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The duplicity of the offer is the enemy of credibility

November 13, 2013
Image of Crunchie offer at Tesco

Credit Crunchie? Tesco’s spurious pricing methods are a cause for deep concern.

It is an unpleasant side effect of marketing methodology that the desire to create the illusion of acceptability often overtakes the marketer’s responsibility to uphold the truth of consumer experience. We may consider this to be unacceptable. If we do not, then as marketers we should. Or we have lost our moral compass. Because marketing has become mendacity.

If life teaches us one thing it is this: experience defines knowledge. But today, marketers have created a new tactic: the attempt to disguise the experience of the many by the exigencies of the few.

Marketers have come to believe that their inherent cleverness is more worthy of a greater worship by their peers than a duty to enrich the lives of those who buy the products they promote.

Marketers and spin doctors have allowed personal arrogance and conceptual vanity to become more important than managing the greater truth: the experience of the greater public.

Marketers and spin doctors, cynically, believe “crisis communication” – the art of turning bad news into better news – is better than the honourable response to heartfelt concerns. Tell people a story, tell it often enough, and what was once incredible becomes “the truth”.

Except “message” is often far from the truth. Let’s look at three examples…

Political Concern? Pull the other one…

We may start at the  top and work down. Today according to the Labour Party, a left-of-centre political party in the United Kingdom , we live in an era where there is a”cost of living crisis”. According to this party’s message machine, we live in an age whereby the unavoidable is ennobled to the status of the politically changeable.

Yet we know by experience that it is not the cost of living which has created a crisis but the failure of politicians to ensure long term strategy for inherently-owned national wealth. We know as consumers that the price for the destruction of UK manufacturing and national infrastructure has been to ensure that national destiny is transferred into the hands of others.

We know as consumers that today’s PPE-educated young politicians have probably never worked in a foundry, blown glass, drawn wire, laid a keel, glazed a pot or split a slate. We know they are theorists born from books, not visionaries born from experience. We know that they have delivered unto us the Britain created by their text books and not their graft. We know that the privatisation of everything has enabled politicians to wipe their hands of responsibility.

So we know that the “cost of living crisis” is best described as the “price of political complacency crisis”. Politicians over the years have placed the importance of message over their national duty and now they expect us to believe that the opposite is true.

Safe in our hands? It depends whose hands…

In our second example, we can look at the spurious messages touted by the recently part-privatised Royal Mail, an inefficient and largely un-mechanised UK national mail delivery service. Here, that organisation’s marketers tout that delivery is “safe in our hands” and whose Christmas slogan (at the time of writing) is “we love parcels“.

But let’s look closely at this. According to one report, Royal Mail (previously known as the Royal Mail) paid out over £1,000,000 a month in compensation for items “lost in the post” and in 2006/7 (the last year for available information) paid compensation in only approximately half the cases. It appears too that in the same year, one postal worker a day was caught stealing from the mail.

In the recent privatisation of Royal Mail, little mention was made of employees, paid for and pensioned by the state, happy to allow items to “go missing” from the company which paid them and the state which they served. Little mention also was made of the otiose insurance claims procedure whereby “missing” items ultimately are assessed for compensation (or, as we have seen in the Daily Mail figures cited above, result in only half the customers receiving some form of compensation).

Every customer in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is well aware of the dichotomy between the bland messages of marketing excellence and the actual experience of public sector complacency and operose online customer interaction tools.

We love parcels? If only they loved customers.

Credit Crunchie – the deception of the masses…

Which brings us neatly to our third example.,Tesco, a British supermarket whose market share has recently been declining but who have attempted to portray themselves as national saviours at a time of financial hardship. In the UK, many people who have little choice but to shop at this company’s stores are reassured by the overwhelming concern the company has for their welfare.

Image of Crunchie bar offer at Tesco

Credit Crunchie 2. Or should that be 3 for 2? Same product, different prices makes every little help

According to the marketers, Tesco is doing its level best to make sure “every little helps“. Indeed, in our own local store, Tesco is happy to promote that it is helping us to “spend less every day“.

How can these claims be supported, we ask? Recently it was our experience to see a large “Thank Crunchie its Christmas” (160 gramme) pack for sale at our local branch of Tesco for £4.00. The pack contained 4 bars of the Cadbury confection (now owned of course by the US company Kraft, following yet another act of political folly by the UK’s political classes) in one large wrapper.

Preying on the minds of somnambulant cattle lulled into an overwhelming sense of belief in Tesco’s altruistic intentions, the supermarket is able to engage its customers in the “fun” of Christmas. What better to put in your child’s stocking than a giant Crunchie bar?

Except there, on the next shelf, another offer presided: Buy one Crunchie (40 grammes) for 60 pence. That equates to four Crunchie bars for £2.40 (not £4.00) OR – special offer – buy three Crunchie bars (120 grammes) for the price of two (£1.20).

So, working through Tesco’s labyrinthine pricing methodology, a customer has three choices: buy the 4-pack for £4.00 OR buy four bars for £2.40 OR buy a three for two and one extra bar for a grand total of £1.80. Every little helps.

Of course it does, because the next day we were in the same store and the four pack was now on “special offer” at £2.00 (because by pricing the pack at £4.00 it was able then to say that the price had been “reduced”)…

Marketers owe their customers better than this. The future of Britain is not about message, it’s about delivery. At A Brand Day Out we say “Marketers – cut the crap” and we say to business “don’t give your marketers a free hand”.

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