On Thursday 19 March, I found myself driving as fast as I could up the A12 towards the Suffolk countryside.
After a ‘hot tip-off’ that a lockdown was coming, we packed the cars, abandoned our London flat and decided to batten down the hatches amongst the green pastures of East Anglia.
That was almost 16 weeks ago. Four bloody months.
Having been a Londoner my whole life, I was expecting this experience to be a manure-scented shock to the system. But life in the country has surprised me.
People smile and say good morning as they pass in the street. They ask how you are and the neighbours even leave the gift of beer on each other’s doorsteps simply out of the kindness of their hearts.
No, it’s not an Enid Blyton fairy-tale. Apparently people outside London actually live this way.
With little else to do, running has become of paramount importance in fending off the effects of vast quantities of food and booze.
But pounding the country roads has taken its toll on my poor pair of running shoes which gave up the ghost on Friday after kindly making my feet bleed. Little did they know, this would be their final outing.
So on Saturday morning, I jumped in the car and took myself off to a specialist running shop (which shall remain nameless) to purchase a new pair. With nothing but endless Amazon orders arriving through the letterbox every day for the past however long, this felt like a major event.
And so it should have. I was in the market for a product that I hoped would serve me well over the course of the next twelve months or so and I was happy to pay a bit more for the privilege of an expert to coach me through my trainer picking journey.
What unfolded was a one of a kind experience that should be an important lesson for every brand, business and marketer as industries across the country and around the world begin to reignite.
Upon arrival, a chap in his mid-forties wearing a hoodie that simply stated ‘RUN’ sprung up before my eyes, looked me up and down and said, “what do you want?”
“A pair of running shoes”, I answered.
He looked concerned, angry even and scrunched up his forehead before demanding to know if I’d been “fitted” before.
I responded “no” and he shook his head in bewilderment and disgust.
As I tried to contain my laughter, a swivelly office chair was thrust in my direction and a pair of ‘neutral’ shoes hurled over as a starting point for our long trainer picking journey ahead.
We got straight into the fun bit and I ran up and down the shop floor as he filmed me on his little camera.
In front of all the other ‘athletes’ in the shop, he yelled whilst staring down the camera lens, “run properly…you run like a fucking ostrich mate”.
I’ve always thought I run like Dwayne Chambers but clearly this isn’t the case.
Running styles aside, let’s just hit pause for a moment.
What happened to the art of salesmanship? The pride of being a specialist in your field? The joy of having customers walk through the door of your shop?
The very fabric of commerce is that you’ve got something I want and I’ve got something you want. In this instance he had the trainers, I had the money. I needed the trainers because I knew I had a boozy Saturday dinner I’d need to run off on Sunday and so, let’s face it, he had me cornered.
But this could have been so different.
Like his country compadrés he could have smiled as I arrived and said “Sir, let me help you make the best decision you’re ever going to make for your fitness and for your feet – I want you running out of here running like you’ve never run before’”
I would have left feeling a million dollars. I would have been overjoyed to pay £150 for the trainers that ended up costing me £120. And apparently it’s true that most of us are happy to do this – a 2017 study by American Express found that U.S consumers are willing to pay on average 17% more to buy from companies that deliver excellent customer service.
The fact is, you can have the best product in the world but if you don’t take pride in your customer service and most importantly the way your customers ‘feel’ when they journey into your world, you’re doomed.
Our lives at DLMDD are spent working with people, brands and clients who use music and sound to enhance the way audiences feel towards them. We all know it’s the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world when we get it right.
However, not everyone’s at a level where they can invest heavily in music and sound and I get that. Not least the local trainer shop who clearly have a few other issues to sort before they embark upon their sonic strategy…
But the global brief to every brand, business and marketer right now needs to be to make your customers feel a million dollars again.
Because if you can do that, it will play a powerful role in getting those consumers spending millions of dollars more than ever even knew they wanted to.
Let’s be frank – the world economy could do with a bit of that right now.
By Max De Lucia, co-founder and client director of specialist sonic branding agency DLMDD