Thought dress codes were usually the reserve of bars and nightclubs? Think again. One supermarket had to impose a ban this week on customers shopping in the pyjamas. That’s right, their pyjamas.
In order to ‘prevent offence or embarrassment to others’, a Tesco store in St Mellons, Cardiff, South Wales has had to impose a dress code after customers complained of people turning up in nightwear ‘or similarly underdressed’ (I dread to think).
New signs have been put up, with the header ‘Tesco Dress Code Policy’ reading: “To avoid causing offence or embarrassment to others, we ask that our customers are appropriately dressed when visiting our store (footwear must be worn at all times and no nightwear is permitted).”
There must have been a few sniggers amongst the Tesco PR team when preparing for this comment: “We’re not a nightclub with a strict dress code, and jeans and trainers are of course more than welcome. We do, however, request that customers do not shop in their PJs or nightgowns. This is in response to other customers. We would never dictate to people. But we have listened to customer feedback that it makes them uncomfortable and embarrassed.”
A 24 year old was apparently one of the first customers escorted from the store under the new dress code rules. She told the Times newspaper: “If you’re allowed to wear jogging bottoms, why aren’t you allowed to wear pyjamas in there, that’s what I don’t understand. It is ridiculous and stupid. I go in other shops in my pyjamas and they don’t say anything. They should be happy because you’re going to spend all that money.”
I expect many people will see this as an overreaction on Tesco’s part but I respect them for it.
I was recently in a well known coffee shop in London, sitting quietly and minding my own business, when a drunk customer (yes, in the middle of the day) came in and sat down on the table next to mine. Despite the guy behaving in a loud and offensive manner, and making everyone in there feel uncomfortable, the staff did nothing about it. This is of course a slightly different scenario but it still comes down to one thing – every shop or store surely has a duty to its customers to ensure they have a safe and comfortable shopping experience with them.
Good on Tesco for responding swiftly to their customer feedback and making a stand against this kind of behaviour. If it’s affecting their customers they have a duty to act.
Gemma Carey – www.bluewoodtraining.com – January 2010
I’ve often wondered about the adverse affect that having a USP of being ‘low cost’ can have on a brand’s reputation. Whilst admittedly it’s going to attract customers in search of a bargain – and in the current climate that’s going to be most of us – surely this kind of marketing is also very risky for one’s reputation. What happens once we’re out of a recession, as we supposedly now are, and the customers’ priority shifts over to quality as opposed to cost?
A piece in PR Week UK this week addresses the issue; ‘Ryanair, Primark and Asda have all used a reputation for being cheap to their advantage. ‘Low-cost strategies can help build a brand and there is a clear appetite in today’s climate,’ says Good Relations CEO Teresa-Anne Dunleavy. ‘People love a bargain and as long as the quality is acceptable they will share their stories and become powerful ambassadors for the brand.’
Take Ryanair for example – ‘Bagging a bargain has become a badge of honour for consumers struggling with a tough economic climate. Being thrifty – or at least being seen to be sensible with money – has become fashionable, especially after the furore over MPs’ expenses and bankers’ excess. Brands have been jumping on the bandwagon, keen to emphasise their cheapness.’
However, ‘taking a brand downmarket’ is not without risks. ‘It only works, for example, if it is a long-term strategy. Once a brand is marked as cheap, it is difficult to change perceptions. And once the market bounces back, brands can be caught out. ‘I admire companies such as Ryanair that have built a huge business on that approach, but no-one can tell me that these things don’t go in cycles,’ says Seventy Seven PR managing partner Alan Twigg.’
Once out of a recession, brands that have taken this approach, can get left behind: ‘In the boom years, brands put Swarovski crystals on everything to make a product look expensive. Then there was a back flip, with brands trying to look as cheap as possible and people talking about how much they’ve saved. But that will change. We’re going to come out of the recession and people don’t want to be aligned to “cheap”. People will always aspire, it’s human nature.’
Marks and Spencer, on the other hand, whilst advertising ‘value’ offers to reflect the market, such as their ‘dine in for £10’ promotion, have always promoted a strong message of quality. Okay perhaps consumers will opt for a slightly cheaper brand than M&S in the midst of a recession, but once we’re out of it, Marks will still have the strength of their ‘quality’ brand intact. A brand that customers will always come back to.
It goes back to the point about aspiring – people are always going to buy into the quality brand over the cheap one, no doubt in the hope that they themselves will live up to it.
Written by Gemma Carey – www.bluewoodtraining.com – January 2010
A couple of years ago we jokingly offered the then-Prime Minister as a media/presentation trainer. Needless to say he didn’t respond to that offer. But this morning, reading that he is charging a ’small fortune’ for four speeches he is to give staff at a London hedge fund, I was relieved he didn’t!
He’s signed up to deliver four speeches for Lansdowne Partners (whose founders include Paul Ruddock, a major Conservative donor no less) on geo-political issues this year, on a reported fee of nearly £400,000. So along with Bill Clinton, that makes him the most expensive person on the speech-making circuit.
His spokesman has defended the fee saying “Mr Blair remains one of the most popular international speakers around.” Hmm, I’m not so sure about that…
Anyhow, definitely nice work if you can get it. Want to follow in his footsteps? Here’s a mini guide to public speaking, Tony Blair style…
1. Use phrases like ‘You know…’, ‘guys’, and make sure your rounded public school vowels have an edge of estuary to them. You guessed it – it’ll make the public think make the interviewer think ‘he’s just a regular guy, like me’.
2. Use pacing and pauses to hold an audience and get your points across. However, if you take it too far it can be perceived by cynical people not as deep-felt sentiment, but scarcely-veiled contempt (see speech endorsing Gordon Brown).
3. In response to a tricky question from your audience: Stop, angle your head, and say ‘look’… then carry on. This is intended to make them think ‘he’s just a regular guy, like me’.
4. Use your hands sparingly and never use a single finger to underscore a point, or you come across like, well, John Prescott. Never use your fists for similar reasons.
Marks & Spencer said that they were responding to customer feedback as they announced recently that for the first time since the 1950’s it would be selling branded (non M&S) goods in their stores. But is this really a move in response to customer opinion or is it actually a response to the recession; giving customers what they want – regardless of the fact that their USP has always been that they never sold anything other than their own quality-assured goods – for the sake of driving sales?
M&S are introducing 400 big brands including Marmite, Kit Kat, PG Tips and Jameson Irish whiskey. According to John Dixon, M&S’ executive director of food, he and his team are team “are focused on delivering the best that M&S Food can offer — innovative products that provide unbeatable quality and great value. But there are some products that we could simply never compete with.”
Following a trial conducted last year, in which the branded goods were supplied in store, Marks decided to roll the idea out into their stores after it proved to be a hit. According to Stuart Rose, “The idea is if you want a favourite brand you can buy it, I’m a Tabasco sauce fan myself, so I’d like to buy the brand in our stores. That’s what the customers said they wanted and if the customers want they get it. We used to sell branded products in the 1930s and then again in the 1950s when we went own brand. It just shows how the trade has evolved and come full circle.”
M&S say that this is about responding to customer feedback rather than bowing to the recession. But are they at risk of diluting the M&S brand here?
As mentioned above, M&S last sold branded goods in the 1950s; the fact that after that they never sold anything other than own brand was one of their USPs. And the one thing they can’t do in this situation is place their own guarantee on those other brands’ products. So in bringing in alternatives, does this move de-value the M&S promise that their own goods are of the highest quality? Surely by selling PG Tips they’re suggesting that their tea bags aren’t quite as good?
Marks is one of the strongest and most identifiable brands on the UK high street. It’s steeped in tradition, and it’s unlikely that this move will ruin that for them. But one has to wonder why they are making this move, and after all this time, why now?
Gemma Carey, Bluewood Training Ltd
Firstly; Happy New Year Everyone!
Secondly, there’s an interesting story on journalism.co.uk this week, about Sky News installing TweetDeck on all their journalists’ computers – more or less ensuring that they will all be searching this platform for news nuggets from now on.
Read it here: http://www.journalism.co.uk/2/articles/537082.php