Pilot Light

Inferno is a PR consultancy. This is not. This is Inferno’s blog.

Economics lesson at Paddington Station. With coffee.

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Famous with the L.A. crowd.

Herd behaviour is not unknown in either consumers or markets and can readily be observed in the wild. Many times I have seen a multiperson queue in front of one cash machine of several, before getting to the end and realising that the other machines were perfectly operable. This is before one gets to the fact that people ahead of me in most queues seem to be either under some form of heavy sedation or have a very obscure, exacting and potentially mental purpose. Like the woman at the Post Office who needed a collection of differently priced stamps in different designs according to a massive list, which was checked again and again after every purchase while I wondered if the definitions of self defence had been tested to the full in Law.

So needing a caffeine dose with minutes to spare before catching another train at Paddington I went into the charming retail area to swim in the unimaginative mainstream of Starbucks. Bad idea – the queue looked Soviet in its sweating intensity. A quick glace at ‘Café’ Whatever revealed the same…Getting one on the train would be shameful and expensive so? Aha. Krispy Kreme. They have a real espresso machine and the place has less people in it than a dark corner in a horror movie. Got a marginally cheaper and perhaps better coffee in two minutes flat but why was I alone?

Functioning markets depend on information, but consumers get trapped by habit and peer pressure. Why had the manager not stuck up a simple sign saying something like ‘Coffee without a queue!’, ‘Famous for our COFFEE, not just the donuts…’, ‘Don’t miss the train, get a coffee from us instead!’ etc etc. Maybe they were not allowed to do so, which is sad. But it made me think – that is the real contribution of marketing to making things work – giving consumers information so that they can exercise choice better. It’s a mouthful but could come in handy the next time someone comes out with the tired, Bill Hicks (who I still love) inspired ‘If you are in marcomms, kill yourself as you destroy everything good in the world you liars, spinners, blah blah blah.’

We certainly don’t always get it right (and sometimes get it very very wrong), but without marketing, markets just don’t work and everyone suffers. Like the herd of independent minds sweating in a Starbucks queue before trying to jump a train like some stuntman in a Western.



Written by pilotlight

12/06/2007 at 3:14 pm

Posted in marketing, PR

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