I cannot recall seeing any country as divided as Britain has been over the past few weeks while coming to terms with the death of Margaret Thatcher.
Memories of the former British Prime Minister seem to have stirred deep, deep emotions throughout that nation, from sadness and mourning to celebration and glee.
But how can one person’s memory be felt and recorded in such divergent ways by people who were all present in the same time and place?
Of course it has to do with how individuals and communities fared during Baroness Thatcher’s time in office; some prospered, some suffered.
If we reflect on this in relation to our businesses, do we find a Margaret Thatcher effect at work?
Can the same people, processes and products within our businesses result in mixed reactions from customers and clients?
Ding dong the witch is dead
In a tasteless move, thousands of Britons took part in a Facebook campaign to buy copies of Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead from the Wizard Of Oz sound track, so that it would have to be played on the official BBC countdown of hits the Sunday after the death.
The broadcaster decided to play five seconds of the track and have a journalist explain why it was in the charts, rather than play it in full.
There were also reports of street parties ‘celebrating’ the passing of Baroness Thatcher.
Of course, there were people with opposite emotions who fervently expressed gratitude for the Thatcher era, claiming it was crucial for Britain.
One woman; many reactions.
Never eating Greek food again!
A former media colleague of mine vented on Facebook over the weekend.
Hey guys! Do you want a beautiful Greek dinner with really tender octopus, chicken souvlaki cooked to perfection, juicy quail,tender lamb skewers and amazing,juicy Greek sausage? Yes? Then AVOID [restaurant and address deleted]!!! It wasn’t THE worst meal I’ve ever eaten but it ran a [expletive removed] close second!! Disgusting and disappointing!
When I complained that the Octopus was like eating a squash ball I was told “yeah we know there’s a problem with it.. Has been for a few weeks but we’re looking at changing suppliers!!” If its a problem.. And has been for a FEW WEEKS…DON’T SERVE IT YOU [expletive deleted]!! It’s not brain surgery!!!
But, within the comments came reports that contrasted with the rant, along with suggestions of alternative Greek restaurants.
So we have vehement criticism and defiant praise, all about the one restaurant.
From our perspective, as marketers, it is important to be aware that not only can people in the marketplace hold divergent views about us, but that the depth of passion attached to those views can vary enormously.
How to prepare for a brickbats and bouquets
The first thing to remember is that when we set our target markets at the beginning of our marketing process, we would have developed a deep focus on our customers, and that this becomes invaluable now.
The more that we can be aware that each customer or client who interacts with us does so against a background of different moods, needs, pressures, and past experiences, the more we can avoid or absorb the emotional payload.
Last week, I became one of those grumpy customers for a while. My wife had ordered some prepared meals from a company but the taste was very disappointing. Given that this company’s whole marketing effort was around taste, I felt let down and annoyed. As a result, I was a little terse in my communication at first, as I imagined us stuck with 50 meals we couldn’t bear to eat. Ironically, the company has a well-oiled return system, so that chapter will soon close.
The second thing to note is that fear drives much of our reaction.
Evolutionary biologists claim that what causes us to tell more people about bad experiences than we do about good ones, is a survival instinct to warn those around us away from danger.
So, while my friend was personally upset in the Greek restaurant, his public outburst was actually part of him warning his networks.
In fact, this brings us to our third thing, Product.
The first P in the four Ps of marketing is Product and it means, make sure your product is sound and offers value to the marketplace.
When it does, you are bound to get some bouquets; when it doesn’t, prepare for brickbats.
I am sure that my friend’s public rant became guaranteed the moment he was told the restaurant KNEW it had been serving tough octopus for a few weeks but continued to do so while supposedly looking for a solution.
If anything is able to trigger consumer outrage, it is the slightest sniff that a company is knowingly providing a faulty product.
Our challenge, as marketers, is to continually review our Product and ask whether it can be improved in some way.
This leads us to the fourth item on this agenda, listening.
Using services like Hootsuite to eavesdrop on public conversations about you and your company in social media, can be invaluable for alerting you to problems as soon as they are raised. This might also mean responding to comments to seek for information or to arrange contact with an unhappy customer, and sometimes there will be factual errors to correct appropriately.
Finding other ways to listen to or survey your client base can help you keep your finger on the pulse.
There might also be ways your industry or sector can tell if clients are happy or at least getting value for money. Perhaps this could be the week for brainstorming some ideas.
Finally, the Pareto Principle reminds us that there will always be a small percentage of customers, approximately 20 per cent, who will contribute to 80 per cent of an organisation’s angst, woes or complaints.
Finding a way to gently close the door on them while concentrating on the 20 per cent who contribute 80 per cent of profits and goodwill, could well be the most pragmatic and history-creating move for your organisation.
Just like Margaret Thatcher, who was known as the Iron Lady for being resolute once decisions had been made, so, too, may you find the strength to be resolute as you deal with the challenges the marketplace provides you.