“The End is Nigh” preached a placard as I hurried along the high street this week. It is also probably a headline that at least one tabloid writer has used recently. As someone in the prime of life, it is not exactly the most thrilling thought. And as a marketer, it also means I have minimal time left to prepare that brand legacy that I must perform before I check out.
The reason for my doom is the recent collapse of the O2 mobile network, albeit only for a few days. However, it was on the back of the failure of NatWest’s banking systems a week earlier. It is also at the same time as the slightly less publicised problem with the Salesforce.com service that affected many businesses that rely on their CRM system. Not to mention outages earlier in the year for BlackBerry users and Sony Playstation gamers.
Whatever next? We have all been ploughing on at breakneck speed, building cleverer and more complex customer services, on backbones that are increasingly prone to failure – either down to human error, technical frailty or, dare I say it, terrorist/criminal attack.
I have recently read two fantastic books by Alex Scarrow – Last Light and its sequel After Light. They are set in the current day, where clever terrorists set off bombs in half-a-dozen oil rich countries, halting oil production across the globe. Within a week, the UK Government has collapsed and within a year the world’s population has reduced by 95 per cent, as there is no food, no water and no order. Last Light is a scary book, not least because it is so believable.
But I am feeling very positive about things right now as a result of the Jubilee, Andy Murray, the Olympics and all that. However, in light of the problems that have beset some of our biggest brands of late, I do think that we all need to step back and look at our businesses, and especially our service promises to our customers.
As I said the other week, I think NatWest has a lot to do to regain faith in its brand. I am surprised how well O2 has escaped so far. But as marketers we are the custodian of our brands, and as we get sucked into the latest product or service offering developed by the manufacturing/operational arm of our businesses, we must step back and ask ourselves how confident we are with the robustness of that proposition – and just what we would do if things were to go wrong.