Friday, 24 June 2011

small signs make matters better or worse

Whilst out in the week I bought lunch.
Millions of people do that every single day across thousands of cities in hundreds of thousands of outlets worldwide. There is product, staff, customers, tills and maybe even decent service.

There is also the occassional insight into the way some of those high street chains operate.

On the floor of GREGGS the bakers (I know - dirty boy) I saw a sign that had perhaps fallen off the staff side of the till. I can only assume because of the grease build up. It said 'Dont forget to ask the customer if they'd like a drink with that!'.

This tells me a great deal about the mindset of Greggs and the way it develops it's staff.  Taking them out of the workplace and into their own homes, I'm sure each and everyone of them would offer me a drink with anything I ate in their company so why when it's their job and front of mind in each customer interaction would they forget to ask? If the queue at the tills wasn't long enough then I'm sure I could rely on my own thirst to tell me whether I needed quenching.

Perhaps this sign had been taken off to allow another asking for payment to be fitted in it's place.

Touch points like this are brand building opportunities, they count toward the thousand actions that make up the unique picture of something or someone in my mind. It's just a shame any personality at GREGGS the bakers is knocked out of its staff with signs like this...

so what to do?

Give people an idea of how customers should feel, nothing more.
Dont tell your staff what to do, but how to be.
Dont put up signs as they fall on the floor and when you have to communicate to your staff or customers, think personality...

Friday, 17 June 2011

Fear (only exists in your head)

have been involved in two high profile projects recently where two or three people have to make decisions on material that will broadcast to many thousands of people.  There is obviously a lot at stake.  Reputation, brand, engagemnet, senior reaction, stakeholder (hate that word) reaction, shareholder value and so on.

This is all factual and unavoidable.  It's impossible to so a 'something' in the business context with out an  reaction from the business as that 'something' happens.  It would appear the laws of physics seem to translate into human behaviour however.  Why is the 'something' always going to be met with an equal and opposite reaction?  In other words, why do people who make decisions often (but not always) default to the "if it could offend, it will"?  As a result, all the creative language, metaphor, expression and re-expression, freedom and anti message is swiped away and the final idea is... well... beige.  Boring. unimpactful. bland.

Everything appears like the walls of a new home.

It's almost as if people are rewarded for NOT upsetting people and avoiding failure, rather than praised and rewarded for thinking differently and creating the un-expected. As a result, the marketeers, the internal comms professionals and the brand ambassadors all go back to the Monday meeting with the same challenge they had at the start of the project.  Only this time they've the experience of executing a thoroughly unoffsensive campaingn.

Maybe fear is just in our head.  I've never known anyone get the sack for doing their job.  I have heard of people get the sack for shagging someone on the photocopier after hours, but not for trying things differently.

Fear isn't part of the project.  It doesn't arrive in a box. it is though energetic. It is passed on from one person to another and it grows when more people are born into the idea of failing.

I'd ask we all suspend the biological default.  There are no more tigers at the mouth of the cave so it's okay to step outside.

Only the good die young.
Only the safe projects get forgotten.


Monday, 13 June 2011

why not insult your consumer in the instruction manual.

I bought a window mount for the sat nav in the car.  It's a plastic sucker thingy with an arm that extends from the windscreen.  It takes about 30 seconds to assemble the parts, clip on and enjoy the Sunday drive.  The USER MANUAL for this device has 8 languages. 8! each chapter identical to the next in illustration spans 10 pages and features handy comments like 'position cradle to your linking' and 'when finished with the device, remove it'.  OHMYGOD! we're driving a car and despite the occasional idiot on the road, most of us have the skill and control to manage a motor vehicle.  This isn't for the challenged. Yet the folk at Belkin (maybe under the instruction of a HR and Health and Safety Legal quango dept) have decided to insult the intelligence of their consumers with the instruction manual.  These guys aren't alone.  I had a friends who told me once his kettle came with a manual that read CAUTION: THIS DEVICE GETS VERY HOT.  Oh and there was me thinking a kettle is for keeping fish in. This is an example of poor design - shit design in fact.  The product answers a simple request from the consumer. They'll be savvy enough to work out from the box whether the product will suit their needs, yet the packaging, advice and 2 year warrenty simply distract from the very thing that will bring satisfaction.  Consumers want to 'get jobs done'. in doing so life becomes faster or easier, happier or richer. They'll thank you for it in repeat purchase. Dont insult your consumer for buying your product and dont assume they wont know how to use it. have your pressed EVERY button on your t.v. remote? There is no need to correct consumer behaviour past the point of sale. If they're doing it 'wrong' its good enough for you and that makes a 'right'.

Friday, 10 June 2011

another missed opportunity, another lack of effort...?

Spent half my week in a hotel. A great deal of my life is spent in hotels so I get to appreciate good ones and spot where others could do even better.  One of the first things that can tell me a great deal about the hotel, the brand and it's people is of course the environment. A little obvious dont you think? have a look at this little gem however!

So here is a beautiful old Red Call box (designed by Giles Gilber Scott who I think penned Battersea Power Station..). Anyway, hidden within this great British design icon wasn't further aesthetic delight but a copy of the menu for the hotel restaurant (a mere 100 yards away).

What glorious dissapointment.

Far from the menu appearing delicious, it looked weathered and tired, the paper faded from the sunlight and the elements. The hotel poster on the wall had also gone away with the wind and the cutlery looked like a set of abandoned tools rather than a fine arrangement of polished steel enticing the prospective diner to take seat.  All that was missing from this sorry ensamble of clutter was the original working phone from which I could make an escape call and a dominoes pizza.

For me this whole thing said more about the hotel and it's relationship with creative thinking than anything else. Why have it? seems someone somewhere went ooh that's a cool thing, an old fashioned letter box, we can put it in the hotel grounds and add character and charm. This will differentiate ourselves from all the other hotels.  Perhaps the brainstorm ended there or the first idea that came out won - let's put a menu in it.

I just can't imagine it appearing on the minutes of the DeVere or a matter arising - what to do with the Red Phone box...

.. if it were a solution to advertsie the restaurant, then like most projects, there wasn't enough time spent on the brief.  The restaurant was the only choice available in the entire complex.

maybe I've got it wrong though.
Perhaps it's an outdoor table and the Red Phone Box is simply a cover used to keep it dry in the rain.