How Road Runner “neep neep” is relevant to current advertising and customer experience!!

In my latest one for the weekend pieces let’s think about Acme and how Roadrunner is relevant to todays advertising and customer experience worlds…..In the modern world of advertising where so much is about how something looks and not about whether it is actually truly representative of the real customer experience of the product or service I go back to the days of Warners Bros and Road Runner  – those of you old enough to recall will remember that there was always a way out of a sticky situation you just pulled out the right Acme product and hey presto you were in business!!  The key to the success was that whatever it said on the packet was what you got so …if it said dehydrated boulder just add water that is what you did and boom you had a boulder.

Todays customers are increasingly cynical about the way that advertising’s gone and rightly so – too many are so esoteric they are more art than substance, take a look at some the ads you see over the next few days and ask yourself if they are really advertising reality or an ‘(m)adman’ parallel universe, then ask if the adverts are intended to drive trial or reinforce positive reasons why you already use the product or service where is the return on investment??? The old adage that the problem with advertising is that 50% of it works and 50% doesn’t work we just don’t know which 50% so we just keep doing ‘it’ …could be solved we know that advertising an experience that you can’t deliver is the wrong 50% 😉


Experience is about expectation and all the senses…here is a spectacular fail…

I was sat in a bar on the corner of the Southbank in London – a very expensive area for real estate and any bar or restaurant along the bank is typically higher end.  The result is that you already have an elevated expectation about the experience and of course the service component.

So we arrived as a group of six and headed to the front area outside, to be met by a “Maitre D” who asked if we were eating mains we said no but would be having drinks and may eat later.  He then said “you can’t sit here” – even thought there was lots of space “you can sit down the side of the restaurant in the outside area go and pull some tables together”.  So we couldn’t sit where we wanted and we then had to do the table organisation ourselves…so much for customer effort!!

Having done our own bar work and arranged the tables I was amazed to see that the tables were all adorned with fake plastic plants – they looked and felt v unappealing and were so not in keeping with the expectation – this was definitely a case of nothing would have been better the last time plastic flowers were in fashion was 3o years ago and I don’t see them making a comeback any time soon. Finally the tables they were using ‘down the side’ were metal fold out, cheap ones where each time someone leant on there side it tipped all the drinks their way!!

So great location terrible service and some ridiculous furniture and props.

The sad part about it was that as the early evening rush started the place filled up and of course if it is taking money there is never any incentive to resolve these problems…just like in any large Corporate 😉


Something for the weekend….the world going ever stranger…

I was waiting for a train yesterday and came across this stuck onto the window of the platform cafe.  Now I am sure that the person who originated this was very proud of their work – and I am also convinced (NOT) that all of us would early love to steal this piece of art but even given that I don’t think the note in the bottom left corner needs to exist….seriously who thought this was a required addition to sticker.  The world is full of processes and people who come up with and monitor these complete wastes of time….made me laugh out loud though os maybe there is a point after all  😉

p.s. if you can’t read it  – it says “This sticker remains the property of the Local Authority”



Feedback is a gift – here is a new look to the “happy sheet” or maybe “unhappy” from Hilton!

I was in a hotel near Heathrow airport for a meeting over coffee and a sandwich and when I asked for the bill the waitress brought the bill and a feedback form.  This was the first time I have seen a major hotel chain put together a customer feedback form in this way…it is certainly different with this very casual use of language…”I washed my food down with..” or “I really enjoyed your…”.

This is all about tone of voice and the emotional connection that you can make thought the use of language and phraseology  That said this is really about collecting data from customers and clearly the team behind this felt that the language would attract more respondents.  So my approach to collecting data is don’t collect it unless you are going to use it – I am not sure how me telling the hotel “what I washed my food down with” is going to improve the future experience or actually ever be put to any meaningful use by the hotel???  And of course all they had to do was look at my bill using the EPOS system if they really wanted to know this why did they need to ask me???

Bearing in mind that this was handed to me by the waitress and I was expected to hand it back to her – being cynical a quick glance at the answers and some feedback might find its way into the bin.

The bigger surprise was that this was in a Hilton hotel and I was struggling to reconcile the language with the brand – but I have to say that this does align with my constant challenge to brands to “think differently” if this was part of a shift for the brand to a more approachable, fun experience then it would be a good step in terms of language at least but I have seen no evidence of this approach filtering into any of my other Hilton experiences.  The result is that it still jars I was presented with quite a long form full of seemingly random and irrelevant questions – the result was I didn’t fill it in not least because I was just about to leave and this would have taken a few minutes to complete.

Sometimes you need to think differently and then ask the questions do we need this, what will we do as a result or does this work for our brand positioning and if not then forget it!!

How to add to the customer experience just by using your packaging….

We have all learnt that packaging can be a key component of an experience, like many people I have to confess that I am one of those sad people that keeps my Apple product packaging.  Opening one of their products has been turned into an experience, the time spent designing the usually disposable and superfluous stuff your purchase comes in helps to define the brand.  No opportunity is wasted – their customers open the products with a degree of reverence and joy that is probably unsurpassed – how to connect cardboard to human emotions!

Well in a small way I came across this whilst having breakfast in the budget hotel chain Premier Inn last weekend.  More about that later as they take my expectation versus reality test in a future blog.

For those who don’t know Marmite is a savoury spread and it has built a reputation as a product that taste wise you either love or you hate there is NO middle ground!  The brand has embraced this fan versus loath and the advertising makes great play on “love it or hate it”.

So the translation of this into packaging is a brilliant, fun extension of the message and whilst it would seem obvious I am sure that the cost of creating this type of packaging was the basis of some debates between different departments.  what I know is that it works!

#Think differently

When a web “chat” experience is not a “chat” experience

The increasing use of web chat as a way to introduce a human component to an on line experience continues to frustrate me.  Why?  Because it is too often seen as a cheap alternative to actual voice and as a result companies seek to make it ‘cost effective’ that means that the person you are chatting to has multiple conversations in play at any one time, they are juggling us in the same way that you would have to keep putting people on hold if you had twenty people that you were ‘talking’ to at the same time!!

Those pregnant pauses between you typing and the reply coming through make it feel stilted you begin to wonder are they still there…ask yourself the question what is the average wait time between you typing and the person replying – it doesn’t feel like a real time conversation rather more like they are on the moon and it takes a time delay before the next interaction.

This was really brought home to me in a recent “web chat” where the language used by the person I was ‘talking’ too absolutely confirmed this view – even the person on the web chat thinks that they are actually on the phone to you otherwise why do they say “thank you for holding” not something you would say in a a real live conversation…would you???

BA sells out its customer experience for the price of a tea bag….let’s play them at their own game ;)

My latest discovery in this saga, those of you that have followed my blog on the decline of the BA brand experience will be familiar with this theme (if not you can check out the story and many others here at, having taken a short flight to Amsterdam it became clear why the changes are absolutely about chasing short term cash.  Anyone that knows anything about the food industry is aware that the highest profit margins in a pub/restaurant or bar are generated by tea and coffee sales…clearly not lost on our BA friends where they are now charging £2.40!!!!! for a single tea bag and some hot water, if you went to your local supermarket and they offered you a single tea bag for £2.40 what do you think you would do???

Now bearing in mind that I could bring my own and ask for some free hot water I would suggest that we all think about doing that in future, hardly a tricky thing to carry and yes it is ‘thinking differently’ 😉


How to ruin a pub experience….

So I was in a lovely English pub/bar last week and it got towards closing time, last orders for drinks were at 10.50pm and the place was due to close at around 11.30pm, I had taken someone along with me as my guest.

So imagine my surprise when just before 11pm the bar staff decided to start getting ready to go home, tables were moved, the floor was being swept and to make us feel truly uncomfortable and not welcome the chairs and stools were being stacked on the tables around us!

One thing is for sure I won’t be taking any friends or guests there again in a hurry.  A good evening ruined by staff that focussed on their personal task rather than their purpose of making sure guest have a good experience- that task being clean up before you leave and wanting to ensure they left having technically completed that task as the last customer walked out of the door,arrrrgh!!

Yet another example of task over-riding purpose instead of the other way around.

Hard Rock Hotel Tenerife take my expectation versus reality test and score 7/10….

The latest brand to take my customer experience test is the Hard Rock Hotel and specifically the newly refurbished site in Tenerife.  We chose this for a week long break with our three teenagers after seeing it reviewed in one of the weekend papers.  the expectations were high – this a brand with a good heritage, cool, fun and this hotel has had lavish refurbishment.

So we arrive and are given a welcome drink whilst registering that is nice – except that it took about 20 minutes to check in and be given the funky wristbands that double as your room key and a way to charge to your room.  So we were impressed by the leading edge technology, accept that when we tried to use it to pay it didn’t work and needed to be reset twice.  That said the second time the reception staff actually came to the pool to do it!

The rooms were pretty impressive and well played out just as we expected so that was a big plus in fact most of the core elements were meeting expectations, no shortage of sun beds, entertainment, very polite staff.

Where it fell down was the detail – so we went to the roof top bar one evening and being April it was a little chilly but the blankets (we didn’t know that had any) were not brought out until an experienced guest asked for them.  Then I wanted to change a restaurant reservation one evening only to be told it was fully booked – wandering over it was clear that it was only half full – what was emerging was that the hotel was not full and the restaurants were not fully staffed.  When you are told somewhere is full you expect it to look that way when in fact what they meant was it is full to capacity based on the number of staff we have available.   Not really what you expect from a 5 star resort.  This was really brought home when I returned to our room one afternoon to find the room still unmade.  Unhappy I popped down to the Concierge to speak to the Manager only to be told she is busy in a meeting so come back later – oh no!  I did insist that she came out of the meeting and to be fair she did and apologised…a little while later a gift arrived by way of further apology.  So the service recovery was good but the staff need to know that Managers purpose is no different to heir own – to  meet expectations and ensure that guests are happy and that purpose over-rides any internal task.

This felt like a hotel starting to get to grips with the operation and that is not what you expect from a 5 star experience – I am going to the Hard Rock in Orlando in June that will be an interesting opportunity to compare and contrast with a well established venue.

Overall the experience was good, the atmosphere was great and the hotel fixtures and fittings do have the wow factor (apart from the hand drier in my earlier post) the staff are trying hard and just need that attention to detail they are not there yet, so it comes out at 7/10 and I look forward to the American experience.

One for the weekend…spend tens of millions on a hotel and get the simple things wrong…

In a future post I will review the performance of the Hard Rock Hotel in Tenerife that I stayed in recently.  This hotel was the subject of massive overhaul and whilst there is much to praise it also makes some basic errors.

In this case the male toilets, so having washed my hands I looked for the hand drier and was just about to use it when I was nearly knocked out by a fellow guest.  How…. well just look at the location chosen for the drier, yes that is the door into the toilets on the right and in a perfect position to hit you hard as you try to dry your hands and someone else enters!

So basic from a experiential point of view and so easy to correct!