blog: customer-centric marketer


What is digital flatulence? It is the unexpected, public, disruptive and frequently embarrassing electronic notification that someone (other than the person with whom you are speaking) wants your attention. It could be your mother, or about something of no immediate consequence. Either provides the same distraction.

The range of audio styles for this is so diverse that, unlike organic gaseous emissions, it is easily traced back to its source. It doesn’t matter how permissive the recipient is (opted-in) to receiving interruptions, the intrusion affects everyone in the vicinity. Therefore the onus of digital flatulence (no pun intended) falls to the sender, not the receiver.

We are only a few years into the popularity of this media, and there still exists in the minds of many users a certain cachet, that they are so sought after, or that the present moment is never as important as the interruption. This cachet is trumpeted by Telcos, to my mind being the equivalent of encouraging digital flatulence contests between high frequency users. (You have to have gone to a British All-Boys School to truly appreciate the metaphor.)

My prediction is that, within a couple more years there will be a societal backlash against media invasion into personal space through excessive emails, texts, pings, alerts, notifications, spam, spit, twitters or any other expletive noise coming from a wireless device in a public space. They will be treated with the same disdain as smoking, urinating or emitting a loud and malodorous body stench into the local atmosphere.

We create our own problems through exploitation of new media opportunities and this is one that will more obvious in people’s lives, as wireless devices become permanently joined to the human hipbone.

As customer-centric marketers we have an opportunity to define policies regarding how to engage with this media, to prevent this backlash. Here are some suggestions:

Device manufacturers:
Work to improve silent modes of notification.

A simple flashing LED has some great advantages in power-saving and reduced public intrusion. The goal of a wireless device should not be to interrupt whatever the user is doing, but to enable them to function proactively from any location at the convenient moment.

Enable features that are common on landlines e.g. Do not disturb/Busy call-back later settings and Automated redial when the line becomes free

So, if I need to call you and you have put your phone on Do Not Disturb, then as soon as you free up your phone my phone will ring, and as I pick up it will redial your number and connect us. That way I know I am catching you at the earliest moment of convenience and I don’t have to keep redialing and leaving multiple voice mails. I remember having this feature on landlines in the UK years ago. Surely the technology must still exist?

Carriers & Marketers:
Understand your customer’s preferences

Send out your spit, spam, twitters and texts within very defined windows of time to minimize daily intrusions and resentment build-up. Track instant deletes as a strong hint not to resend the same message over and over and over again. Work together as carriers and marketers to bundle packets of messages into specific time windows that are socially more acceptable, e.g. happy hour, the drive in, the drive home etc.

Stop trying to herd cats.
Your staff are easier to reach than ever before, but don’t exploit the situation to create social mayhem.

This subject is more than a nuisance in cinemas and concert halls. It is more than teen’s googoo-gagaa-ing over the latest ‘happening’ thing on the bus or subway. We are headed into a wireless spaghetti world of unwanted noise, where privacy will become a ridiculous notion for lack of social grace in digital human behavior.

This is not a soapbox rant. It is a clarion call to marketers to understand the negative impact of wireless social media on our quality of life and be proactive and build better customer relationships through smarter solutions.



Written By |Marketing Strategy|Comments Off on SUPPRESSING DIGITAL FLATULENCE


Borrowing from a recent article in the Nat Post Business Section (that applies the standard Mars/Venus equational imbalance), about a book called “Wired to Care: How Companies Prosper When They Create Widespread Empathy”, penned by Business Strategist Dev Patnaik, also founder and chief exec of Jump Associates, adviser to businesses on growth strategies:

“Companies often hinder their success by focusing too narrowly on selling products and not on their customers’ actual needs.” ibid.

He has written a book about a concept he describes as the ’empathy gap’ between employees and the customers they serve. Well, that saves me the trouble.

Dev specifies the gap as a chasm between employees in organizations and the people (customers?). I wonder if the euphemism was derived from actual experience of shopping at The Gap?

Not wanting to put the onus entirely on employees I was relieved to see he spoke of “Companies stamping out customer empathy” within their staff and then being “surprised when their employees make poor decisions or try to sell things that their customers don’t need.”

From the interview (attached) it comes as a fairly rudimentary exercise in customer-centric marketing. I haven’t bought it, so I can’t recommend it, but it is all grist to the mill.

But I want to deepen the thought: he describes the growth of a business as a cause, as success moves the stakeholders away from the products that they produce. What elastic band magnate uses the same product to hold up his socks? Not like the old days when he couldn’t afford socks with lycra built in (not a real example in the book).

Question: is there a lack of integrity in the staff of a business that does not use its own product? If they use a competitive product then the answer would be “Yes.” If you work for Chrysler and you don’t drive their wheels then you won’t think too much of customers that roll up with a Dodge Hemi under the hood. But if the employees are not users of that product, then there is no reason for the lack of empathy. I doubt that manufacturers of prosthetics are all missing body parts, yet they probably care more than most about how the customers feel using their products.

Empathy with the customer has to be defined within the culture of an organization, not at a product level. In fact it doesn’t have to be product relevant. The manufacturer of women’s hosiery doesn’t have to wear the product, (if he is not accustomed to pantyhose). He/She just has to understand the problems that wearers of such products have to deal with in the context of: warmth, protection, comfort, appearance, climate, U/V rays, skin sensitivity, ease of putting on/removing, durability and budget. That puts hosiery on the same plane as global warming. I am in no doubt that, in the microcosm of daily frustrations with women’s hosiery, there are issues that are scalable to global warming. This is what we can call ‘empathy’. I don’t know if the author of the book goes so far to say so. But, it should be, from the CEO down to the photocopy worker, that empathy is ingrained. That way a customer might actually believe in the advertising.

Otherwise you might as well be as far removed from the Sun as Pluto and wondering why your customer is orbiting a different solar system.

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