Claire Conscience

And so off to Sweden, flying BA to Stockholm for the annual forum of The Medinge Group, a group of activist brand author...

August 30, 2003

And so off to Sweden, flying BA to Stockholm for the annual forum of The Medinge Group, a group of activist brand authors, practitioners and academics.

Our aim is to discuss the dehumanisation of branding and I am to kick off proceedings with a sermon on the dawning implications of ‘The relationship age’. Acknowledge consumers’ reality and manage it with them.

“Get real. Be human” would sum up my theme pretty well.

In a fit of mid-flight conscience, I fill in the exhaustive and tedious customer questionnaire, noting in passing that it is designed purely to produce a better segmentation for BA‘s customer relationship management strategy, boxing me into a corner of their database where my financial value can be assessed, and service delivered accordingly. It’s all about refining their transactional offer to reduce service-cost.

In another fit of conscience (this is becoming a disease), I fill in some additional notes on the back. I write in passing that BA has learned nothing interesting about me. It has showed no respect for the fact that I pay these people’s wages. I drive its shareholder value. In return it presumably tries to be nice to me. We are in a mutually-dependent relationship.

But this questionnaire has learned Nothing about my values. Nothing about my opinion of the corporation which provides these services. Nothing that might help them to build a relationship with me.

The service has been great. Smooth and friendly and pretty much irrelevant. Easyjet would have been just as good. It’s what I expected. Offer made; promise delivered. Yeh. So what.

For all they know, or care, I may loathe the organisation and be actively campaigning against it. They have dehumanised me and themselves in the process of pretending to learn about me.

I am aggravated, so I add a further comment on their CSR gloss. “BA’s only contribution to society is in donating its customers’ money to the world. BA does nothing itself. This is an abrogation of responsibility”. Finally, I add this stealthisbrand web-site address out of irritation.

And then… something truly magical happens. The stewardess Claire (Wilkinson?) comes up to me and my MutualMarketing companion John Moore and fellow traveller Luke Nicholson of Ethical Media fame, and says (drum roll here):

We’ve read your questionnaire.

Thankyou. Great feedback. Very interesting.

I wanted to talk to you about what we do in CSR.

BA has an active programme enabling staff to participate in ethical initiatives on an unpaid basis.

Here’s what we’ve done in Africa…

I think I’ve heard of your web-site (NB. This is of course unlikely to be true! #;¬} )

I will go to your web-site. This has been a helpful discussion.

So Claire, if you’re visiting and reading this, tell somebody who thinks they matter in BA that you just humanised the BA brand for me overnight.

This really matters. Their future rests upon it. So please make this happen again and again. You went beyond service, and showed me a glimpse of your personal brand intent. BA the monolith just peeked beyond branding. Beautiful.

So thankyou Claire and thankyou, BA.

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