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04/01/2010 Miracle on Digital Street?

I've enjoyed reading Trendwatching's latest report "Brand Butlers: Why serving is the new selling." For those of you who haven't read it yet, do so. It puts forward a good customer focused perspective on marketing. In short, Brand Butlers provide valuable services aimed at helping make their customers' lives simpler. Rather than trying to cross-promote goods, brands, with their wealth of knowledge, can provide an array of services that may or may not have anything to do with what they sell.

As I read it, it reminded me of an old, favorite movie of mine "Miracle on 34th Street." It's the one where Natalie Wood plays the little girl. Macy's Department Store hires a holiday Santa to boost its toy sales, only to find out that they've hired the "real" Santa Claus. The kicker comes when Santa brazenly tells a child that Macy's doesn't have the toy he wants, but that archrival Gimbels does.

The boss is aghast! As he tries to fire Santa for sending customers away, he sees that customers actually like Macy's more because of the service Santa provides. He's helping them have a successful holiday. Is Santa a Brand Butler?

I think you'd have to say he's the first Brand Butler. He speaks from a position of generosity and he always puts the customers' needs ahead of his own (or his bosses). Santa realizes that, in the end, this strategy always pass off. It may take time, but it pays off.

The problem is that most of us, at work, have short-term goals our bosses measure us by. And it continues up the food chain, all the way up to a short-term perspective on profit and stock prices.

Brand Butlers prove their value over time. While some may take a short time to prove their  value, other services may take a lot longer to do so. Unless we take a longer-term perspective on customer service and interactions, providing value in services may go the way of any of the latest fads.

I wonder, though, has any brand really gone out of business by having a long-range view and providing great service without reducing the quality of their products? I'm having a hard time thinking of one.

Brand Butler or Brand Santa. It sounds like a winning strategy to me.


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