J. Walker Smith          jwalker.smith@thefuturescompany.com          11.15.11This week’s question:“What should my brands ...
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“What should my brands over-deliver on this holiday season?”

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“What should my brands over-deliver on this holiday season?”

  1. 1. J. Walker Smith jwalker.smith@thefuturescompany.com 11.15.11This week’s question:“What should my brands over-deliver on this holiday season?”The answer is customer service. This isn’t anything new, The explosion of social media has occasioned theof course. It’s just a bigger imperative this holiday season. predictable trumpeting of the greatest thing since slicedA confluence of three things brings it to the fore. bread. While this hype has to be taken with the usual grain of salt, the connectivity of consumers is certainlyHyper-vigilance. Wariness and misgivings sit uppermost greater and more immersive, and in combination with thein people’s minds these days. Appalling scandals at aggravation of vigilance and anxiety, this holiday seasonDover Air Force base and Penn State combined with the presents both big risks and big opportunities.perennial smarminess of political skullduggery haveput people on alert. Volatile price swings in stocks, oil The challenges of a marketplace infused with Twitterand food create a background context of edginess and and Facebook are not unknown. Plenty of brands haveuncertainty. Airwaves and social media are tense with stumbled, so examples of how to do it wrong abound. Butnews of riots in England, OWS tent cities across America, the dangers are particularly acute this holiday season.violent street protests in Greece, last-minute deals to People are looking at everything more closely and hencepreserve the solvency and viability of the EU, rumblings of they are more sensitive to how they are treated and whatnuclear weapons in Iran, and more. People are on guard they expect. Mistrust makes disappointments moreas they head into the holiday season, a vigilant sensibility acute, and people have become expert at sharing theseheightened by unremitting financial worries. with others.Economic anxiety. People have come to accept that This holiday season is the first with this convergencethere will be no quick end to the economic stagnation of marketplace dynamics—hyper-vigilance, economicplaguing the economy. Unemployment is high and is anxiety and immersive connectivity. This makeslikely to be slow to come down. Economic growth, while customer service the top priority for marketers. It is thepositive, is weak and threatened further by the possibility point of contact at which vigilance and anxiety can beof a recession in key EU countries. Consumer sentiment addressed, satisfied and moderated. It is the process bycontinues to bounce along—up one month and down the which complaints and disappointments can be remediednext—in a trough. People are feeling lots of pocketbook before they become viral. It is the means of generatingpressures, which is intensifying the vigilance they are good buzz about brands as well.bringing to every decision. But customer service is also a weak point that must beImmersive connectivity. Vigilance and anxiety are monitored. Good customer service can tackle issues,fueling a general feeling of consumer antagonism that but bad customer service can create issues. In an era ofis amplified by the fact that everyone is now totally suspicion and transmission, bad service is a big hazard.wired, totally connected and totally in touch. People Bad news is more contagious than good news. Wordhave become very skilled at navigating this landscape of of bad customer service gets around fast, and will getconnectivity and are more strategic than ever before in around faster this holiday season than ever before.the ways in which they manage their connections with oneanother. Even consumers on the fringes of new media areswept up in the environment of connectivity because theold media have turned new media into content.© 2011 The Futures Company. All rights reserved. | 1

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