Missed (Marketing) Opportunities

I’m so deeply impressed every time I enter 2620 West Anderson in Austin, TX, that it’s actually frustrating.

That’s where the Office Depot I thought I’d never step foot in is located. My Office Depot.

I can’t believe I typed that last sentence. I detest every element of shopping: the time it consumes, parking lots on sunny days, parting with money, other shoppers, and disinterested store employees. The supposedly dying realm of brick-and-mortar retail also depresses me (before you judge, just try keeping a spring in your step when you enter a Blockbuster store). I love Amazon Prime streaming/shipping service; it regularly injects me with an incredibly innovative—and practically arousing—combination of antidotes to A. shopping; and B. cable television providers (my other primary object of scorn).

In addition to being judgmental I’m also impatient. I hopped in to My Office Depot last year because I couldn’t bear the two-day wait for an Amazon Prime shipment of yellow legal pads. A young man who worked there caught my eye, held it, and offered to help me if I needed it.

The service—prompt, genuine, not overbearing—was perfect. And the service I’ve received has been equally perfect on every subsequent trip I’ve made to My Office Depot. One time, a cashier asked me if I wanted her to email my receipt to me. Of course I did: What a perfect form of bookkeeping assistance to a small business owner. Last week I carted my printing paper (half-price sale) to the cashier and waited. The sole cashier was checking a customer out at a different register. A nearby employee spotted me, hopped the copy counter, greeted me with a smile and checked me out with her smart phone. Whoa.

I avoid all loyalty cards, and I eagerly accepted the offer for an Office Depot card.

What’s so frustrating to me is that I can’t figure out how Office Depot can market this amazing service (I could go on); after all, the company operates 1,100 of these stores throughout North America.  I’m pretty sure Office Depot’s marketing executives do not know about this. And I’m certain they do not know that I would send any of my entrepreneur pals looking for a sharp manager sprinting to that store to poach whoever has instilled such a killer and genuine service ethic in at least a dozen different retail employees.

I spend so much time talking to CMOs and other marketing professionals about what they market that I forget about what they don’t market. My Office Depot is not alone on this count.

A recent article listed the some of the 881 compliments New York City taxi drivers received from January through March through the city’s 311 website. Yes, the site also notched more than 22,000 complaints during the same period. We know about el stinko taxi experiences; Letterman still nails them in his monologues. But how do New York City taxi cab companies promote the fact that taxi drivers get inebriated partygoers home safely, lend their cell phones to tourists whose own cell phones get swiped, keep their back seats spotless, and return lost diamond rings (while turning down a proffered reward for good measure)?

Now that Amazon has lost revenue to Office Depot from one formerly loyal client, it, too, might want to figure out what it doesn’t market, but should.

Amazon might start with some of the side-splittingly funny (and entirely tongue-in-cheek) reviews customers give to certain products. For example, one reviewer described the brilliance of the Hutzler 571 banana slicer, a device that helps users produce even slices, this way: “What can I say about the 571B Banana Slicer that hasn’t already been said about the wheel, penicillin, or the iPhone.”

My hunch is that the Wall Street Journal reporter who broke this humorous-review news—or Amazon itself—is at work on a compendium of funny Amazon reviews. What are you doing to learn about and then leverage the narratives you aren’t marketing?


Freelance journalist Eric Krell works with Mitel CMO Martyn Ethrington to produce DMN’s Diary of a CMO.

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