Once upon a time I helped a luxury hospitality group in the Persian Gulf define and communicate their offer. We had countless conversations around perceptions of luxury, and concluded that 7-star self-indulgence was in the eye of the beholder. Their hotels should provide the culture and environment that inspired guests to create their own luxurious experiences. The Rolls Royce Phantom shopping limos, Dan Dare helicopter pads, gold plated Presidential Suites and personal butlers were generic. High flyers expected nothing less, and the competition offered similar attractions. Guests told us that our differentiator was the quality of interaction with management and staff. Not rictus grins and subservient deference, but warmth, idiosyncrasy, ingenuity and inventiveness.
I come across many companies who regard their partners and consumers as an inconvenient truth. The recession is littered with the remains of organisations that did not know how to listen and respond. In these times of TripAdvisor, and Dell’s transformation from the bête noir of PC owners to the doyen of social media communities, brands no longer dictate the terms of engagement. Customer power, blistering technological progress, and economic volatility must be met with curiosity, spontaneity and creativity. Imaginary Client joined my brand workshop team a few years back, and has been invaluable in helping clients to re-focus. I create a ‘safe place’ where sinners confess their transgressions to Imaginary Client and receive absolution.