Being a better friend

August 14, 2007

Just say it.

Why is it so hard for brands to say 'Thank you." to the people who buy their products?
It’s not like they don’t deserve it. They’ve just given you their money, contributed to your revenue, helped increase your market share, your stock price and to your professional success at the company.
So why are they so few and far between?
And why, when it does happen, are we so often taken aback?
I was at the Apple store in Manhattan this weekend, and after buying yet another ipod and a Nike plus, left the store when their greeter said to me, “Hey, thanks a lot.” His inflection and tone was one of a friend who truly appreciated me and what I had done for him. I responded, “You know, you’re welcome, it was my pleasure. I love your products.” Within that moment, my relationship with the Apple brand, which is already one bordering on that of a soul mate, was reinforced. I felt acknowledged, and prideful about my decision to once again contribute to Apple’s success, knowing they were contributing to mine. That reciprocity and respect is all too often ignored, to the peril of the brand.

Then today, Evan brings in a post card from Starbucks with one word on it. You guessed it…Thank you. Photo_1 For being such a good customer, they were reloading his credit card with $5.00 for him to use any way he wanted. No strings. It was signed “From your friends at Starbucks”. The tone, the manner was sincere and clear. “You have been there for us and we want you to know we know it.” What should be a “Duh!’ when it comes to any relationship, is the positive exception, when said genuinely and sincerely, (not cursorily or off a script) by a brand to a customer. Sometimes it’s the smallest acts that have the biggest return. They say, “Thank you,” I say,"I’ll be back."

by Karen Evans

What should Mattel do?

Another story that everybody knows about. Not a single parent in America likes Mattel right now, analysts are reporting they've already taken a $30 million hit this year, and with the recent recall are sure to take another financial kidney-punch. Mattel is facing a huge challenge and i'm sure they've got a high-paid team of crisis-management specialists working on the cause, but perhaps what they need isn't crisis management. As an old friend to kids and families everywhere, there's an opportunity for them to respond a little differently.

A quick glance at the landing page of the website is already missing something. Mattelfrontpage_3
Any guesses? That's right, the very first thing a friend should be offering, an apology. Click through to the "voluntary recall information" page and find a letter asking for trust and a 3 minute video with an apology offered in the last 5 seconds. So what would a friend do here? Without getting into much detail, here are a few thoughts;

Offer an apology -- something sincere, heartfelt, and upfront. Don't bury it.

Act apologetically -- think friendship here, not crisis management. Find a way that shows you're sorry and that doesn't mean a 200 page "product safety initiative plan" or a manufacturing scapegoat. A friend might send flowers or take you out to dinner, and Mattel should be thinking along those lines.

Open kimono -- stay in touch and let people know what's going on, how the problems are actually being fixed, not the plans to fix them.

Any ideas what else a friend might do if they've betrayed an old friend?

by Evan Slater