Thursday, January 24, 2013

plastic bags and customer journey models

Many years ago I was involved in an indie record shop.

For the benefit of younger readers we were purveyors of 12inch diameter round pieces of plastic on which a groove was etched. When activated these grooves produced music.

If you've seen or read High Fidelity then this will give you something of a flavour.

It was a bit of a shambolic operation at the best of times but I only got an actual bollocking once from the owner.

Post-bollocking I never made the same mistake again.

It wasn't for ordering too much stock of some obscure Italian jazz-house oddity.

It wasn't for not opening up until mid-day because of some hangover or other.

Nor was it for keeping the best promo's for myself (I was also a club dj of some repute).

The only thing I ever got it in the neck for was allowing us to run out of the 12" plastic bags wuith the shop logo emblazoned on them.

Because one Saturday morning when the cool kids were coming in to snap up the latest imports, white labels and other hard-to-find underground tunes and bootlegs I had to put them in 'blank' bags instead.

And as they wandered round town or went to the pub in the afternoon to show their mates what they had procured it was vital to us that they pulled their purchases out of one of our branded bags.

We never advertised, and this was pre-internet days people. We had no website. Our only drivers of custom were our knowledge, service, our ability to get the shit the kids wanted first.

And the subsequent word of mouth/general coolness factor.

Social proof, if you prefer.

So when I see an article like this one in Adage - 'Follow Customers as They Actually Behave' - I get interested.

While this is a nice try - and at least a significant improvement on any traditional funnel metaphor - there is one tiny flaw which renders it only half useful.

'Most customers tell us that when they're open to discovering new products and services, they rely on mass-reach channels such as TV ads, search engines and word of mouth. When they want to explore products in more detail, they use depth channels like marketers' websites and retail stores. (They turn to these same channels when completing purchases.) When they want to engage with their favorite brands, they use relationship channels -- signing up for email lists or loyalty programs, or liking a brand on Facebook.'

The author illustrates with a neat diagram outlining many customer 'touchpoints' categorised as those pertaining to 'Reach' 'Depth' and 'Relationship'.

The basic flaw of the theory is simple.

Despite it's thoroughness the map is still based on the notion of the (singular) 'consumer' on an independent journey making independent choices as to when and where to 'engage' (sic) with the 'brand'.

So it's still marketing as something 'we' do TO customers.

But the author said 'Follow Customers as the Actually Behave'?

The truth is that in just about any given market people who are in any way unsure what the appropriate behavior for the situation is, they will look around at other people for cues.

These cues are in the spaces between the touchpoints on a channel plan. But they are in there none the less.

I'm not trashing the RDaR model, it's a useful component but not a whole picture by any stretch.

Ignore what happens in the spaces in between at your peril.

For the most part our job in the 21st century is not about building the 'better mousetrap' and IS much more about helping people (customers) to do stuff to and with each other.

That's what my plastic bags were for, likewise the first time you noticed white earbuds. Or even the first time you saw people doing a silly dance like riding a horse...

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