Last month, I planned on attending a business conference in New York City. It was a breakfast meeting, held at the Union League Club on Park Avenue. The conference was presented by BMA of New York City, an association whose membership is comprised of advertising agency professionals, media professionals and corporate marketers.
I come from the advertising agency side of the business, so I was dressed in the standard agency creative uniform: blazer, collared shirt, jeans. However, when I arrived at the door I was told that there was a strict policy at this club: NO JEANS. Despite being a prominent member of the board of directors, [and the immediate past president of the association,] there was simply no talking to the leadership of the club. This is their policy. No compromise. No exceptions.
My chief complaint with maintaining a policy like this is simple: if you want rules, that’s perfectly fine. But then don’t invite – and profit from – groups who may not adhere to the same structures (like dress code, for instance.) Would you open your venue to a gathering of Tibetan monks and then say their robes and native garb are not “appropriate?” Not likely.
To be clear, this is not a let-me-use-my-blog-to-slam-the-club post. Instead, it shines a light on an important aspect of marketing that should be examined by marketers of any size. Is standing on ceremony getting in the way of making real connections with consumers? Or does it help forge deeper ones?
I find this a most interesting question, especially since so much of the marketing landscape is dominated by discussion of social media and their applications. It’s incredible to think that just two years ago, there would NEVER have been a forum for the average consumer to speak DIRECTLY to senior executives at a company like IBM, for example. Today, that policy is shattered and splintered into multiple conversation streams and feeds, and being monitored very closely by those very executives as a barometer of the brand’s every ebb and flow.
That’s just one specific example based on the proliferation of a few important platforms, like Twitter and Facebook. But if we dive deeper into business operations, it leads to further (and equally important) questions. Questions like: what are your current engagement policies? When was the last time you evaluated those policies? And most importantly, are those policies reflective of the ethos of your brand?
After reflecting on these questions, two important things have occurred. First, I have unearthed several policies that are in effect at my own agency that simply have not been evaluated in many years. I am now addressing them – solely as a reflection of our brand values. Secondly, I have come to a deeper understanding of the “snub at the club.” As much as I stomped and stormed and insisted on gaining entrance, they WERE acting in accordance with the values of their brand and honoring the spirit of the membership. And for that, I not only applaud them, I hold it up as a simple example of a policy-as-brand-identifier model for any marketer.