During my Interbrand days I was known as a vociferous flag-waver for the behavioural aspects of brands, less interested in the signage; packaging and many physical manifestations of the brand management art.
I guess a large part of the reason for this was that the design team largely had this covered. Yet the people factors were and remain by far the greater business and brand challenge.
But this Christmas, faced once again with a mountain of packaging and the notorious dad challenge of liberating the toys from their cellophane and cardboard cells, assembling them and breathing life into them with the right set of batteries, strokes and nudges, I couldn’t help but reflect on how little the predominantly Chinese packaging departments appeared to care about the customer experience once the purchasing decision had been made.
I’m sure parents around the globe are becoming increasingly frustrated with toys and presents that are ALL about the marketing, shelf appeal and the promise but appear to give scant regard to delivering on that promise post purchase. When faced with a doll that has had three screws inserted into its head and hair to make it look nice on the shelf and a little girl crying in frustration to get to grips with the goods, or a scarlet-cheeked little boy who, try as he may, simply can’t liberate a toy car from the lacerating plastic and tie-grips, it’s easy to see where Tim Burton’s inspiration for The Nightmare Before Christmas came from.
As I frantically cut, tore, peeled, tugged, unscrewed and assembled much more than I was expecting to given the amount of money we had spent on the goods, I pictured in my mind’s eye an army of particularly malicious factory workers in China dexterously engineering micro screws and fastenings that would test the patience of Buddha as some sort of post -modern, post- imperialistic backlash. But the truth is, the manufacturers are most likely complying with the very letter of the brief from the marketing department in Washington or London and the workers are simply being as efficient as they can possibly be.
So is there an issue for the brands concerned?
Oh yes there most certainly is.
Regardless of the science underpinning the product development, effective brand management is a holistic process. The physical elements of the brand mix need to work in harmony with the behavioural. That means ensuring the customer is engaged with the product at all key stages, un-packing included. But not as some sort of de-facto home-based assembly line operative. And that calls for listening and empathy to be included in the employee skill set
Because ultimately it isn’t Santa (sorry kids) but we long-suffering parents who pay for the presents. And in the famous words of The Who, “we won’t be fooled again”.
Well….not until next Christmas, birthday, reward day, anniversary, baptism, baby shower……….