Monday, January 24, 2011

Good News - People Don’t Quit Because They Hate Your Brand

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I was watching a show the other day called Undercover Boss which sees senior executives of a company working undercover in their own firm to investigate how the company really works and identify how it can be improved.

It is essentially built on the old saying “walk a mile in my shoes” as well as the concept that staff should spend time working in other peoples roles in their organisations – although not under the veil of secrecy – to gain an appreciation of other parts of the business.

Truth be told, I have ever seen it actually happen.


The episode I watched saw an Australian woman, Marija Simovic, become the new CEO of Harry Ramsdens, Britain's best loved fish and chips restaurant chain. Marija joined Harry Ramsdens when it was a struggling brand hit hard by the recession and increased fast food competition.

Marija spends time at 3 different outlets and spends time with a young assistant manager, waitresses and kitchen staff, all the time working like she is one of them.

What she uncovers is bizarre. Systems so broken that people with no business acumen would immediately see that they don’t work. She encounters equipment that has been broken for a long time (12-18 months) and which increase waiting times for customers by 50-100%, ultimately putting pressure on staff.

I shook my head a lot but none of it really surprised me. How often do manager’s just expect people to get on with it?

What did strike me was the underlying theme of love. That’s right, love, and it underpinned Marija’s views and the staff.

Throughout the show, Marija kept using the expression “Harry Ramsdens hasn’t been loved”. No top down managerial love of the brand.

Strangely, there seemed to be a lot of bottom up love from the staff as, despite the obvious problems with systems, store layout, lack of support and broken equipment, the staff kept working there. Why wouldn’t they just go and find a job where all the deep fryers worked? Cooking fish n chips is cooking fish in chips right? Waiting tables is waiting tables? Right?

Maybe. But if you love the brand, like these staff did, then you stay put.

So I wondered what would make people leave a job and a quick and dirty Google search here, here, here and here confirmed that the none of the major reasons people leave is because they don’t like the brand.

Think about it. People put their blood, sweat and tears into working for a brand and they become immersed in it. If you are running a service business, and who isn’t today, then it isn’t your customers who are the most important and it certainly isn’t the shareholders. Your staff, providing the service are the most important because the service they deliver directly effects customer satisfaction and ultimately the shareholders.

So next time the balance sheet or sales funnel isn’t looking too rosy then do a Marija. Your staff in the trenches, and not your middle or top level managers, will be the ones who can give you the best insights. They are ones on the front line, delivering services and using your systems and equipment.

More importantly, they probably love the brand. Most importantly, they are likely the ones who will be most affected by your new fangled system or targets. Best you have their buy-in from the start.

Your problem is that you are probably already know as a manager who doesn’t really care about their problems. So the trick for you is to build their trust and provide an environment where they can be open and honest about the business.

Good luck. Think you might need it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Deeeer, It’s Red Bull You Idiot!

I read a good tip the other day that suggested, if you are short of blog topics or really pressed for time, then you should post an old post. I am really pressed for time this week and while I have a few good blog topics I don’t have much time to write them. Don’t worry @seancallanan … I will come knocking :)

So, a personal favourite of mine and of the readers, is a little post I wrote about a dumbed downed logo at the Olympics and a little test for the readers.

This was my second ever post back in March 2008 and amazingly holds the record for the most number of comments on a single post with 20. While I was going back into the archives of posts it actually shows a tally of the total number of comments ever made on this blog. The figure is very close to 250 so I will be awarding a special prize for the reader who makes the 250th comment on this blog (and no you can’t just keep commenting until it reaches 250 :)

I haven’t made any edits to the original post. Enjoy …

I am a regular listener of Peter Wagstaff’s Marketing Today Podcast (if you don’t listen to it then get on board at It’s a great podcast and will really get you thinking about current marketing topics – plus if you listen to it in the car then you can avoid the commercial radio station drive time dribble!

Over the last few months I started writing some feedback to the podcast and really enjoyed having it discussed on air … from there I started this blog (thanks to all the encouragement from the blogosphere following my first post last week).

One week on the podcast, Wags and Col were discussing the Olympics and I wrote some feedback which went like this …

“Here is a very cool piece of ambush marketing that I am sure you guys will like. The International Olympic Committee does not allow sponsorship on athletes uniforms (like most sports teams have). In fact, even the manufacturers logos have to be smaller than 3.1 squares inches. I searched and searched but couldn’t find a picture or a reference.I think it was the 2004 Olympics, and a track cyclist lined up with his normal slick suit on. There were some very unusual markings on his uniform in red and yellow and I remember thinking to myself “That’s not even his country's colours”.Then he sat up on his bike and the colours were organised as two red triangles meeting with a backdrop of a yellow circle. Instantly recognisable as the Red Bull Logo! I thought it was pure genius to capitalise on the equity of the logo and be able to reduce it to its basic shapes and colours yet still have it instantly recognisable to an audience.”

I suggested to Wags and Col that it would be a very cool exercise to get some famous logos and “dumb them down” and see if consumers could still pick the brand just from just the shape and colours. We’ll Wags and Col agreed - so I set about doing it.

I have tested it on a few people and all enjoyed it and it was funny listening to them and/or watching them when they had an answer on the tip of their tongue but couldn’t get it out.

Click the link below to download the dumbed down logos and see how many you can recognise. A big thanks to Jules @ Soul Mann for hosting the spreadsheet (as Blog Spot doesn’t allow uploading of word or excel files?!?!)

Download the spreadsheet here>>

Please make sure you register how many you correctly answered using the pole on the right hand side of this page.

If you have any logos that you reckon would be good for a Version 2 then let me know and I will “dumb it down” (Hint: it has to be a logo without much reliance on words/letters/fonts. For example, the Goodyear logo wouldn’t work).

Finally, one more thing, Current Issues in Marketing has an interesting post on the Red Bull Air Race.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Your Customers Are Like Water

Lots of businesses put terms and conditions, access signups/restrictions and other things in place to ensure that their customers purchase or use their products and services in a particular way. Sometimes this is completely justified and the average consumer doesn’t mind if it is clearly explained to them why certain arrangements are in place. and how it will add value to them.

In contrast, I call anything that makes the transaction/relationship more difficult than the customer perceives it needs to be and/or doesn’t add value, a “rock”. It is even worse when they put rocks in place that are designed to manipulate the market (or rip customers off).

I call them rocks because … well … imagine your customers are a river. Moving along at a fast pace, getting on with their lives. Then there is you, a business, on the banks, hoping to grab their attention as they speed past. Sometimes they will slow down and interact with you. Sometimes they keep going.

Your standing on the bank, frustrated at the volume of water passing you by. So you throw a great big dirty arse rock in the middle of the river. It hits the bottom but is big enough that you can still see half the rock above the water.

What happens? Does the river slow down? Of course not, the water just goes right around it. Carries on. Doesn’t care about your feeble rock. Loser.

While you can dam it up completely, this isn’t usually a viable option for one person (business) standing on the side of the river with a pile of rocks. Even if you throw heaps of rocks in and manage to block it up pretty good the water won’t stop at your rocks. It’ll just find a path of lesser resistance and it will carry on.

Mostly it is only governments and really large industries/companies that can truly re-route or dam a river.

The point is, if you put rocks in place, and the customers don’t see the value or the point, or worse still hey think it is unfair, they will find a way around it or they will go somewhere else.

Take the iTunes and Beetles scenario at the moment.

Australian music fans are forging foreign iTunes accounts to make big savings on their purchases. The practice, which is a direct breach to iTunes terms and conditions, has exposed the inflated price that Australians pay to access songs off the popular music and entertainment site. By creating an American iTunes account through the use of a US credit card or gift card, users are saving up to 80c per song and $7 per album. The recently released Beatles box set collection can be bought with a saving of more than $100. Deals offered on the internet also include $US50 vouchers on sale for $US40, increasing the savings even further for music buyers.Not only limited to music, the same price differences can be applied across movies, television series and audiobooks — even titles that are not available to buy in Australia. Read the full story here>>

iTunes ripoff

While the practice might be a direct breach to iTunes terms and conditions, consumers don’t care because they are being clearly ripped of by the rocks iTunes tries to put in place.

Another example is a website I visited recently to download some management templates. The templates are free, everyone in the industry uses them and loads of other websites provide them free as well. To download them you don’t have to complete a registration form or anything. However, the site says “If you wish to use the templates for anything other than for your own personal use, for example for your organisations internal use, to distribute copies to the public, or to re-use content from the templates etc, then you will need to apply for a PSI Licence from OPSI. Further information and instructions on applying for the PSI licence are contained in the following link”

Ummm, why the hell would anyone want management templates for personal use? Of course they are going to use them for work. Do you think many people apply for a licences? Of course not. They either ignore the rock or find a site where there are no rocks.

Why do companies even bother? Why don’t they just focus on great value and customer service?

What weak arse rocks does your company put in place because it gives senior managers a false sense of control/security? Or do you have any examples of weak arse rocks that companies have in place?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it

So I got through the Christmas shopping ordeal pretty well this year. Sometimes good gift ideas just flow but if you are like me then there are plenty of times when you you need to get a Christmas, Birthday, Anniversary present and just draw a blank.

My mate Yabba (sorry, no shout out this time Trentles, flashmobs are soooo 2009) once told me about an idea he had where people in his office could list presents they got and rate them. It was about 10 years ago so I am pretty sure the extent of the idea would have been on a whiteboard or maybe extended to a spreadsheet. I always thought, in theory, it might have some legs but would need to be on a bigger scale.

My mind wandered the other day, probably because I was listening to Gerry Harvey whinge about how hard he has it (read as “I have no idea how to innovate or understand what my customers needs are so I need to get someone else to fix it) and I was thinking about how, if they end up surviving, shopping centres/malls could help out shoppers who need guidance. I started thinking about the Minority Report.

While I was looking for the above example of the Minority Report scene I also came across the 2nd

video posted about 9 months ago.

I am reading the 10th anniversary of the Clue Train Manifesto and there is a comment in there that says that advertisers just drooled over the internet as another way to push messages/ads. At the moment, the technology in the video is just another way for brands/advertisers to yell at you. Sure the technology is kind of cool but where is the innovation?

Imagine if you walked into a mall and up to one of the directories they have, it scans your face, recognises who you are and asks “how can we help?”. You speak and outline a few important elements of what you are looking for i.e. wife, 20 years old, likes exercise, romantic movies, reading, has a 2yo kid, hates anything tacky etc” Then it gives a sample of a few items and you nominate “Yes” or “No”, maybe even why “No” i.e. too cheap, too girly, already has one etc and then the directory refines its search and suggestions.

Then when you are happy it gives you a list and points you off to the shops.

This could probably even be an iPhone app that you could run through in your own home before you even get to the shops? And easily order online if you are one of the freaks who gets this organised before December. (stop press – just found a few but they seem to be more driven by you logging your own ideas for people and not them being targeted suggestions).

There probably needs to be some sort of personalisation to assist such as a card/file/app that tracks your friends/spouses shopping habits and allows even more targeted suggestions. Yes, yes, privacy etc is a concern but lets not let details get in the way of an idea. Einstein did say that “If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it”

So, what can you add/suggest to the idea?