The branding rules of engagement are evolving quickly

What many brands don’t appreciate is that we invest a great deal of our valuable time, effort and money waiting for the opportunity to spend our hard earned cash on them. Paul McCruddon, a digital strategist and blogger in the UK knows this better than most and got tired of brands mucking him about and appearing not to appreciate the fact that they are, as he puts it, “stealing my attention.”

Earlier this year after calculating his time is worth about £102 per hour, he recorded how much time he spent waiting for service in diverse places such as a post office, shops and restaurants as well as spending 45 minutes waiting for a train at Preston station and so on.

The data is impressive. For instance, and I quote: “ (I) spent 20 hours and 50 minutes with Transport for London mainly taking the tube day in day out. And as a result of that, I’ve spent 2 hours and 35 minutes reading Metro and 80 minutes reading The London Paper, not to mention all the planted PR stories and adverts they contain. For the food shop, I spent more time at Marks & Spencer (5 hours, 16 minutes), but significantly more money at Sainsbury’s (£455). And as for eating out, then Pizza Express will find that their 2 for 1 voucher went down a treat (6 hours, 53 minutes), meaning that I didn’t spend nearly as much time and money in their competitor restaurants, with the exception of the reliable Carluccio’s (5 hours, 40 minutes).”

Paul feels therefore that these companies all owe him money. So, and this is where it gets really interesting, he sent invoices to 50 of these brands for £6,250 for his time that the brands had wasted! To make it more appealing, he offered them all a blanket 75% discount.

So how did he get on? Well the results are quite surprising. You can read about them on his blog, but here are some examples:

Pret A Manger founder Julian Metcalfe sent a cheque for £62 for spending time in their cafes. Pret really got into the spirit by also paying his food bill (£22) and also an extra £1 for to compensate for the hassle of walking to the post box to mail the cheque to his bank!

Little Chef offered vouchers to the tune of £30. Squat + Gobble, an independent restaurant offered a £5 discount card. EAT a small family run company with stores all over London, sent him £15 worth of vouchers.

Boots the chemist failed to get into the spirit, writing a letter stating that they do not recognize the time customers spend in their shops in ‘monetary terms’.

What does this tell us about branding? Well for sure, this is not going to evolve into something that we all do. Although bearing in mind how long most transactions take in Malaysia, if anyone here feels compelled to copy Paul, you should, on paper anyway, earn a lot of money! However it does reiterate that mass economy company driven tactics such as positioning, have no place in the customer economy.

Positioning proposes that the organization concentrates on a word or idea that defines the company in the minds of consumers and then communicates that idea or word relentlessly for as long as budgets will allow. Basically this is how it is and we tell you how our products are positioned. Take it or leave it.

This ‘episode’ reiterates that branding today is a very different place than it was even 5 years ago. Branding today is about entering into two-way collaboration with consumers because consumers have more power than ever before. It is imperative that brands understand and respect their customers.

If brands fail to work with their customers, those customers will take their business elsewhere and tell others of their bad experiences. Paul updates the story regularly on twitter where he has over 1,000 followers on twitter. Those followers (One has 17,000 followers) will retweet (forward) his updates onto hundreds of thousands more and so on. He has been interviewed on TV, radio and print. Many consumers will take note and go out of their way to avoid the brands that don’t appreciate his investments.

Paul used the data collection website Daytum to record all his interactions.

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