If you don't like business fiction about a catalog brand trying to negotiate a path to the future, move along, there's nothing for you to see here. If you need a diversion from your dreary job, or a diversion from 100 degree heat, give this a read.
Let's sit in and listen to this week's Executive Meeting at Gliebers Dresses:
Glenn Glieber (CEO): Ok folks, let's take our seats. Pepper, why don't we start with a sales update.
Pepper Morgan Pressley (Chief Marketing Officer): Sales are down, again.
Roger Morgan (Chief Operating Officer): Insightful.
Pepper Morgan Pressley: How many ways can I say that sales are down? Sales are down eleven percent. We're eleven percent behind last year! I'd hate to have been the CEO who presided over a business plan that yielded an eleven percent decrease?
Glenn Glieber: Well, we have to do something about it. I've been away for a couple of years, so what are the big ideas out there?
Roger Morgan: You know, Woodside Research focuses on a three legged milk stool ... Omnichannel, Engagement, and Big Data.
Meredith Thompson (Chief Merchandising Officer): Does Woodside Research have anything to say about catalogs?
Roger Morgan: Please.
Lois Gladstone (Chief Financial Officer): What is engagement?
Meredith Thompson: Is engagement like when you told us that every member of the Executive team had to host a blog, telling stories that would cause customers to embrace us so much that they would spend an extra $100 a year?
Roger Morgan: No, that's so 2006.
Lois Gladstone: Is this like when you told us that every member of the Executive team had to have a Twitter account, because Dell was selling a bunch of clearance computers on Twitter? And then you told me that it would be a good idea for me to tweet about circular references in spreadsheets?
Roger Morgan: No, that's so 2009.
Pepper Morgan Pressley: Is this like when you told us that every member of the Executive team had to post pictures of meetings on Instagram, so that we could provide our customers with an insiders perspective of Gliebers Dresses, and then our customers lambasted us, suggesting that all we did was waste time snapping photos?
Roger Morgan: No, that's so 2011. Engagement is so much more important than all of those tactics. Engagement and Omnichannel are like peanut butter and jelly. For example, I was watching The Matrix last night. AMC put an ad on the bottom of the screen, asking viewers to participate in an interactive online game about The Matrix. That's engagement. You fold the user into a deep, immersive digital experience that enriches the brand.
Pepper Morgan Pressley: I was watching the kids last night.
Lois Gladstone: Does engagement enrich the profit and loss statement?
Roger Morgan: Woodside Research surveyed 339 Marketing Executives. A statistically significant 182 Executives perceived engagement to be a credible digital strategy that enriches the brand.
Glenn Glieber: That's powerful!
Pepper Morgan Pressley: What did AMC do with the people who played the digitally immersive game? Did those viewers buy anything?
Roger Morgan: Woodside Research says it isn't about sales, it's about creating a deep, immersive experience that enriches the brand.
Meredith Thompson: My customer is 59 years old. She doesn't want a deeper, immersive digital experience that enriches the brand. She wants a free canvas bag to carry zucchini in.
Dr. Gene Feldman: It was 1974. I met Heather at the local phosphates shop. She was beautiful. She wore a sweater dress, remember those? I know, I know, denim was all the rage in 1974, but there was something about the way Heather looked in a sweater dress. We shared a malted milkshake, and listened to America sing "Lonely People" on my 8-track player. Her boyfriend had just died in Vietnam. I guess it was my duty to comfort her. I drove her to the roller rink in my Plymouth Duster. We sat in the car in the parking lot. Her hand touched mine, and ...
Glenn Glieber: What the heck are you talking about, Feldman?
Meredith Thompson: Roger, does Woodside Research honestly believe that my 59 year old customer wants a deep, immersive, branded digital experience?
Roger Morgan: It doesn't matter. Woodside Research says that is where the world is headed. They surveyed 339 Marketing Executives. Marketing EXECUTIVES! These leaders, our peers, say that the best customers are engaged customers, and engaged customers prefer a deep, immersive, digitally branded experience. Then customers head out to social media and share their experiences with online influencers, and these influencers increase the viral coefficient. At that point, you're looking at an awful lot of free marketing.
Glenn Glieber: I love free marekting!
Pepper Morgan Pressley: But like usual, Roger, you're reciting vague theoretical concepts that are virtually irrelevant to a 59 year old female dress buyer.
Roger Morgan: Look, I'm not the Marketing Executive, you are. It's your job to provide solutions. It's my job to advise.
Pepper Morgan Pressley: It's your job to run a distribution center. How is that robotics initiative working out for you? Humans used to pick, pack, and ship merchandise. Now you've essentially removed humans from the distribution center. Remember when we included handwritten notes in outgoing packages? Last week, I think I got a branded, digital thank you note from C-3PO.
Roger Morgan: Here's the theory. You create content. Customers crave content, you know. I mean, how many times have you just lost yourself for three or four hours reading scintillating content created by your favorite brands?
Dr. Gene Feldman: By 1976, I didn't see much of Heather anymore. She went to work for Jimmy Carter, and got engaged to the guy who ran field operations for Carter's campaign in the State of Kentucky. It's my understanding that she is very happy, and was an early investor in Zynga, the folks who created Farmville.
Lois Gladstone: So engagement can lead to riches!
Roger Morgan: The content causes the customer to visit, over and over and over again. And then, after being fully immersed in a branded digital experience, the customer buys a dress. Get it? It's called engagement!
Pepper Morgan Pressley: Has anybody been able to prove the link between reading content and buying dresses?
Meredith Thompson: We're all dancing around the issue, folks. What does engagement look like for a 59 year old woman? Is it a canvas bag? Nutritional supplements? A matching 401k contribution?
Pepper Morgan Pressley: Doc seems to be suggesting that, for a 59 year old, it's all about memories. You engage her by selling memories. Let's be honest, 59 year old women are not playing digital contests on an iPad while watching The Matrix, and if they are, then that type of experience won't cause a 59 year old women to spend more money at Gliebers Dresses.
Roger Morgan: Woodside Research would disagree. They'd tell us we have to find younger customers, or we'll be out of business. And we won't find younger customers by selling memories, memories that mean nothing to a customer who idolizes Colbie Caillat.
Glenn Glieber: Well, I've learned a lot today. This milk stool approach that Roger talks about is interesting. I really look forward to the Big Data discussion, that should be stimulating. What confuses me, however, is that if we do anything that Roger is talking about, we disenfranchise our 59 year old customer. And the harder we work at satisfying our 59 year old customer, the more we disenfranchise the customer who adores Brittney Spears.
Dr. Gene Feldman: Colbie Caillat.
Glenn Glieber: The more I listen, the more I realize that nobody has a solution, me included. How do we protect the past and still move into the future, without alienating our core customer audience? I guess we can just keep hoping for the economy to turn around. I mean, this is an election year, so we're sunk this fall, aren't we?
Lois Gladstone: But our discussion was really engaging, wasn't it?