If Only Marketers Ruled The World
by Alf Nucifora
Being a marketer has its benefits. Our personality points to a unique hard-wiring, combined with a natural sense of inquiry and innate desire to mold minds and control behavior, even if it's only to buy more of what we're selling. Generally speaking, we're a satisfied crowd, content in our professional lifestyles and achievements. However, for the best of breed, there is, offsetting that contentment, a lingering frustration borne of always viewing the world and the marketplace through a critical and analytical lens…almost like a psychic who can't block out the images. Everything seems so obvious. Which leads to the question, why don't others see it as plainly as we do?
What follows is a growing list of marketing innovations, most simple in scope and manageable in execution. After all, if the marketplace is smart enough to invent and exploit Post-It Notes and Velcro, it certainly should be able to find a way to serve a decent cup of coffee on an airline flight. The common thread in all these suggestions is a desire to enrich the experience and provide a better, easier and happier transaction between marketer and customer, buyer and seller, brand and consumer.
Computer tech support for the home user and home business: We don't have access to a sophisticated IT Department like our corporate counterparts. But we suffer the same problems-- viruses, failing hardware, error messages that are written in "Gibberish" for all but the technical specialists with Doctorates in programming. We need easy access to affordable, professional technicians who offer emergency service, in addition to value-driven maintenance and service plans, and who carry a certification that is both legitimate and recognized by the world at large, a hybrid of Mr. Goodwrench, the Maytag Repairman and the Better Business Bureau.
The Yellow Pages are now carrying a growing list of independent computer medics and docs, but we never really know what we're getting until it's too late. Retailers like Best Buys, with their Geek Squad, offer the service, but in most cases the customer is treated as just another numbered transaction within a context that calls for empathy and good bedside manner, technical competence being a given. After all, our injured computers represent business life or death for most of us.
Good herbs, bad herbs
As a growing number of Americans are now firmly committed to a regimen of herb and supplement intake for health maintenance or remedial purposes while dutifully ingesting the pills and potions prescribed by their MD, there is a corresponding need to provide information about the possible adverse affects of mixing supplement intake with prescription pharmaceuticals. Yet the resource or knowledge base does not exist without a laborious Internet search. It's the failure to have traditional and alternative medicine come together for the benefit of the patient and consumer. How about it CVS, Walgreen's et al? We need a user-friendly source of information about the affects of drug and supplement combination, a hotline or in-store kiosk with all the answers. Our lives are at stake.
Why won't the Big Boxes provide easy-to-navigate, in-store computer kiosks so that hardware store novices can find the location of a particular item or product? The worst offender - Home Depot, where the inexperienced Do-It-Yourselfer (DIYer) has to corral or rope a rarely available orange-aproned advisor to ask where to find that 3/8th inch brass screw or ½ inch vinyl pipe. Merely marking an aisle "Hardware" or "Plumbing" doesn't cut in an environment that most of us do not visit on a weekly basis, as we do the supermarket. What makes it even more puzzling is that these retailers have the ability to bring it all to life for the customer given the common availability of computerized inventory tracking systems and the RFID technology. The problem? They don't always think like customers. And by the way, why not have those kiosks dispense coupons and DIY instructions as well?
Things that try men's (and women's) souls
Blister Packs: It started with the infamous, impregnable music CD case and has now spread to small electrical appliances, computer-related peripherals and even health and beauty aids whose packaging requires a "jaws of life" apparatus to pry open. There has to be a better way.
Home Repairs: Too many crooks and charlatans continue to infest this industry. We need a rating system, a cross between a J.D. Power and Consumer Reports that truthfully ranks performance. If Zagat can do it for an equally fickle, service-driven restaurant industry, then you know it can done for the home repair sector.
Windows Software: This patch-work quilt of trial and error must inevitably face the consequences of its inadequacies and the corresponding pain it has caused its legions of first-time computer users who knew no better. As the Google good guys and the virus vermin continue to attack from both fronts, even the unsophisticated Windows user like myself will start giving serious thought to a Mac alternative (as I'm currently doing).
Things I pray for: A Starbucks location that doesn't blast the reader or laptop user with death-by-decibel sound…airport doors that open automatically…soup always served piping-hot in restaurants…and receipt-dispensing gas pumps that never run out of paper. I can wish, can't I?