Just National Rail? Or a National Fail?

I was on a train heading down to Kent a while back with a couple of mates.

We were heading down for an early shuttle the next day to Amsterdam for a mates stag do.

We were full of excitement.

Amidst all our clowning around, we may have been slightly leisurely in getting off at our stop.

Stood at the doors, we suddenly realised they weren’t working. None of the doors on this carriage were.

There’d been no announcement, and if there was a sign there, we hadn’t seen it!

We turned on a sixpence and sprinted through to the next carriage. In Sliding Doors like fashion, the doors shut just in front of us. Livid.

While we were fretting over how we’d rearrange our pick-up from the next station, the Train Manager arrived.

‘Rebecca’ kindly explained that the doors in that carriage weren’t working (a fact we had clearly worked out).

When asked if she thought it would’ve been a good idea to tell the passengers, her answer only made us angrier.

She said that, “people normally ignore her when she tells them, so she didn’t bother”.

A huge assumption about how we would behave.

She also said that, “there was a little sign next to the doors that lit up to say they weren’t working”. It must have been minuscule!

We would have to have been either regular commuters or known to look out for the sign telling us what to do.

As you can imagine, this all combined to infuriate me. However, when the red mist had left, I started to think.

Are the assumptions she made that much different from those advertisers and marketers make every day?

Her absence of insight or appreciation of how others see what she sees is all too familiar.

The assumptions she made really aren’t that different.

Firstly, she assumed that we would behave exactly how her previous customers have.

They ignored her previously, so why wouldn’t we.

How often do we drag the assumptions from a previous campaigns into the next one?

Especially the negative ones.

And how often do we use instances of feedback in isolation?

Or one piece of research as the basis for an entire insight?

The second mistake she made was assuming that a little back lit sign would be able to tell us exactly what to do.

We were expected to get all the information we needed from just that?

She put it on us to know what to do from that message alone.

Whether it is a little digital banner, or a 120 second TV ad, this is all too common.

It could be through the absence of a call-to-action, or a convoluted one.

Or simply just a lack of explanation.

This is one of the reasons the industry average for recall is so low. The product and/or its benefit isn’t properly explained.

These ads are simply just not created with the customer’s viewpoint in mind.

A host of assumptions attained from working in the tunnel vision this industry breads.

When you look at Rebecca the Train Manager with this in mind, the commonality of it all becomes all too clear. And rather scary.

That said, she was an idiot though!

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2 Responses to Just National Rail? Or a National Fail?

  1. ewakwolek says:

    never assume – my previous AD always used to say 😉 x

  2. Will Harvey says:

    Absolutely. Yet, it is rife! I saw a criminal case of it on a project yesterday. A customer could only find a landing page on a top brand’s Dotcom site it they new the exact url, or some quite specific search terms. Millions spent on advertising, no way to get there. Shocking!

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