I have always been terribly fond of the image of a small urchin throwing a stone to knock the top-hat off the fat, pompous businessman. I’ve even run campaigns based around the concept in the past, where we’ve been working against an incumbent telco on behalf of the challenger. Taking the role of the urchin, the ‘sha2iy’, against the established player was a highly successful strategy – the incumbent is aways monopolistic, slow to react and entrenched in its ways. As the market entrant, you’re always faster, slicker and, if you’re witty about it, can actually lead the positioning game from an early stage.
The great thing about being an urchin is that people are generally sympathetic to you in your acts of defiance against pomp and arrogance. Few of us have a taste for big business when it’s a monopoly or when we’re its customers and it’s not listening to us. And that has never been so true as it is now, with the fast flows of information, particularly consumer opinion and comment, that the Internet and the many consumer generated media outlets that it has opened up.
Businesses that have in the past ignored consumer opinion can, of course, continue to do so – particularly if they’re monopolies. But being a monopoly and behaving like a monopoly aren’t the same thing – and changing an organisation’s interactions with its customers can either come now at the pace and convenience of the company’s choosing or later at the pace chosen by a competitor working with the support of consumers who are grateful for the change being offered.
Of course, there are those that serve us badly and have no prospect of having to endure the rigours of competition. In an environment when today’s more empowered consumers are able to give voice, share information and opinion and reach out to each other, the pressure for change is suddenly a factor of significance. Although the monopoly itself may not change, the people within it that think that consumers are of no consequence may just find that competition doesn’t have to come from outside and that they are moved aside to make way from more urchin-friendly people.
This piece originally appeared as one of the chucklesomely named ‘A Moment with McNabb’ columns in Campaign Middle East magazine