Unfolding plans 69 – the ‘S’ word

Does the fact that you mention something make it real?  It would seem so.  One of my colleagues brought it to my attention that if I keep banging on about something it sets it squarely in people’s minds.  This is the case even if I am asking if the subject is true or not.  After all, there is no smoke without fire is there.

Shakespeare’s famous line ‘The lady doth protest too much, methinks’ springs to mind.  The repetitive and vehement denial of something leads others to be convinced that the opposite is true.  It makes the speaker look insincere and defensive as if they have something to hide.  Well they would say that wouldn’t they.  It is the stock in trade of the conspiracy theorist.

It reminded me of when I used to work in the office products trade.  I worked for the leading player that was at least twice as big as its nearest rival.  Clearly the market liked the service that we delivered yet we were tarred with the brush of being arrogant.  We were seen as clinically efficient and, at times, inhuman.

Our rivals picked up on this and promoted themselves as the ‘friendly’ alternative.  They accepted that they may not be as effective or efficient. Their deliveries and service levels may not be as accurate but they were nice people and fun to deal with.  Their marketing people managed to get the thin end of the wedge into our approach and their people kept bashing away at it at every chance.

Everywhere I went I would be told that we offered better service levels with higher accuracy and fill rates but they were friendlier to deal with.  It was nothing personal.  It wasn’t necessarily me that they had an issue with (though some did).  It was just the difference between the organisations.

There was nothing we could do about it.  It was a perception based upon the constant drip of a clever and effective marketing ploy and the more that we tried to counteract it the more embedded a belief it became.  We tried to fight back with evidence, facts and figures that demonstrated our superior levels of service but it didn’t work.  The market saw this as us being defensive with something to hide.  We had hidden our true personalities behind a mask of efficiency.

They however painted themselves as the underdog, railing against the arrogance of the market leader.  They were on the side of the customer, fighting for the little guy against the monolith that was us.

It was unfair but highly effective.  The customers bought it.

My colleague I right.  I might not believe that what I was referring to was true but the mere mention of it shows that it is occupying my thinking time.  I have given the impression that I am obsessed with it and so clearly it must therefore be something that exists.  Why do I keep bringing it up then?

Perhaps the better way to change something is to mention the positive rather than the negative yet I knew this already.

I have added the ‘S’ word to my list of banned words.

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