I read something a few days ago that has stuck with me. I was going to write about it at the time but I couldn’t really figure out how not to make it a political issue because as you know we don’t do politics here on the screed. Over the weekend as I was thinking about it some more, I realized why I can’t get it out of my head.
In a word: Stupidity.
Virginia passed… a new law last month that lowers the gas tax for everyone, but slaps a $64-per-year fee on hybrid and electric car owners to help make up for what those drivers aren’t paying at the pump….Legislation that would levy a fee or tax on greener wheels is now pending in Texas, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Arizona.
Pure genius at work here. Encourage people to buy fuel-efficient vehicles to curtail gasoline consumption (as well as to help the environment) but penalize them because they’re not paying enough gasoline tax. We could spend a lot of time here on the politics but let’s discuss the optics instead. This seems stupid. Is that a shallow, uniformed take on the matter? Maybe, but I think it’s dumb, and that’s all that matters. In fact, everyone to whom I’ve mentioned it concurs and many of them are not at all shallow people. In fact, they’re almost universally well-informed and can take a broader view of issues than their own opinions. Which is the business point.
From time to time we all need to take a step back and get to the place where our customers and potential customers are. They don’t have all the facts you do nor do they share the same perspective as you. Even if they do, they just might not care. You need to be in that “outside” place and ask yourself if what you’re doing – a price change, a package modification, a marketing campaign, whatever – seems stupid. For example, cutting a 12 ounce package to 11 ounces with a label that says “great new package, same great price” is stupid.
Maybe there’s a good reason to encourage a behavior and then to penalize it but I can’t figure it out. There’s no good reason to ignore the optics of something as a businessperson. If it appears stupid, it probably is. You agree?