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  • Do you really want to be a special snowflake?

       January 19, 2010

    I was at a social media seminar last week. The speaker was some hotshot Canadian and one of her big insights was that we all want to be treated like "special snowflakes". The idea is that your customers expect to have an individual experience at your store or your website. Everyone seemed to agree with this idea, but I don't.

    Oh sure, sometimes (i.e. when something breaks) I want to be treated like a queen. But only sometimes. Most of the time I want brands to let me be anonymous. Hell, if coffee shop employees start to get too familiar, I generally find a new coffee shop. I don't want relationships with stores and brands. They're stores, not people!

    I think marketing rules & best practices are too often determined by the extroverts of the world. But there are just as many introverts and I suspect there is money to be had in catering to our very different wants and needs. Or hell, at least in giving us the option to opt out of all of the special snowflake nonsense if we want to.

    It's like politics. For every unbearable person who posts election crap as their Facebook status for months there are people who shut the hell up. Their votes count just as much as the loudmouths' votes.

    It's a stupid marketer who takes the pulse of the consumer based on the comments of the squeakiest wheels. Likewise, it's a stupid politician who caters to the fringes. Most of us like the anonymous middle. When we say "change" we don't really mean it. I actually think James said it well in his comments to an earlier post:

    We all have more important things going on in our lives. Why should I care about cap-and-trade when I could be relaxing on my couch, staring at my big screen TV watching Dexter? Why care about so-and-so's latest comments on off shore drilling when I could be spending time with my family? Because honestly, whichever party wins an election, my life will be relatively unchanged. And I like it that way.

    Posted by at January 19, 2010 08:20 PM

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    #  January 19th, 2010 9:08 PM      BVBigBro
    Introverts, however, can now shop anonymously online and can do so almost entirely. Their individual experience is normally directly proportional to the speed of your site. The question is whether or not the customer wants to be sold something or wants to choose something. I'm at the extreme and tend to only want to choose. Other people are more susceptible to the sale.

    Note the grocery store, which is by and large a place where the sale is very subtle and entirely passive. Few people want someone following them around the grocery store. On the other hand, I generally know the people at my bike shop of choice quite well and converse with them on almost everything I buy.  
    #  January 19th, 2010 9:14 PM      kris
    But you're not really anonymous online. I had a lot of arguments with people about whether our marketing model should be to serve you products based on past purchases or not. Sometimes that approach makes sense. I mean, I bitch about Amazon doing that but then they sucker me into buying yet another historical book about Anne Boleyn. But other times I think a site is better off showing a customer what's cool or new or fun.

    This was a super rambling post, but basically it's just that I think you have to account for both types of people, whether it's as a marketer or a politician.  
    #  January 20th, 2010 12:58 AM      james
    I live a mile from what has to be the biggest Fleet Farm in the world. It is impossible to spend more than 5 minutes in that store without at least 5 employees approaching you and asking, "Are you finding everything OK?" I hate it. And I love Fleet Farm. But sometimes I go elsewhere because I don't want to deal with the employees.

    Wells Fargo is another one. Their corporate mission is to scream "hello" at you as soon as you enter the bank. The tellers ask personal questions like "Oh, what does your business do?," and "Do you have plans this weekend? Anything fun?" I hate that too. Yet I stay with Wells Fargo, largely because I like their online banking website. Hmm.

    Not really related. Just thought I'd share. :)  
    #  January 20th, 2010 8:44 AM      kris
    Maybe Wells Fargo could add a "No small talk" field to your customer profile, but they probably talk to you before they key in your info anyway :)

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE self checkouts in the grocery store - mostly because I don't have to make that small talk. I'll go to the self checkout even though the grocery store I go to most often is populated by U of M students who are far too stupid to figure out simple tasks like keying in a four digit code for an orange. Waiting for them is still better than going through the human lines.

    But - I look around in the store and see that about half of the customers disagree with me. And again, that's the whole point. Smart marketers will account for a variety of preferences.  
    #  January 20th, 2010 12:29 PM      james
    I hate, hate, hate self-checkouts. They are a lot slower than human checkouts. Scanning and rescanning items is tedious. Being bitched at for not putting something in the bag is annoying. "Waiting for assistance" is obnoxious. I've stopped using self checkouts long ago. If you want my business, store, get a person to ring me up or attach the self-checkout gun to my cart.

    Some stores, like Cub Foods, have only 2 human checkers at peak hours. Which is why I don't shop there. (Well, that, and their deli sucks.)  
    #  January 20th, 2010 12:31 PM      kris
    Oh, I agree - self checkouts have some bugs to work out, but with my extensive checkout girl experience, I'm still usually faster than the store people.  
    #  January 20th, 2010 12:32 PM      james
    I think I'm just gonna keep complaining about stores I don't like. Why do grocery stores in the north metro think it's appropriate to pre-slice deli cheese? If I wanted something that was cut 3 days ago & tastes like plastic, I would shop in the pre-packaged section. Seriously, it's every freaking store up this way. There should be a community education class on how the deli is supposed to work.  
    #  January 20th, 2010 12:41 PM      kris
    I kind of don't believe you, but if that's the case then maybe it's just an example of some typical Minnesota passive-aggressiveness towards Wisconsin? We hate you - therefore we will destroy your precious cheese!  
    #  January 20th, 2010 12:47 PM      james
    I know it's hard to believe. My God, I'm still in shock myself. It's all pre-cut, wrapped in 1/2 lb. saran-wrapped packages! !!!! (!!) I've asked them to specially cut some for me, and I've receive mixed results. One girl was happy to. One girl did but got really upset about it. One high school kid didn't know how. The one place that has cuts on demand- Super Target. But, Cub, Festival - nope. It's all pre-cut.

    #  January 20th, 2010 12:48 PM      james
    I should probably find my closest Lunds or Byerleys. Their deli is probably run correctly.  
    #  January 20th, 2010 12:49 PM      kris
    Just sayin'  



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