Monday, January 18, 2010

The marketplace - Making a connection

I dropped in with family for a weekend in Sydney last week and visited its renowned Sunday market at The Rocks. I'm not into markets, but I was suckered into one store which, to my eye, was easily the busiest in the place. It sold monotone historical photos from  throughout Australia and New Zealand.

What is it that drives so many people to buy photos from 100 years or more ago? It it just curiosity? Is it a deep-seated longing for when life was simpler? Or was it that this store was just a terrific 'child minding' facility for guys who just aren't interested in accompanying partners to aroma therapy and home-made jewellery stalls?

A quick glance at the demographic led me to believe it was probably a combination of all three. But what struck me most is that these old photos, presented and dated in their green cardboard mounts were actually doing good business. Compared with other stalls, they were doing great business. I would love to know why and understand the driver for this.

If I wanted to chance my arm at the underlying psychology, the sales were a by-product of personal connection. These old images project a story about where we come from, a sense of self in the flow of history, whether we've made progress and even how we might better plan for the future.

The Rocks market was a microcosm of retail behaviour. The store making the greatest personal connection was selling products that struck an authentic chord with its community. It was retail at its most basic, but it carried a contemporary message for brands.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Starting 2010 as a winner

Had to put this up, as it is a good omen for my year ahead. My horse broke her maiden at Kilmore on Tuesday, leading from start to finish. Even these country maiden races don't come easy. I've had nine horses for two solitary race wins and a few placings. What does this tell you about me? Perhaps I shouldn't ask!

Her name is Racine. Her sire is Untouchable. See who can be the first to tell me where I derived the name!

By the way, I only own a back leg!

Choose your words carefully

Hi to everyone in 2010. Hope you all had a good break over Christmas-New Year. If you didn't, consider your views on being indispensible and make sure you get one soon. There's a great article in the Australian Financial Review this morning about the personal insecurities that discourage people from taking leave, but that's another subject.

First week back at work for me this week and I've run into two items that highlight how customers can completely misconstrue messages. And in both instances, it all comes down to choice, or context, of words.

The first resulted in a call to my own office, where we had issued a letter to investors saying our fund was transferring to a new administrator. For this investor, the word 'administrator' translated to 'fund going into administration' rather than the true meaning, which was the fund transferring to a new member administration service provider. A huge gap in interpretation! Fortunately, as far as I know, we only had one investor who interpreted it this way out of 7,000 that received the letter. So let's no over-react!

The second encounter was a report that another superannuation fund had decided to remove an exclusion filter from its sustainable responsible investment (SRI) portfolio. A by-product of that story was a comment by the fund's head of investments, that a number of its investors mistakenly believed sustainable to mean 'reliable' i.e. will deliver reliable (positive?) earnings. This was far removed from the real meaning that money would only be invested in companies meeting specific social, environmental and governance criteria.

My view is that you cannot bullet proof communications against any possible misinterpretation because the wires in some people's heads are irrevocably fused in ways different to any other. But these are two examples of interpretation than, for some people, have resulted in wildly different meanings that could have disastrous consequences for their expectations and decision-making.

I think all communicators will get the point I'm making. But I caution there is one sector that will interpret and react to this blog differently - in-house lawyers. Their only interpretation will be that we need to cover the page with more disclaimers and footnotes!  My advice is not to forward this URL to their inbox.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year and good health for 2010!

Broke my sabbatical to drop in and say happy New Year and good health to all who might drop by the Bloggosfear! Posting will recommence soon.