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Is god keeping bankers' hours? A mid-winter experience in Dunedin reminds Brian H Meredith of one of marketing's fundamentals.

It was a cold, dark and wet Saturday afternoon. Mrs Meredith and I were braving the winter wonders of Dunedin and, unusually, we had time to kill. Having wandered the streets of the city centre in the rain (sleet) and enjoying numerous flat whites at various spots, we were running out of ideas.


As we wandered through the Octagon (again) I was stuck by the fact that, despite many visits to Dunedin, we had never ventured inside St Paul's Anglican Cathedral. But the huge double wooden doors at the top of the impressive flight of stone stairs were firmly closed and locked.

No matter, we thought, there is sure to be a side entrance and, low and behold, there was. And it too, was locked. A sign announced that, "for security reasons", the cathedral was only open at "the following hours", which it then detailed.

What was more irritating was that, according to the times on the sign and the hour shown on our watches, the doors should still be flung wide in a welcoming manner, offering a glimpse of a candle-lit, womb-like, interior where one could be at peace with the world (not to mention, sheltered from the wind and the sleet).

This, in itself, was disappointing enough. But it was the words "security reasons" that most surprised me. I am not a card carrying church-goer but I have to say that I did not think that God bottled out quite so easily under pressure.

And what pressure, I pondered, could the fine City of Dunedin muster which was of sufficient threat to have the Anglican Church and its legion of Christian soldiers slam shut the doors of the cathedral and run for cover? After all, wasn't the relief of pressure, the escape from a dastardly world, the provision of sanctuary from the stresses of life, a key part of God's job description? And isn't a cathedral, amongst other things, supposed to be God's office?

Is God now keeping bankers' hours?

Woody Allen said "90 percent of success is showing up" and I have often found this to be a wise observation. In marketing, it is fundamental.

With a little creative license, I could link this quote to the more contemporary utterance that we often hear between people who are, in some way, important to each other - "I'll be there for you" - as, surely, "being there for you" presumably involves showing up. Isn't God's marketing proposition "I'll be there for you"?

When it comes to the elements of philosophy and behaviour that constitute effective marketing, "being there for you" or "showing up" are right up there - key planks in the relationship between organisations and their customers and potential customers.

If a customer gets locked into an interminable voice-mail system and struggles to make contact with a human being, then that organisation was neither "there for them" nor, in effect, did they "show up".

Often, marketing success or failure is not complex. There are any number of examples where businesses simply fail to "show up" (literally or metaphorically) and, as a result, fall well short on the promise of "being there for you". They include:

* The plumber who fails to show when promised.

* The person who fails to return a call or respond to an email.

* The airline that advertises cheap fares that can't actually be booked.

* The mechanic who promises the car will be ready and it isn't.

* The bank that promises to load an overdraft facility overnight and doesn't.

There are a zillion examples that we all face in our everyday lives, where the provider of some product or service makes a promise, whether explicitly or implicitly, and then fails to make good on that promise. That is bad marketing and the consequences for a business (and God) can be severe.

Message to God: With the greatest of respect, you are not immune to either the need to practice good marketing or to experiencing the negative effects that flow from bad marketing. But then I suspect you already know that, having long suffered the consequences of getting this marketing thing wrong. Hasn't that resulted in your branches often being much emptier than you might like them to be? So, God, my pro bono advice to you is this. Fire off an email to your managers and staff with this clear instruction: "Throw open the doors of my branches and hang the security consequences. I do not keep bankers' hours and, when all is said and done, isn't "being there" or "showing up" what I'm in the job for?"

Brian Meredith is chief executive of The Marketing Bureau. email:
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Title Annotation:marketing maestro
Author:Meredith, Brian H.
Publication:NZ Business
Date:Sep 1, 2007
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