If you’re into marketing. You’re in the education business.

March 18, 2017

Consider these three case studies…

Why is the PAP having such a tough time trying to convince Singaporeans that the prices of tap water needs to be raised?

The simple answers is because they spent 70% of their time trying to justify the cost of why tap water needs to go up. While only 30% of the effort is directed to educating users why they need to be stakeholders instead of just being consumers. To further rub the public the wrong way – they throw in ‘insult my brain’ commentaries from an academic derelict who just happens to be a nutty professor in NTU.

Now many parents (including myself) in Singapore are seriously having second thoughts about sending their kids to NTU. As they don’t ever want their children to end up being a stupid caricature like the nutty Prof…very hard to cari makan (ekk of a living) if they talk gibberish that only seems to make sane people roll their eyes and slap their foreheads – dowan lah!

Let move on….

Some years back ago. The board of directors of an estate that wasn’t performing well asked me to endorse a plan to boost yield by using round after round of very strong fertilizers. I told them politely, if you all opt for this strategy of pumping steroids to boost yield. You would certainly be able to experience high yields for the first two years. Thereafter the yield can only deteriorate as the method is not sustainable ecologically and what you’re really do is just cannabilizing the land of nutrients.

The CEO asked me. Aren’t you interested in making money? I replied yes…then he pressed his point home. We are the customer. You should satisfy and delight us. To which I replied, as a customer you certainly have the right to insist on satisfaction for services rendered…that is your elemental right, but what you’re asking of me is to sanction Hara Kiri on an industrial scale by poisoning every acre of your land till nothing will ever grow there…that I cannot do. Not at least without imperiling my own reputation. As what you’re asking me to do is sign off on a flawed strategy like perhaps endorsing the Titanic. Thereafter I referred them to the nutty professor who I said would be happiest to say anything including confecting fairytales to support their cracked pot strategy and promptly bid them all farewell along with ever call me….I will call you.

Another illustration.

From time to time when it comes to my hobby of painting shoes – I do get the odd request. On one particular occasion. A customer asked of me to patina a pair of super expensive bespoke loafers. I sent back the shoes untouched with a polite note – I am so sorry but I am not in a position to fulfill your request due to a backlog of orders.

Later on my shoe agent who handles the marketing aspect of my shoe dressing business phoned me up and recounted how this particular customer had berated him and even referred to me as an arrogant fuck who didn’t have the courtesy to render satisfactory service to a valued customer such as himself. When my agent asked of me why I had refused in such adamant terms to carry out the work. I simply recounted to him – I am a respecter of craftsmen and the philosophy and institutions to which we all belong too.

I went on to explain my agent. The loafer was constructed by a renowned Japanese shoemaker who I happen to know personally. They are a husband and wife team based in Osaka and since I take a keen interest in their philosophy of aesthetics. I even know this is the last thing they would ever want any of their customers to commit to one of their shoes.

When my agent asked pleadingly – he’s a very wealthy and influential man who gives us regular orders….can’t you at least make an exception and keep him happy….it’s after all his shoe. He paid for it. To which I replied, the shoe may well be his legal property. But when it comes to such a work of art. He is merely the custodian – and since the customer is requesting me to defile or mutilate a work of art from a shoemaker who I happen to respect and admire.

In the long run word will go around. The market is after all minuscule. And soon all our orders will dry out as other shoemakers in Japan will be so horrified that we are part of this sacrilege….I went to stress to my agent. It’s best if you recommend this customer to one those Italian shoe artist. Since they are solely focussed on the profit motive and very little else they will be happiest to undertake his work.


‘It really doesn’t matter what you’re selling. Once you’re in sales. You’re automatically neck deep in the business of education.

In this respect the marketing manifesto misleads – the customer is always right.

Fact is the customer is NOT always right. Sometimes he can be so wrong that you simply need to save him from driving off a cliff.

Consider this if you’re a planter and you engage the consultancy services of John Deere – what you’re ineffect buying into is one hundred and fifty years of experiental knowledge and commercial farming equipment wisdom. So if as the customer you’re foolish enough to put the cart before the horse….they will probably politely show you the door, present you with a complimentary key chain and wish you better luck with another vendor.

That’s how professionals conduct business – they will never fulfill your request IF what you propose doesn’t make a molecule of common sense. To put it another way, if you want to destroy yourself and jeopardise your reputation – they rather not be part of that process.

Same thing. If you walk into Huntsman & Sons in Saville Row and start requesting that the lapel of the suit should be incorporated this and that way. As you believe based on your third rate amateur knowledge that you have managed to cobble from surfing the internet – then the shop floor staff may perhaps recommend that you to opt for this or that design, material or cutting style. But should you as the customer insist. Then what will invariably happen is the master cutter will emerge from the back room and inform you very politely in a tone of regrettable disappointment – they cannot possibly fulfil your order right now as they’re back logged and you may have to wait four to five years for your dream suit. They will never say no to you. As the English are very polite. But in the parlance of Saville Row it’s as good as, ‘fuck off! Please go somewhere else.’

Again this is what professionals regularly do – they never allow the customer to just pull them by the nose and go wherever they want to go. They have integrity and they sincerely want to be true to their calling…it’s only natural for all craftsmen to aspire to this gold standard.

Only when you deal with lowly charlatans and crooks masquerading as professionals who claim to possess specialised knowledge will they agree to everything all in the name of delighting the customer or the customer is always right. As since this category of people are lowly. They don’t have anything resembling a reputation to lose in the first place. And since they have neither real or expceptional skills to command above average market rates. They simply don’t have the luxury to turn down business. Hence ‘no’ is a very hard to impossible word to use.

Don’t misunderstand me. The customer is NOT wrong all the time. Based on my experience. They can be right sometime. Only when they one sees them taking a bad or hazardous turn that will only end up in grief and unfulfillment of yearnings – it’s only right to step in assertively and politely to offer him a credible alternative.

Not doing so. May well buy short term customer satisfaction. But in the Long term it can only come back and bite you really hard – as the dissatisfied customer will definitely blame you for not forewarning him….he’s after all the customer. And as the marketing manifesto puts it….the customer is always right!’

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: