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The Little Things

Is it just me, or…

The Little Things

Note: The following is what happens when a lifetime of a certain kind of work causes you to notice things that fail to grab the attention of almost everyone else.

Every day we’re surrounded by marketing phenomena we ignore, fail to question or don’t believe applies to us. Let’s dive into a couple of them.

Telegram-speak on supermarket self-checkout pinpads Since we’ve raised at least two generations since the age of the telegram, I should quickly explain that to send one was sufficiently expensive (you were charged by the word) to motivate senders to avoid any word that the receiver could guess should be there. This choppy English was in its death throes until the birth of the supermarket self-checkout machine, when suddenly pre-recorded instructions asked us in this fractured language, to, “Use pinpad to complete transaction.”

Immediately, I wondered why someone…anyone…thought this impersonal-sounding dropping of definite articles (the) in the pinpad instructions was the ideal way to communicate with a customer. Were we assumed to be in that much of a hurry? Did someone think this sounded more “professional”?

I went on to imagine the studio session in which these were recorded during which no one suggested a warmer, normal-speech delivery might add a sliver of humanity to the already dehumanizing task of checking oneself out. Walmart and Kroger are the most egregious offenders here. Costco and Safeway get high marks for using more inviting, normal speech in their checkout instructions.

Making an issue of this may seem petty, but in fact it strikes at the heart of a company’s corporate culture, i.e., how meticulously they consider everything, especially the customer experience. Were the brains of Walmart and Kroger’s marketing people so on autopilot that they “mailed in” this voicing project? Or did the checkout machine’s manufacturer supply it without a thought to its unhelpful tone, since it’s not their calling to think about such things, and these two companies (and I’m sure, others) failed to question it?

I contrast that with the effort Publix, for example, expends to making certain all in-store signage is grammatically correct. You are the details you pay attention to.

And the second thing that occurred to me? In viewing more than a half-dozen self-checkout videos on YouTube, I couldn’t imagine too many other activities more pathetic than the video recording of oneself totaling up groceries just to be on that site.

A further phenomenon that nearly escapes our notice these days is the proliferation of promo codes in advertising.

Marketing gurus rhapsodize about how promo codes increase online followers, raise brand loyalty and increase customer engagement with an event or sale. All true, but behind the scenes, motive #1 is determining where the ad was seen. Each commercial has a different promo code and these codes differ from platform to platform. When you mention your promo code to lock in your promised savings, you’re simultaneously telling the company’s ad agency where you saw that commercial. That in turn determines where ad dollars are deployed the next time around.

Could you employ promo codes in the CSRA? There would certainly be hoops to jump through to do so. First, your sale would have to be built solely around mail-order, since asking your staff to track the codes of walk-in traffic would create an undue burden and invite mix-ups. Too, you’d have to produce a variant of your commercial for every station or platform. Your order-receiving operators would have to keep track of all of this. It would be challenging, all around.

We’ll do this from time to time. Take shots at explaining some of the finely-crafted-to-seduce marketing phenomena we barely notice every day.

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