When customer service is a perfect paitning

Was your Customer Service once beautiful?

“There is one great difficulty with a good hypothesis. When it is completed and rounded, the corners smooth and the content cohesive and coherent, it is likely to become a thing in itself, a work of art. It is then like a finished sonnet or a painting completed. One hates to disturb it. Even if subsequent information should shoot a hole in it, one hates to tear it down because it was once beautiful and whole.”- John Steinbeck, Sea of Cortez.)

The one hypothesis we all hold dear as the ‘perfectly complete painting’ is the quality of our customer service. How many people, staff members, companies and executives firmly believe that their customer service is perfect? Do you?

Even when information or customer feedback or staff feedback shoots a hole in it, still they hate to tear it down, they hate to revisit what they think and ultimately believe what good customer service is.

Why do we behave this way?

  • Is it too difficult?
  • Are we afraid of the truth?
  • Is the sunk cost too high?
  • Do we have too much of our self (our own identity) wrapped up in the service we think we deliver?
  • Do we want to avoid the consequences of discovering the real truth?

Stew Leonard was awarded 1992 Guinness Book of World Records for largest sales per square foot for a single grocery store: $115 million in sales, $3,470 per square foot.  Stew Leonard’s philosophy can be summarised as follows: “You will never ever need a consultant, all that you have to do is be on the floor and talk to your customers. Every day I am on the floor asking my customer what they want. If they say we like the flowers in this type of bouquet, then I say to Stew Junior when you go to the market tomorrow please see if you can get this type of flower…”

Now this sounds easy! But it is not. The reason being, you need to really listen to your customers and know them. You need to treat them as family. They are not a ‘demographic we need to satisfy. Customers are human beings and a lot smarter than we might credit them with. David Ogilvy famously quipped that the ‘consumer is not a moron, she is your wife’.

In the Disney movie Big Hero 6 the film Robotics prodigy Hiro lives in the city of San Fransokyo. Hiro's closest companion is Baymax, a robot whose sole purpose is to take care of people. Often our protagonist, Hiro, had to come up with plans to overcome evil and adversity, and his favourite tactic was hang upside down and look at the problem differently.

We also need to hang upside down when looking at customer service.

How can you ‘hang upside down’ and look at it differently? It is the oldest cliché in the business but great customer service I simply about this: find out what the customer wants and give it to them.



·         Pause the research and just ASK and LISTEN. Get on the floor and ask them what they like, or not like. It is your shop you are allowed to talk to them and I know that they want to talk to you.

·         Do you know the ‘persona’ of your customers? Are they the “smart adventurer” Not that they are 25-35 year old urban males earning…blah, blah….. And once you understand that, what does it mean in practice?

·         Shop your own store from the outside in: Let your staff walk in customer shoes on and buy from your store. Think, see and experience the touch points from a customer’s point of view. If your internal processes are not working for the customer at the touch points and moments of truth fix it, change it or throw it in the bin!



·         Make sure it is NOT about selling along. Develop a bigger purpose for your staff, not just selling to customers but inviting them into your place of fun, solutions and engagement. You might the only person that day that makes the customers’ day – and they will repay you handsomely for it, if not today, tomorrow.

·         When staff are not confident in themselves and their products, they struggle to focus on the customer. You need to be an authority in your field. You not only must know your products and services but you need to know your customers and most importantly why they buy from you. (Consumers use the internet to educate themselves about products, so it takes serious training and dedication to actually stay ahead of the curve.)

·         Customers buy from you because like you, like what you stand for, like you because you are similar and not only because they can get the product from you. 

·         You are not your customers. Don’t buy what you like, don’t sell the way you like. Do it for them, do it their way, not your way. If you want to make money, you can’t listen to Frank Sinatra because doing it my way is the wrong way.


Have Fun


GANADOR: Turning challenges into opportunities with smart people solutions

(PS: Thanks to Moonyeen for writing most of the post this week when time was at a premium)

Brand (Non)Sense - Read the signs

Have you read the signs?

An acquaintance is considering abandoning the franchise agreement for their coffee shop. There are pros and cons both ways, but the biggest risk they face what will happen when they take the sign down.

I have suggested this risk to them as nicely as I can. But I am not sure they are listening. They currently benefit from a brand. They argue they are being harmed by it. Either way, the BRAND is exerting an influence on the business.

What they don’t seem to grasp is that simply replacing one bulkhead sign for another does not create a new brand. There is a long list of things that ‘signify’ the brand – things they (as long-term franchisees) are taking for granted.

They may be justified in wanting to ditch their franchisor, but I am not sure they understand the consequences (and the requirements) of creating a new brand fully.

Retailers sometimes think branding is what marketers do. Small business thinks branding is what big business does. Big business thinks ‘branding’ is what advertising agencies do for them. None of the above are true.

I blame marketing practitioners for the fact that most business people don’t appreciate the importance of brands. Proctor and Gamble were/are lauded for being the pre-eminent exponents of brand management, but making ‘brand’ the responsibility of one person did branding a great disservice.

The definition of ‘branding’ doesn’t really illuminate the subject:

Old English brand, brond "fire, flame; firebrand, piece of burning wood, torch," and (poetic) "sword," from Proto-Germanic *brandaz (cognates: Old Norse brandr, Old High German brant, Old Frisian brond "firebrand, blade of a sword," German brand "fire"), from root *bran-/*bren- (see burn (v.)). Meaning "identifying mark made by a hot iron" (1550s) broadened by 1827 to "a particular make of goods." Brand name is from 1922.

Whilst the origin of the word ‘branding’ may have much in common with the practice of farmers slapping a hot iron on the arse of a cow, and it was used to signify ownership; the modern practice of ‘branding’ as a dark art of marketing is quite different. The brand symbol (a logo) is but one element in the arsenal of the professional brand manager.

Branding is actually semiotic craft.

Semiotics is commonly defined as the study of signs, symbols, and signification. Signifiers are any material things that signify, e.g., words on a page, facial expressions or images.

Despite the fact that I say you can’t outsource the responsibility for branding to an ad agency, you can’t really build a brand effectively with the assistance of your second cousin twice removed and an aunt who dabbles in drawing. You may be able to buy a logo for $99 online, but you can’t build a brand that way. There is a time and place for professionals to be involved.


The following two advertisements were analysed by Emma Henderson (researcher), whom I will rely on to make the case.

Both of the following advertisements are for Ralph Lauren Romance.  Figure 1 is for the women's fragrance and Figure 2 is for the men’s fragrance. 

The ads signify DIFFERENT things to their male and female audiences.

BUT – and this is the power of advertising that is done ‘on brand’, these two ads also clearly share the Ralph Lauren brand heritage.

The ads signify the SAME things to their male and female audiences.

  • Both advertisements show a male and a female  (ROMANCE  is a two-way street)
  • Both advertisements are in black white, but as one compares both one can notice that the male advertisement has much darker tones.
  • Both models have the ‘perfect’ figure, which signifies health and beauty.  The male is perfectly toned whilst the female is very slim and attractive; her hair is flowing to signify femininity. 
  • The visual codes within the advertisements signify gender; in both advertisements the male takes on the active role

I am pretty confident that few people would have looked at those two pictures and entertain the notion of ‘syntagmatic patterns’.

That is kinda the point: Good brand design is invisible.

But semiotics can be and is much bigger than studying ‘signs’. And semiotics is not an esoteric art practised by hipster-designers in Paddington or Chapel Street.

Most designers will do what designers do and focus on the symbols, but if you think about the definition carefully, retail is awash with signs – more than just ‘signage’ – there are many other signifiers.

Have you thought about these signifiers in your store?

  • The way a diner puts the cutlery on the plate
  • The way a customer looks (signals) for assistance
  • The message on your carry bag
  • The height of the hook, the size of the mirror and the absence/ presence/ style/ comfort/ colour of a chair in the change room
  • The smile on a sales associate’s face (and the colour of the lipstick)
  • The volume of the music (and the name of the band)
  • The pile  in the carpet
  • The sign above the cash register about shoplifting
  • The font size of your tickets

EVERYTHING signifies something.

Ten of the basic lessons of brand management I have learned in the school of life are:

  1. Creating and maintaining a brand cannot be simply outsourced to an agency.
  2. There is more to the brand than the logo and a sign above the door.
  3. It takes a long time to create a brand.
  4. You only get one chance to create a brand (because they are built on impressions).
  5. It is cheaper to create a new brand than to ‘re-position’ one that you have screwed up.
  6. You may own the logo, but you don’t own the brand since it is what people think about you
  7. What people think about you is an accumulation of all those little things (signifiers) you say and do and don’t say and don’t do.
  8. You build a brand by living it, not advertising it.
  9. You are always building or destroying your brand by the things you say and do.
  10. Whether you do it by design or by accident, BRAND happens.


The challenge is to think about these things consciously, and to manage it proactively.

The list of signifiers (including the long list I did not write down) can equally be seen as brand touch points. To build a successful brand requires the brand owner to do two things:

  • Create a brand idea and express it across ALL the signifiers
  • Maintain that idea consistently in the face of constant change and the human propensity to lose interest

Step one takes creativity and step two takes discipline; both of which are in scarce supply.


GANADOR: Strategies, Systems & Solutions to make Retail People Perform.



Invisible Retailing


When people buy a product or a service, they do not only pay with money, they pay with many ‘invisible dollars’:

·        They invest their very precious time

·        They risk their reputation

·        The opportunity cost of not pursuing a different product/outcome

Forgetting these invisible payments can cost us dearly.

Similarly, the retailer pays with those same invisible dollars (i.e. indirect costs) for the products.

·        We don’t factor the opportunity cost of the working capital,

·        We don’t price risk of obsolescence and damage into our cost of sales.

Forgetting these ‘invisible costs’ can cost us dearly


Forest Gump on Social Media

Forest Gump of course made these words famous:

‘My Mama said Life is Like a Box of Chocolates, you never know what you are gonna to get’

And I was thinking that is a bit like Social Media.

There is an element of delight and surprise that comes from trawling social media sites.

And just like chocolates, social media is also pretty addictive. Before you know it, you have wasted an awful lot of time pursuing rabbits down holes to no end at all.

And just like chocolates, every now then someone will claim they have some ‘health benefit’ – and whilst in a small, almost inconsequential way that will be true, the downsides of shoving a kilo of sugar down your throat far outweighs a miniscule amount of anti-oxidants you coincidentally consume.

But more than mindless time-wasting, swimming in that little cesspool of social media all day long makes me think that social media is NOT just the chocolates, it is also the box. The amount of groupthink is staggering. Just consider how success is measured on Twitter (trending hashtags, Retweets and Followers are all metrics of CONFORMANCE – not innovation or impact or intelligence.

Success is measure by how many people in that box agree with you, not the actual truth or the actual value or the actual quality.

Which explains the food porn, sunrises funny and cat memes.

And, just like chocolates, we always go back for more.

I rest my case.

Pleasure and Pain: (Facebook is useful for something)

Well, there are cat pictures and GIFS that endlessly loop someone's #fail.

And there are the endless quotes. I hate those quotes. If I wanted a quote, I know where to find them.

So, what do I do? I add to the stream of quotes. But at least I add something original. It may not be in the same league as Oscar Wilde or Winston Churchill's gems - but original nevertheless.

I predicted the demise of Facebook some time ago and my personal account is inactive. But I still maintain a little bit of activity on a few company pages and groups.

My most recent post there was this image.

I put some thought into my quotes. It is difficult to distill a big idea into one or two lines. It takes time to find the images that convey the essence of the idea...

So, what may appear as a few words aspiring to be quote-worthy, is actually a lot of hard work.

In the above example for instance, I communicate a kernel of truth about human behaviour. It is based on the insight that people are more strongly motivated by pain than they are by pleasure. There is a lot of research on this topic and many books written on it.

And you get all of that in one line.

If you care to think about the implications for your business. How do you sell your product or service? Is it about promising heaven or is it about pointing out the hell that ensues if they don't use it? THERE IS A BIG DIFFERENCE!

The image conveys the idea that pain is painful (a contorted body) and we are a little bit ashamed of our fear of it (faceless person) and yet we strangely still reach out it to it.

We don't have to really understand why people behave this way, just that they do. And then we can choose to use that knowledge wisely - or not.

If you visit and like the GANADOR Facebook Page (or click the image) you will get nuggets of wisdom every now and then once or twice fortnight at best - so we won't clutter your feed - but worth looking out for.

The (not so) secret elements of retail success

Regular readers will remember my recent post on the non-existing silver bullet, addressing society’s blind faith in simplistic solutions. (And in the charlatan purveyors of those misconceptions.)

Regular readers will also know I am constantly exploring the notion of success, and what it takes to be successful.

Those posts above link to the challenges of success and focuses on what it is not. I have been searching for an analogy to explain in a simple way what success IS; AND how complicated it is to achieve success that is true and relevant to all types of retailers.

And I realised the traditional periodic table is a good starting point.

Most of us will have been exposed the periodic table of chemical elements in school. The accompanying image will remind you of what it looked like.

All things known to man is contained on the periodic table. In fact YOU and I are not much more than buckets of chemical soup. The latte you had this morning is just chemicals, the computer screen you are looking at right now is comprised of the elements reflected in that periodic table.

Let’s say you want to make a milkshake, it would be (hypothetically) comprised of elements 1, 2 and 3. The same ingredients can be turned into a thick shake, and of course it can be offered in dozens of sizes and dozens of containers. And with the addition of element 4 (a flavour element) you can now create another dozen varieties of the same thing.

With just a few elements, you can literally create hundreds of variations of the same thing.

Achieving success in your retail business is very similar to the mad scientist mixing together elements to create that new milkshake.

The ingredients are known to all, but we all know that not all milkshakes are created equal. And the same goes for you and your business: There are NO SECRETS.

But this is what you should know:

There are a number of different elements to consider. In fact, on this table you must consider ALL of them.

It is the same for everybody in retail, whether you sell shoes or kebabs. What you have to do is to mix those same elements (that everyone has access to) in such a way that you create a milkshake that everyone wants.

It helps to know how people like their milkshakes, what they are prepared to pay for one and then to deliver that consistently. And that is no secret.

Have fun


Ganador: Trainers to the Stars

Forces affecting shopping centres in growth markets (presentation)

I thought I'd share the presentation I did for Property Council in WA last year (2013).

The ideas was to explore how marketing would be changing in the growth market conditions that characterised WA at the time.

Let me know what you think.

Actually, it is just the opposite of what you think


From the hashtag intro you can guess that the mission to serve & protect our clients from the bullshit that swirls around the world continues.

The presentation below is by Bob Hoffman, debunking the myth surrounding social media marketing.

Marketing is education is marketing


Marketing to customers is the same as educating them

Marketing is LIKE education:

1.      At its heart it is a form of gentle leading.

2.      It’s people-centric: about the recipient, not the ‘sender’.

3.      You remember the great experiences.

4.      It is sustained. (It is a life-long journey)

5.      It is sustainable.

6.      It is sustaining.

7.      Technology is an enabler, not a substitute.

8.      It is rewarding (everybody benefits).

9.      It is authentic.

10.   It is a form of conversation.

11.   The fundamentals never change (and it will survive the buzzwords).

12.   The best system creates a virtuous circle of beneficiaries.

13.   The benefits last forever.

14.   You can share, expose, challenge, inform, teach – but you cannot MAKE anyone love it.

15.   You can’t fake it (the ‘kids’ will catch you out in a blink)

Given these similarities, this raises the question: might it be that Marketing IS Education?

At Ganador we believe it is. When education is at the heart of your marketing philosophy, then you truly have the customers’ interests at heart.

The revealing power of knowledge and truth will reveal the heart of the brand.

If you genuinely believe your brand is the right solution then you will seek and embrace this exposure. Instead of ‘influencing’ the customer to buy, they become driven to buy because they know the product/brand is the best fit for them.

That is the most powerful outcome for any brand AND the most ideal result for the consumer.

Marketing as education requires a mind-set change as well as a new set of tools and strategies. Some activities may appear superficially the same as those previously executed – but just like a philosophy lecture and class-room show and tell may ‘look the same’ and appear in the same setting and involve one-to-many communication exercise, they are in effect very different.

A marketing activity may LOOK like a training workshop, but it is not.

It may look like a consulting gig, but it may be an engagement exercise.

It really just depends on intent – and the philosophy behind the execution; but good marketing is education is marketing.

Marketing’s Addiction


Marketing has traditionally relied on PUSH strategies to achieve its goals to build brands and sell products.

  • Personal selling
  • Advertising
  • Sales promotions
  • Coupons

Previously I have wondered if retailers are not possibly similar to drug pushers.

These methods remain valid of course, but there are now also alternative PULL approaches which promise a lot – but to perfectly frank, typically does not deliver. Marketers are attracted to these newer pull strategies – based on the somewhat idealised notion of ‘conversations’ that brand are having with consumers.

I can understand the attraction of PULL:

  1. It makes logical sense because we all recognise that the balance of power has shifted towards the consumer in the purchase decision-making process.
  2. It promises to be cheaper
  3. It promises to reveal a trove of data that the weak/insecure will be able to rely on to make the decisions for them and cover their arses in the future.


I have wondered about marketing’s addiction to push strategies.

  • Is it fear of change?
  • Is it an addiction to the control they once had which enable them to sway and influence consumer behaviour en masse?
  • Is it purely habit?
  • Or is it because the newer marketing strategies are not yet proven?

I suspect the truth is somewhere in between all of those layers of emotions.

Some commentators think we will never reach the tipping point and ridicule the new age marketers mercilessly.

Right now this commentator has the weight of results on his side, but that does not mean that it won’t eventually change.

But what I know for sure that it will only change (if it does) if marketers can overcome their addiction to being in control.

I will know that marketers are moving away when they abandon the notion of 'brand management - and all its associated terms and practices.


Gary Vaynerchuck - a frank conversation

If you ask me if I would rather have lunch with Queen of England or Dick Smith, I would pick Dic. Hugh Jackman or Gary Vaynerchuck? Gary by a long shot.

Gary is the quintessential entrepreneur: part innovator, part shyster. I love his work...

He may crash and burn one day, but the beauty is that he will never NOT come back for more.

If you are in Marketing and Advertising you will be fascinated


If you cannot see the video, please visit the blog posting on the site and watch it. You may have to save it for the weekend - but is fascinating insight into the old and new of advertising.

It is an HOUR - but well-spent. Stop what you are doing and do this...

The critical thinking SKILL and how it applies to Schapelle Corby and CEOs

#thinkdifferent - -

In the previous post we explored how successful people manage to better balance the tension between two diametrically opposite requirements or outcomes in order to navigate a more successful course.

Learning this skill is possible, and this little bit of brain gymnastics as your first exercise:

Most countries are facing a crisis of drug abuse. Using drugs is a dangerous and addictive activity that almost invariably causes health and social issues. On balance by most reasonable criteria drug abuse is a bad thing for the individual and their community.

What is the first and obvious response to this scenario?

PAUSE – and think about that.


The typical response is to remove the cause of the problem = drugs.


What is the opposite (maybe even counter-intuitive) response to this scenario?

PAUSE – and think about that.


The opposite response is to make access to drugs easier


Which one is right?

And if your answer is neither/both, you will begin to appreciate the ability that successful people have. You will begin to understand that becoming successful is about resolving and balancing the tension between two opposite course of action.

It is estimated that decriminalisation of drugs would save the US economy alone in excess of $40Bn

Despite having the most stringent rules w.r.t. drug trafficking, the countries of the golden triangle (including Indonesia where Schapelle Corby was convicted for drug trafficking) this is what the Asian Sentinel says:

The government, however, is beginning to learn that massive drug seizures and the threat of capital punishment for trafficking are no more effective in Indonesia than anywhere else in the world.  A study in 10 major cities found four million Indonesians had used illegal drugs, and the country's drug trade was valued at nearly US$4 billion a year, with drugs readily available in schools, karaoke lounges, bars, cafes, discotheques, nightclubs and even in remote villages. More than 15,000 deaths every year are attributed to drug abuse.

So if there is evidence that a punitive does not work anyway AND there is evidence that we will save money going with decriminalisation, does it mean that is a better option?

The answer that you will come up with is hopefully that ‘it depends’. You have to compare legalisation with the impact of increased availability and the extent to which increased availability may impact on the community.

As usual you have the hawkish approach to punish it out of existence and the softer approach to decriminalise.

The Indonesian found that Schapelle attempted to smuggle drugs into the country.

AFP Photo: Sonny Tumbelaka

AFP Photo: Sonny Tumbelaka

The benefit to the Indonesian society was that 4kg of marijuana was NOT smoked. (Statistically it did not deter other smugglers, so that cannot be accrued in the benefits column).

The cost to the Indonesian society was a decade of internment of one prisoner, numerous court cases, reputational damage and (seemingly) serious mental health issues for Schapelle that may well last a lifetime.

The right answer is somewhere in between.

It always does – including those big decisions that you battle with in your company.

Companies fall victim to poor leadership – for example - when they adopt this binary approach to strategy. Corporations seem to perpetually oscillate between centralisation and decentralisation; or between diversification and focussing on the core business.

When a Chief Executive gets booted out, the replacement simply follows the diametrically opposite strategy. He or she lasts a few years, only to be succeeded by someone who reverts to the previous approach – usually with a new label, but the same old strategy nevertheless.

But allow me to give you a practical example.

Marketing departments often follow a strategy of spending money on branding campaigns OR on sales activities. What is more important? What is their job? Is about brand (long-term) or is it about sales (short-term)?

By now you will know the answer: it is about BOTH. You have to deliver sales campaigns that build and strengthen the brand. It is about AND not OR. That is the fundamental tension to resolve for marketers and it is not hard once you practice thinking inclusively as opposed exclusively.

SA vs AUS: Which ad is better? (Both are better than any superbowl ad.)

#thinkdifferent --

A marketer, I have a geeky interest in advertising.

Being an ex-South African, I cannot help compare the advertisements in quality and style.

Being an outsider, I cannot judge the efficacy if either, so this is a matter of pure speculation.

I really liked the Australian-made Doritos ad because I think it captured the essence of the product in a cultureally meaningful way.

This advertisement for Bell's whiskey does the same - different product,m different culture but does it with great style.

On the whole (even allowing for some historical, cultural bias) I think South African advertising is better. Good ads, like the Doritos one above, are too rare. South Africans ads of similar quality are more common, IMHO. 

To prove the point, explore the YouTube Channel for BMW South Africa. It is a brand that we all know and can relate to to see what I mean - and if you agree.

Turning problems into opportunity - a case study


The luxury goods market has to deal with the pervasive issue of fakes and knock-offs. Here is an example of a guy that turned that problem into an opportunity. I won't give it all away - watch the video.

And afterwards, tell me you don't want one of what he makes...:)

The questions we have ask ourselves is of course how it applies to us and which problem(s) we can turn into opportunities.

The dark side of social media


If we at Ganador are nothing else, we are early adopters. (e.g. first 1% of Twitter users.) I like technology. I am a big fan of the transformative powers of the internet – and I don’t think we have scratched the surface of it.

One of the internet products that has exploded as we all know, is social media. Whilst there is nothing wrong with social media in principle, it has enabled and magnified some human behaviours which really did not need to be so enhanced. Much like handguns and rifles are not responsible for schoolyard massacres, the fact that is freely available enables and empowers people who really shouldn’t be so empowered.

Some of those behaviours originate from the dark side of social media I can really, really do without them.


Unnaturally Nice

Twitter is awash with perfect strangers being so excessively polite it can only be described as preternatural. I don’t advocate rudeness, but where ‘liking’ and ‘following’ and ‘endorsement’ is the measure of success, there is a natural disincentive to disagree. Not re-tweeting something is the passive-aggressive (de facto) response to every tweet. If you were honest, how often do you find yourself disagreeing vigorously with someone, but not voicing that difference of opinion? Even if you convince yourself that you don’t have the time to argue with everyone, the real reason you don’t is because you are afraid of the consequences.

The social media playbook instructs authenticity; warts-and-all, but you try to find someone with their warts on display.

Ingrates and Self-servants

I observe how people pick opinion leaders and influencers to follow and then go about bombarding them with obsequious RTs, little LOLs and other notes of encouragement. I suspect there is a thesis in there somewhere for someone to identify the new terms of endearment for the social world.

I use social media to expose some of my work to ‘the world’. I do that by posting something or expressing an opinion. It is pretty blatant – you can recognise it for what it is. I am definitely doing it wrong because, truth be told, social media itself provides hardly any traffic to my website. There is something honourable about an advertisement though; it does not pretend to be anything but an advertisement.

The behaviours that I see are (despite claims of authenticity) really just a bunch of people pretending to be nice and ingratiating themselves with some perceived circle of influence in order to achieve that same self-promotional goal without admitting to it. I prefer someone to be self-serving and honest about it than someone who pretends it does not matter, when it is all that really matters.

At one stage I thought about blocking everyone who RTs a tweet that mentions them – especially if it said something nice – but realised quickly that I then would soon have no one left. How is this practice any different

All about show

‘Slacktivism’ is symptomatic of the culture perpetuated by social media. It is important to be seen to do ‘good’. It is easy and no harm can come from endlessly re-tweeting causes. And it is true that no harm is done to the cause, but it is an indictment to your own shallow self if that is all you do when doing ‘good’ is no longer a means to an end but the end itself.

One of the greatest attributes of the Australian culture (for me) is the strong culture of volunteering. It is powerful and pervasive and a genuine. And it is very unlike my home country. Whilst Census Data reports an increase in volunteer numbers, the reality is the many organisations dependent on volunteering are reporting declining numbers. And non-English speaking households (i.e. immigrants are amongst the lowest in participation rates in volunteering activities, coupled with population growth being driven largely by immigration), it only stands to reason that there is a decline in the ACT of volunteering.

This is in no small part hastened by simple RTs of a good cause which has become a handy substitute for action yet effectively assuages some guilty feelings.

Inanity, Sweetness and Boredom

I abandoned Facebook (with almost no personal use in the 8 months.)  The sheer mindlessness of it all overwhelmed me. Inane quotes, repetitive memes (usually discovered a week late by ‘friends’ who have never heard of Mashable or Upworthy) and meaningless family updates crushed all social graces that I had and I had to get out.

The life people represent on Facebook is not the life they live. It is a distorted highlights reel of everyday life. And really, eventually, no matter how much I like you, I do not want to see another picture of a grandchild, watch another sunset or see another bit of food porn on your plate. I don’t think it is just my friends, but most people are just so freaking uninteresting, so compliant and so eager to please that it is like dining on meringue for three meals a day. There is only so much you sweetness I can take.

But the issue is not boring friends – it is the unrealistic portrait that it paints; as if life is one long holiday. Your life by comparison is boring and it is now proven that this unrealistic expectation excessive Facebook usage actually causes depression. I don’t subscribe to the simple causal link between FB and depression as a theory, but I just find it depressing in the same sense as ‘not uplifting’. Anything that wants you not to think and just passively consume will do that for you.

Everyone is a publisher without an editor

(Yes, irony noted)

Social media platforms don’t have filters. There is no way of stopping people from being stupid, saying stupid things and doing stupid things. I don’t define stupid as the things that I disagree with either, I mean really stupid as in illogical and irrational. (And the sad thing is some smart people can do this too.) Especially people who have found a new religion in ‘scientism’ and share stories they only half understand judging by populist but flawed arguments in comments and updates.

And you know what else I hate about this era of everyone’s a publisher? They can’t spell.


Last – and probably most – is the wave of self-righteous that rule the waves. On social media everyone seems to be a follower. Judging by the millions of post providing the seven steps to success in [fill in the blank] the online world is desperate for guidance. The internet will tell you how to do anything. And there is a right way for everything. And it is their way.

The time-honoured traditions of freedom of speech have largely been destroyed. Only one valid worldview remains: Pro Gay Rights, Pro Abortion, Atheism, Anti War, Pro Climate Change et al have amalgamated into worldview that tolerates no dissent and accepts no nuances. Its adherents are more dogmatic about the ‘rightness’ of their position than an ambitious 13th century novitiate.

The recent saga of Justine Sacco illustrates the point. One unfunny tweet cost her career. Holly Rosen Fink Culture Mom wrote a nice balanced piece on that.

Sadly, the only counterbalance to this insanity is trolls. Trolls are vilified almost universally. I think they may actually save us from disappearing up our own bottoms. I hope they stick around and hold people accountable to the reality that allows and includes a difference of opinion. Trolls may not always be classy and they are certainly not always right, but very often they are simply holding up a mirror to pretentious and self-righteous they find unflattering.

In sum

As much as this is a rant about the dark side of social media, I am not suggesting we all abandon every social media platform. For better or worse SM is here to stay, and I would like to make it better.

  • I want to raise awareness about the unintended consequences of favouring ‘being liked’ over ‘being right’.
  • I want to cast a light on the pervasive inauthenticity that flourishes when we favour conformity.
  • I want to warn against the intellectual stifling that will happen when we favour compliance over originality.

If you think that none of the above applies to you because you are paragon of tolerance who are impervious to the social pressure to conform, conduct this little test:

Take your last tweet. Imagine someone RTs it, by adding this epithet to it: ‘This is so freakin’ stupid’. How would you react? Or, alternatively, are you brave enough to do that someone?

I am guessing here, but the vast majority of people would struggle with either of those outcomes, so we may not be as immune as we think we are FONBL – fear of not being liked.

That fear, like many if not most fears, can put a brake on more extreme behaviours which is necessary, but like any brake, if applied firmly, the vehicle does not go anywhere. The price we pay is lack of innovation and change, less experimentation and much less honesty.

Is it worth it?

The thing that everybody does


This is the secret recipe for creating regional centres that should dominate their trade area:

  1. Add a town square
  2. Create a community hub
  3. Consolidate mainstream fashion
  4. Introduce international fast fashion (at any price)
  5. Strengthen youth fashion
  6. Create an authentic fresh food market
  7. Add a supermarket
  8. Extend the cinemas
  9. Expand fast food (multi-cultural)
  10. Create casual dining destination (near the cinemas)
  11. Improve parking
  12. Improve signage
  13. Enhance the ambience
  14. And get me JB HiFi on the line now…

This post is not about shopping centres or landlords nor is it about lack of innovation. I use shopping malls merely to make a point, and because most retailers can relate to this scenario.

When shopping centres fall victim to the ‘sameness’ syndrome it is because they follow what everyone else is doing.  When retailers start ‘doing what everyone else is doing’ they also become the same as everyone else. You are what you do: nothing can be more logical than that.

When ‘THE THING EVERYBODY DOES’ becomes the default strategy, bland SIMILARITY is the result.

For a long time geographic differentiation was the saviour of mediocre retail. That is, you were the only XYZ shop in that centre or the only corner shop in that particular suburb and if anyone wanted what you had, they had to get it from you.

The mobile phone changed that because the consumer has every conceivable option in their pocket. Geography is now rarely a competitive advantage.

Since you have lost that advantage, you must redefine and execute a new point of DIFFERENCE – not because the strategy text books demand so, but because THAT is the reason why customers visit you.

The things everybody does’ as strategy will result in mediocrity at best and failure at worst. You must find your own way.

The good news is that there are dozens of ways in which you can differentiate yourself meaningfully and successfully.

(This 2min video powerfully illustrates the power of conformity and group think which is a different but related topic.)

Go make 2014 a winning year…


GANADOR (Google the meaning :-))

Win-win results in business-to-business relationships between retailers and all suppliers/partners.


What is more important than making money this Christmas period?

Most retailers are traditionally busier over Christmas.

Most will rub their hands together.

Most will constantly check their takings and compare it with last year.

If it is worse, they will whinge. If it is better they will rub their hands in glee.

In both instances they will have missed the boat.

Christmas, including the post-Christmas period of returning unwanted gifts) is a great opportunity to:

1.      Showcase your fantastic, beyond anything previously experienced customer service

2.      Learn more about what sells and what doesn’t and related customer insights

3.      To leverage the higher traffic into a bigger database

And these three things are tomorrow’s money, which is just as important - if not more -  as today’s money.

© 2014 Ganador Management Solutions (Pty) Ltd PO Box 243 Kiama, NSW, 2533 Australia Tel: (+61)2-4237 7168