HMV has hit a wrong note with its corporate stance

Retailer HMV has decided to ask staff to cover up any “prominent” tattoos and body piercings in a bid to improve shoppers’ experience. In what must count as the final nail in the coffin of HMV’s rock and roll reputation, the company says it feels a more “consistent approach” to staff appearance will meet the expectations of customers who have to be at the “heart of everything” the brand does.

Ruth Mortimer

I can imagine the grumblings on the workplace floor. Actually, I don’t need to imagine. I have several (tattooed) friends who work at HMV and have made their feelings on the company’s stance very clear to me. They work at HMV because they are the super-fans of life. They love music and technology and want an occupation where they are surrounded by it all the time.

Ironically, my friends feel they totally sum up the ethos of putting customers at the heart of what they do. They pride themselves on knowing ridiculously obscure facts about the latest death metal band. They see the difference between the service they offer and the often cheaper alternative of online stores, such as Amazon or, as this knowledgeable customer interaction.

It can be no coincidence that HMV’s much more corporate stance comes as it gains a new chief executive. Trevor Moore used to run Jessops and held roles at HSBC and Whitbread. All businesses that have good track records in understanding customers, but none that are known for being hip.

You can read some of our readers’ responses and a passionate defence from the HMV marketing director on page 4. But perhaps HMV needs to take some marketing inspiration from the two candidates in the US presidential election. With the campaign trail reaching its final few weeks, we look at what brands can learn from the tactics displayed by President Obama and his adversary, Mitt Romney. Although Obama’s digital marketing campaign received a great deal of attention back in 2008, that’s a story from four years ago.

In 2012, the candidates are using a variety of sophisticated marketing techniques – both online and offline – and we talk to a range of brands who are putting the same ideas into action on a corporate scale. Good marketing is obvious, after all, wherever you find it. HMV would do well to learn some of these valuable techniques that engage customers, rather than putting the focus on tattoos and piercings when customers really just care about service.

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