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Corporate Feb 7, 2012

Flexibility: The new essence of marketing

By Harish Vasudevan

It was a match that started on 29th January 2012 and was completed on 30 January, 2012 making it the longest final in Grand Slam History.

Over nearly 6 hours Djokovic defeated Nadal 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7, 7-5 to win the Australian Open championship. At the end of the match the players were exhausted, but viewers and spectators were just stunned into disbelief at the performance of these two outstanding athletes. I am pretty sure giving them the trophies, giving them several rounds of applause was just the way to draw the tournament to a close.

But everyone was subjected to this.

The script for these matches is very well written. Various organisations get a chance to speak. After all that's why they spend the millions of dollars.

Sensing and responding will make for the winner. Stay flexible. Getty Images

Now flip to this story.

May of last year a 3 and a 1/2 year old girl wrote in to Sainsbury's asking why her bread was called Tiger bread and not Giraffe bread.

The subsequent correspondence was documented in the article and then, coincidentally, two days after the Australian Open final Sainsbury's renamed their bread 'Giraffe'.

I share these two stories to only compare how two organisations treated the 'surprise' element in their product/service.

Tennis Australia did not expect the match to last as long as it did and become a classic. Yet their response was to continue with business as usual. What if they cut short their speeches. Or cut it off altogether. Maybe the Kia guy came and said "I have no words to describe how I feel after this epic. Well done guys. You deserve your rest. Kia wishes you great success' Or words to that effect, and left the stage in 10 seconds. Let the audience continue to enjoy the high they were in at the end of the match. Perhaps Kia would be remembered favorably in the same context, than make some long winded speech which was widely seen as interfering.

Sainsbury's had the greater challenge/opportunity. A little girl writing in with a 'silly' comment would normally have been consigned to a dustbin somewhere. Some bright spark spotted an opportunity in that piece of communication and generated a ton of commentary and favorable impression not just by responding, which was a great move, but by renaming the bread which was a master stroke.

Increasingly with the growth of connectivity and consumers feeling free to give comments and feedback to brands, marketing managers can see challenges or significant opportunities to create good will, loyalty and advocacy by being flexible in their communications and marketing approach.

The next campaign may not be created in an adverting agency, rather in a little girl's letter.

Sensing and responding will make for the winner. Stay flexible.

by Harish Vasudevan

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