Alan Rutherford, Global Media Director of Unilever, spoke at the MTV Generation XY conference last week. He gave the attendees a whirlwind tour of some of the global issues facing brands who wish to connect with the youth market.
However, the most critical piece he shared was in many ways the most obvious: Never forget the consumer; if you fail to do this, then brands (and agencies) fail full stop.
Such a message is not new, but was definitely ready for another outing. Some years ago, when the BSE meat scandal hit the UK, McDonald's immediately switched their beef supplies to non-UK suppliers before the government ruled on the fitness of the meat. Burger King waited. The outcome was McDonald's minimising the drop in sales as the understandable public fear of eating beef hit in the UK.
One UK company has recently brought it's call centre back to the UK from abroad, having listened to their customers complaining about the service levels of the non-UK based call centre. Meanwhile a batch of petrol bought at the UK supermarkets Tesco's and Morrisons was found to be contaminated, Cars have broken down with the cost of repairs for those cars affected being covered by the supermarkets. However, the two companies did not immediately offer compensation, putting out statements that they found nothing wrong with the petrol. It could have been touch and go with regards reputations, but they seemed to have reacted quick enough to avert a PR disaster.
So Alan was right to call for a greater focus on the obvious: Never forget the customer. Every time a brand does, it will do so at it's peril. Old lesson for us all, but still a good one.