There is an old joke about three missionaries who are captured by a warrior tribe. The chief gives the first two missionaries a choice – death or chichi. Not wanting to die, each chooses chichi which involves all kinds of physical abuse. The third missionary chooses death. The chief smiles and says “DEATH! But first, chichi!”
I thought of this when I read a piece in the Marketing Daily about a recent Harris study:
According to a recent Harris poll of more than 2,000 adults, nearly two-thirds (63%) said they would prefer to sit next to a crying baby than a smelly adult.
“It’s not like either is preferable,” Regina Corso, senior vice president at Harris, tells Marketing Daily. “No one likes the crying baby, but you can understand it’s not the baby’s fault.”
Like the missionaries, neither choice is a particularly good one. However, there is a lesson in the study and it’s really not about the fact that the baby isn’t at fault. It’s about the consumer being in control. The sound of a noisy baby is easy to deal with – noise-cancelling headphones and a little music can fix the issue pretty quickly. A smelly adult is out of your control and is not something you’re going to mask. Spraying air-freshener on a plane isn’t really an option (assuming you carry air freshener) and is possibly just as disruptive to your neighbors as the stench is to you.
Let’s visit the thought again. Consumers want to be in control almost more than any other demand they make of your business. They already control the brand image via social and other media and are comfortable with less than optimal choices as long as they are the ones making the decision. The days of imposing your will on consumers are long gone. You with me?