the type waged by the Vietnamese against the Americans and by the Iraqis and the Afghans and the Palestinians and the list goes on. Why the flea? Because there's and old story about a flea that could drive an elephant insane and send it packing. The little guy uses unconventional tactics to disrupt and eventually deter a much larger opponent. This is the strategy Richard Branson employs. Pick on a big, lumbering, self-indulgent market leader and harass his columns, set fire to his tents and destroy his baggage while his main force is arrayed in its splendor on the main battlefield. The guerilla decides where and when to engage the enemy, usually when they least expect it. He uses low cost weaponry. Branson's use of publicity stunts is a means of creating his own low cost media (eg. His law suits against British Airways, his round the world balloon flights, Sherman tanks down NY's Broadway announcing Virgin Cola's attack on Coke, etc.). Guerilla warriors use brain against brawn.
Who is your best prospect? Can you describe them? Can you say, without looking, what shoes they are likely to wear? Most companies don't know this fundamentally important piece of information. So you cannot afford expensive market research. There are alternatives. One is "marketing by walking around." At DJs, Brian Walsh - the man who ushered in "there's no other store like David Jones" - insisted that senior management man the tills for several hours per week, serving customers. American Express have been known to use senior management as telephonists when contacting large numbers of cardmembers by phone. Brian Walsh was able to spot a DJ's shopper walking down the street. Can you spot your prospects at 100 yards?
10 years ago Brandweek magazine offered the following seven tell-tale signs that a company is not marketing:
1. Sales are driven by price.
2. There is no other way of differentiating the offering from the competition.
3. A steady stream of disconnected sales gimmicks is used.
4. There is no unified plan for communicating the company's message to customers, the trade and the public.
5. Most sales leads come from the sale staff. Marketing exists to create a selling environment and generate prospects.
6. Longtime customers say "I didn't know you did that."
7. There is no customer or prospect database which can be used for marketing.
Now, are you in marketing? The key is having a plan and a program which aims to build equity in your business via growing customer relationships. Every tactic you employ should in some way promote your move in that direction.
The earliest form of ambient advertising was discovered in the ruins of Pompeii. A prostitute had 'stamps' made of the soles of her sandles which pressed into the dust of the streets of the city the words "Follow Me, Boys" wherever she went. The fresher the message, the nearer she was to be found. Lesson: Guerilla marketing makes a lot out of a little. Where are your sandals?
Choosing a name for a baby or a brand is a left brain/right brain thing. Emotion and Intellect. On the one hand it's a little bit practical - we first developed names for each other so we could tell each other apart from the others and talk about you behind your back (literally). Otherwise conversations would be cumbersome. "Go and tell that caveman with the beard and the club to come and help us kill the sabre tooth tiger." "Which one?" "The one who smells like he needs a bath." "But we all smell like that..." SO a name is for differentiation. (If you want a little differentiation - to say 'we're in the category, but we're the same as everyone else' - choose a name like all the others - the way pharmaceutical companies do: Zanadec,Zabadec, Zordec, Zordex, etc. If you want a lot of differentiation, call your son Sue and your airline Virgin.) On the other hand, choosing a name is a little bit creative - the name expresses some of the emotion and colour and personality of the child or brand. When it is to have emotional associations you have to think of the following: what are they? Do they fit the tone and manner statement attached to the Brand Positioning Strategy? (What? You don't have one? Better get one quick!) The name... What does it sound like when you say it? What does it look like on paper? On a business card? Does everything about it fit the image you want to portray? Because a name is forever...
I always wanted to call one of my kids "Fantastic". Fantastic Kiely. Now there's a name to live up to. Everyday they'd have to be Fantastic. "And who might you be, sonny?" "I'm Fantastic, Sir." A name is something you have to live up to.
Other babies' names I'll never get to assign to my children: Fabulous, Special, Loveable, Always Right, and Wow!