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Is Yours a Brand That Can’t Say No?

CantSayNoIn our efforts to please, it can be tempting to offer customers everything their hearts desire, but I’m not so sure that’s always such a great idea.

A recent Sunday Times account of one family’s experience of the hotel concierge for kids bears this out. The writer tells how their experience of the hotel concierge ‘who can’t say no’ left the kids drunk with power and the parents paying the price for weeks. As he reviewed the wreckage following a weekend where two polite, decently-behaved kids were transformed into spoilt brats, he concluded that, “a good parent’s job is to say no a lot, whilst good concierges are there to say yes.”

Of course, it’s not just children who can get too much of what they want and not just parents whose job it is to say no.

Some customers need a brand-owner to take a firm hand or show some tough love. Picture the mess if a barrister or architect were to say yes to every client request. Court cases would be thrown out on the basis of no merit, whilst planning applications would yo-yo back and forth endlessly whilst amendments were made.

Legendary supermarketer Fergal Quinn removed the sweets from his checkouts in order to offer some relief to pestered parents, but sometimes as customers we need saving from ourselves.

What we want right now isn’t always what we need. Sometimes, it’s the job of the brand-owner to point out the difference.

It’s one of the great myths of marketing that the customer is always right. At times, the customer is very wrong and needs their expert-for-hire to take charge and put them right.

Now, I’m not suggesting a nannying approach but an anything-goes policy can end in tears. Of course, it all comes down to how smartly we handle it. After all, nobody likes to be told no.

But nor does anyone like to stand in the wreckage of a drunk-with-power blow-out and count the cost to their purse or reputation.

At times like that, yours can’t afford to be a brand that can’t say no.

Over To You: When do you need to say no to your customers?

Originally from Dublin, Gerard has long been fascinated with brands and how they work, rest and play. This fascination has taken him from his philosophy studies in Dublin to Asia where he worked with brands including the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Remy Martin, Cathay Pacific, Prudential, MTV and Chanel. More recently, he set up Islandbridge where his clients include Maldron Hotels, Lee Valley Clothing, Children First and Aussie Ice. Gerard is a regular contributor to discussions on branding in both Ireland and overseas and offers a Brief Word on Brands on The Persuaders radio programme and podcast. He writes regular features: The Blend on the implications of branding for hospitality and tourism and The Pitch on branding for SME’s. He is also a frequent visitor to the Irish Management Institute, Dublin City University and Dublin Institute of Technology where he presents on brand innovation.

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  • Anonymous

    An interesting angle on the whole brand issue. Normally you’re hoping that people will say yes to your brand, so you would have thought that saying no would have been a bad thing. But now I think about it, it is a good idea. Also worth bearing in mind that it’s a good idea to say no if you feel you’re just going to bluff your way through the job for the sake of work. Does no good for the client or for your business.

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