Monday, January 21, 2008
Room service? Send up a larger room
Stateroom scene, A Night At The Opera
Marx Brothers' fans will recognise the line, 'Room service? Send up a larger room' from A Night At The Opera. I adopted this as the name for my blog because I love playing with language and the Marx Brothers' ingenious word play is legendary.
In marketing, there are lessons to be learnt from how the Vaudeville comedians flip language to change perspective and meaning. This allows us see things differently, in order to come up with more creative solutions to problems. Then we can genuinely surprise and delight consumers.
So, in customer service, for example, where most service providers would do the obvious, logical thing (service customers just as much as is necessary to maximise profits or shareholder value), innovative companies think laterally. They embrace the absurd and they send up a larger room.
The novelist Paulo Coelho subverted his own brand, creating the 'pirate' website Pirate Coelho, where he posts links to illegal downloads of his own books. He even published a free version of the Russian translation of The Alchemist. And his quirky strategy has paid off. Not only has he garnered the support of fans worldwide, but sales of his books in Russia quickly rose from nothing to over a million.
That's all very well for an author, but what of big brands? It turns out that this kind of lateral thinking can also pay off for large companies. Amazon went above and beyond the call of duty to provide unparalleled customer service, when Wall Street logic would have had the company build the bottom line.
Amazon embraced the 'absurd', offering free shipping, even making losses on some popular items. But, they built a powerbrand with enviable levels of trust and loyalty - 72 million active customers, each spending an annual total of $US184 on average, a 23% rise over the previous year (New York Times).
Their business philosophy is based on the principle that, if you do something good for one customer, they'll tell 100 customers. That's a hundredfold return on investment - not bad odds, even by logical standards.