Speaking as a customer, I don’t want to be “acquired.”
Doc Searls

Love your response Doc! Spoken like a true consumer!

I am 65 and obviously I have been around marketing for a little while… My mantra to my younger staff was always “remember that the customer is your Mother”. A simple rule.

The acronyms and jargon used by Rob and I are a fact of life in modern marketing, but, to take your point, they must stay in-house!

It used to really rile me when these terms started to slip into the vernacular of customer-facing staff!

One great example — my employer from ’91–’05, Cellarmaster Wines, operated wine clubs and one of the key strategies of wine club marketing is to run continuity plans. “Conti plans” are the regular delivery of a case/six-pack of wine (whether quarterly, six monthly or annually). It is a very profitable marketing strategy but marketers must never let subscribers feel that they have fallen victim of a clever marketing strategy*

From ‘83–’87 I ran the Australian version of the UK’s IEC Wine Society. We were founded in 1946 and were the first practitioner of wine continuity marketing in Australia. At one point, every member was subscribed to receive a case of wine every quarter and many received one every month!

…but Cellarmasters maxed this out, with at one time, 350,000 members subscribed to wine plans! (Yes, despite Australia’s small population, they were the biggest direct-to-consumer wine marketer in the world).

In 1995 I was head-hunted and had 4 years away from the company and when I returned, I was saddened at the way the marketing staff had forgotten my Simple Rule.

*Everyone referred to “Wine Plan” deliveries as “Conti deliveries” and this had spread to the Contact Centre — where customer facing staff talked to members about their “Conti cases”!!! I wish here that Medium could give me an icon to express disgust!

On top of this, in the absence of sound leadership, I found that the marketers had slipped into what I call “spreadsheet marketing” — “It works on my spreadsheet so it will work in the real world”

Cellarmaster Wines is far from being the only business that has fallen into this trap. You have probably seen its manifestation yourself! Banks are particularly good at it. I remember receiving an emailed offer from my Australian bank that looked very attractive but seemed too good to be true…

…so I did what most customers would have done in those days… I went into my local branch.

Not only did the staff have no idea that the offer had been sent but they did not understand it either! In a customer relations master stroke they gave me a telephone to call their marketing department, so I could discuss the offer!

That was in 2003 and sadly I fear that the disconnect between today’s young marketers and the real world of their customers has increased. I believe that it WILL be fixed, but I have no idea when — and there will be a lot of unemployed marketing graduates before the situation is brought back to sanity!

Doc, do you now believe that at least some of us understand your position?

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