You getting this?

Keep talking. They gotta listen sometime.   

Keep talking. They gotta listen sometime.

At the Plastics Business Summit “Sustain 08” conference this month, Nestle Waters’ North America CEO Kim Jeffrey revealed that he doesn’t get it. He doesn’t get how “one day a product can be touted as a success in promoting healthy habits and the next taken to task for its environmental footprint.” 

But more than displaying an obvious lack of understanding of green issues (a health product is no good if its manufacture destroys my living environment), Mr Jeffrey also illustrated how far behind the curve of innovation and consumer-engagement large brands actually are.

Instead of bemoaning the waste created by his consumers of his product’s packaging, he should rather be looking for ways to stem the waste on both the production and consumer side. Maybe create a bottle that can be reused. Make the bottles customisable and run them in limited, collectable batches. Make people want to not throw them away. Deliver water to the consumer like the milk-vans of old. 

Big brands aren’t the thought-leaders anymore. They’re not the big-ideas-merchants they once were.

The next level of innovation is with you.

You’re the one who knows how best to solve your problems because the problems are yours. Take banks for example. For years, people have been complaining about the banking business model. Top of the list is the way you pay fees to an agency that uses your money to make more money for itself. The first bank to show real returns to its clients through decent interest payments will win the game. But do banks really want to listen to their clients on this one? Same goes for airlines. The first airline to solve the myriad of common problems with its clients (like the insane booking and refunds system) will break rank and come out on top. What’s the bet that all those negative reviews just go into file 13 without even being considered?

Sure these companies can continue as they are but given time and the current shifts in technology and economy, they’re going to find themselves flatfooted in the future. It’s not a pipe-dream. It’s a reality.

The message to brands must be clear: don’t tell us how great you are by showing us yet another “solution” that does nothing to benefit us. Talk to us and make your next change off the back of the discussion.

Don’t believe it?

The cost of not understanding or engaging your market at the right level was felt earlier this week by Motrin. Despite what you think of the merits of the situation, the fact remains that Motrin took notice of its consumers too late (and initially not at all) and it was their undoing. And it could all have been avoided with a little discussion and comprehension from the brand (or its agency).

Brands need to realise that the NEXT BIG THING won’t be a discovery from within their R&D department but from without, from an email or a discussion with their consumers. And brands that fail to realise that are doomed to fail.

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3 thoughts on “You getting this?

  1. Quite right. They *will* have to (dare I say it?) adapt or die….
    One or two extras:

    1. “Big brands aren’t the thought-leaders anymore. They’re not the big-ideas-merchants they once were.”
    They never were ‘real’ thought leaders. They appeared to be, in an age where consumers were not well informed and not motivated to improve their personal space (and by extension, the world). But sheep will follow pretty much anything. and so they led. Social awareness killed that little luxury for them, and social media gave consumers some real power. And it’s spreading…

    2. The bank thing is actually phase two. In phase one (and I’ll skip the crack about being old enough…*cough*), banks didn’t charge exorbitant fees. They made their money honestly, by investing your deposits. This new thing, is simply greed. Testimony to that is the amazing flexibility they will display when confronted with a “negotiate or I’m gone” demand. Merchant Credit card transaction fees are defaulted to 5% (at least when I last was a merchant). All it took was a phone call. “WTF is this???” “No problem sir, 2.5%” WTF was that?? Problem is, they’re all ewe-kak, so changing is just listening to another salesperson’s guff. I simply choose the one that offends me the least.

    Good work, dude.

  2. Thanks for the comment.

    What you say about banks is true. I was chatting to a friend of mine who remembers when Trust Bank first opened. He talked of such fanciful concepts as “client service” and “useful information”. He must have been delirious.

  3. That’s something the Internet is good at – connecting consumers. Before the Internet, you were lucky if you heard one negative review or horror story from your second aunt’s nephew’s sister’s cousin. Now, you’re lucky if you manage to dodge the thousands of blogs and forums and community news items about how companies are abusing their client bases.

    And better yet, it helps you find new companies. Better companies. Companies that understand that their sheep just got eyes, mouths, and DSL lines, and are exercising them with vigor.

    What I find forever funny about all of this is the untimeliness of a buzzword that probably died out 10 years ago – the Global Village. We’ve finally gotten there. Communities in cyberspace, sharing just about everything of value, where reputation counts and where putting up a false pretense won’t last forever.

    Now if only SA could catch up to the 21st century … *sigh*.

    ~ Wogan

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