If you seek another heart-felt paean to the true meaning of the holiday season—then move along, nothing to look at here folks…
This post is the counterpoint.
First, we need a great bah-humbug blog post. This year’s winner is Private Equity:
As a culture we are horribly conflicted. We denominate value in cash, but consider it dirty and evil. Cash is a universal storage mechanism for value, except when it comes to gift giving, where somehow, magically, the value is diminished because it is the "thought that counts." That, by the way, is complete and utter bullshit. Please, those relatives who are reading this but don’t know it is me, I ask you this one thing: don’t try to think.
For her ingenious (and delightfully self-serving) solution, click here.
But maybe the season is seriously busted, and “bah humbug” is just a tactical solution. No, what we need is strategic change. Maybe Xmas is in sore need of re-branding. NYTimes to the rescue.
…starting just after Thanksgiving, the designers did their best, first identifying the three chief problems with the brand: it’s divisive, ugly and, of course, over-commercialized. Next they came up with a big idea to try to fix these problems. It was not to rename Christmas, exactly, but to streamline it by creating what might be thought of as an “overall umbrella brand,” Mr. Bierut said, one that sounded contemporary, hip and, most important, Internet-ready: x.mas. Corporations willing to pony up big money to be the official sponsors of x.mas could also participate, making for shiny new Web sites like Apple.mas, Target.mas, Nike.mas.
Click here for more on this exciting new reform.
I refuse to check the TV listings to see how many times It’s a Wonderful Life is playing this season. The more interesting film by far is Miracle on 34th Street. For one thing, in MO34, we are left intriguingly in doubt as to the sanity of Mr. Kringle even at movie’s end—unlike the one-dimensionally clueless angel Clarence in Capra’s accidental never-intended memorial.
Moreover, Miracle has a modernist edge to it. Santa is nearly fired by a numbers-driven Type-A middle manager for suggesting to a shopper that she buy the toy from Gimbel’s across the street. (The cynical shopper confounds the manager by congratulating him on "this wonderful new stunt you’re pullin’.”)
Macy’s President happens along and instantly realizes that Santa’s customer focus is far more effective for Macy’s than the conventional features and benefits approach. He announces:
…not only will our Santa Claus continue in this manner…but I want every salesperson in this store to do precisely the same thing. If we haven’t got exactly what the customer wants, we’ll send him where he can get it.
No high pressuring and forcing a customer to take something he doesn’t really want. We’ll be known as the helpful store, the friendly store, the store with a heart, the store that places public service ahead of profits.
And, consequently, we’ll make more profits than ever before.
Ah but of course that’s only a movie. True customer focus like that would be suicidal in the real dog eat dog world.