Some weeks ago, I was required as part of a university project to visit London and gather information on a brand of my choice. This was to help me determine where the store is positioned in the current market, how they have achieved all that they have so far and what they may need to change. This article is about the information I gathered whilst I was there – and I have to say I learnt a lot.
I sit here trying to sum up my experience and the best way I can describe what is in my mind’s eye is a series of static flickers:
- Relentless automatic doors; open, close, open, slam, get out of the way as fast as you can. Otherwise the doors will scream in anguish and everyone’s piercing stares will clarify that we definitely aren’t on the same side.
- Trying to cross the road. Vehicles surging up and down, roaring their way through, bullying passers by into submission – although you can’t halt, you can’t stop in a place like this. You’ll interrupt the flow of people tumbling across the pavements and everyone’s piercing stares will clarify that we definitely aren’t on the same side.
- Shops line the streets. I look for clarity amongst all of the fonts and colours and sizes and slogans. The ribbons of information entangle themselves behind my eyes, any connection the words may be trying to make gets lost in a sea of competition. There’s too many voices, too many ulterior motives, it would be a gamble to put my trust in any of these proposed identities. Then I look around me and I notice that I am becoming what makes me uncomfortable – my piercing stare clarifies that I am definitely not on their side.
- I step onto the train that is going to take me home. There are no spare seats so I sit next to an elderly lady and stare into space. Just before the train departs, she catches my eye and we both smile slightly – and I feel like she is on my side.
In conclusion, what I have learnt from this trip is that it is very easy to become mistrustful and intolerant of each other. I feel that what I missed whilst I was in London was a connection with the people around me, a feeling of trust, respect and compassion. I think a brand does not work without its customers and all anybody asks for a little of these things. In my mind, too many brands see customers as prey, a statistic on a spreadsheet and a means to an end, especially in a competitive and ruthless market. If all brands took on the attitude of independent stores and treated each customer as an individual instead of a price tag, the public would stop feeling this way and there would be a sense of us all being on the same side.