Monthly Archives: October 2011

scripts and interruptions

Last week I was waiting for a friend outside Liverpool Street Station. It was about 6.30 in the evening and the street was teeming with commuters rushing frantically in all directions. I was a bit early and tucked myself in a corner out of the mania and was using the spare ten minutes to catch up with some email correspondence on my phone.

I was engrossed in this task when I was interrupted by a street fundraiser, a young man who was extremely impatient to tell me about the work of the Red Cross.

He did ask me if I had a minute, but before I could answer he launched into his ‘script’.  Had I heard of the Red Cross? Did I know that the Red Cross were often first to respond to emergency situations. In Japan – as he pointed towards the direction of Moorgate, after the recent earthquake, the Red Cross apparently responded 8 minutes before other emergency services. He also told me a story of a woman in India who had been given a loan of £9.40 so she could set up a business and be self-sufficient and send her kids to school and she paid the money back and she was empowered and it was much better than a donation, etc, etc, etc…..

At this point he paused for breath – but not long enough to give me a word in edgeways and then he launched into ‘script part 2’ about how ‘no way’ did he want money, but could he call me in about six weeks after I had some time to reflect on this information.

Finally I had a chance to respond. I said that I wouldn’t be interested in a chat in six weeks. He looked a bit dejected.  I explained that I already give to my preferred charities and that I worked for a charity so understood exactly what a good job he, and the Red Cross were doing – and that he told a good story.

On this news he looked even more dejected. He quickly regrouped, thanked me for my time and practically skipped off into the crowds of commuters, presumably to repeat his script again.

I was left feeling uneasy about this interaction and have been mulling over what it was that just didn’t work for me. I think it was a combination of factors.

  • From the outset he got my back up because he interrupted me
  • I couldn’t get a word in until he had recalled his script
  • When I told him I didn’t want a call and that I worked for a charity I felt like I had deceived him and that’s why I felt uncomfortable. I would have liked the opportunity to be open from the outset
  • Six weeks is a long time to reflect. Even for me. After being so pushy, to then be asked if I could be called in 6 weeks didn’t feel consistent.  Do you need my money now or not? (I know its’ all about an engagement strategy, and I like this different approach to face to face engagement, but, for me it just didn’t feel right – the message didn’t match his approach)
  • I felt that he told a great scripted story, but it lacked authenticity. I didn’t believe he really knew about the Red Cross. I don’t think we could have had a two-way conversation.
  • It was all about him and his script, he didn’t listen or take me into account. (Shouldn’t fundraising be all about the donor?)
  • I acknowledge that I have the potential to be the fundraising Grinch; I mystery shop a lot of charities and companies, with a view to commenting on my experience, so I’m perhaps not your average person on the street.

I think that face-to-face fundraisers have a really tough job and they raise significant income for charities. I don’t want this to read as a pop at face-to-face. I don’t like being interrupted so I acknowledge that my unease is perhaps about me and my preferences – but how many other people are like me?  For me, a shift in tone or approach that involved an off script two-way conversation would have engaged me more and left me feeling very differently about the experience.

What do you think?  I’d be interested to know your views – or if your organisation has tried this approach and what the results were.


Here’s to the crazy ones

I surprised myself last week how upset I was when I heard that Steve Jobs had died. It’s been hard to digest all that has been written about Steve in the last week. For me, the 1997 Apple advert The Crazy Ones’ just about sums it up. So I’m sharing it here.

Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.

I believe that Steve Jobs was a crazy one. And he changed the world. Thank you Steve.

Failure – it’s the real thing

Last week I ran an innovation breakfast for fundraising leaders with the creative team from Sandbox. One of the key discussion points was that in order to innovate well, organisations and individuals would need to take a new approach to failure. In fact, failure must be actively encouraged in order to learn, and ultimately achieve greater success.

One of my favourite (?!) failure stories is from Coca-Cola.

In 1985 in response to its declining market share and the increasing popularity of its key rival Pepsi, Coca-Cola launched New Coke.

At the time Pepsi’s advertising campaigns were based around asking the public if they could taste the difference between Pepsi and Coke. They could – and they preferred the taste of Pepsi.

In response Coke developed a new sweeter tasting formula.  After conducting over 200.000 taste tests, which according to the taste testers not only tasted better than the old Coke, but also tasted better than Pepsi, New Coke was ready for launch.

However on 23 April 1985 when New Coke was launched and old Coke was taken out of circulation it was a disaster. Customers were horrified that their Coke had been changed. Some people likened the change in Coke to trampling the American flag. A black market for old Coke emerged, at a market value of $30 a case.  On July 11, Coca-Cola withdrew New Coke and reinstated old Coke.

So what happened?

“We did not understand the deep emotions of so many of our customers for Coca-Cola,” said company President Donald R. Keough.

The development of New Coke was all about taste and overlooked the importance of the relationship customers had with the brand. Until the launch of New Coke, Coca-Colas brand had been about its ‘original’ status. For example in 1942, magazine adverts in the United States declared: ‘The only thing like Coca-Cola is Coca-Cola itself. It’s the real thing.’

If you tell the world you have the ‘real thing’ you cannot then just come up with a ‘new real thing’. To make matters worse, since 1982, Coke’s strap line had been ‘Coke is it’. Now it was telling customers that actually coke wasn’t it, but New Coke was now it instead.

Coca-Cola were fighting a taste battle with Pepsi in response to Pepsi’s marketing campaign. What Coca-cola overlooked was that the battle was not about taste, and they underestimated the value of brand loyalty and the heritage of Coca-Cola.

Ironically, through the brand failure of New Coke, loyalty to ‘the real thing’ intensified and Coke recovered its market position with old Coke, repositioned as Coke Classic. Some conspiracy theorists say the whole campaign had been planned order to reaffirm public loyalty for Coca-Cola. But whether it was planned or not, the fail of New Coke affirmed the value of the brand and with that insight Coke went onto retake its leading market position.

Learning important insights from its failure was key to Coca-Colas reclaimed success over Pepsi. So what if organisations and individuals actively encouraged failure in order to gain insight and ultimately achieve greater success? What would it look like? What would our leaders, managers, fundraisers, volunteers and supporters need to do to really make failing part of ‘how we do things round here?’ How do we make failure an important part of the organisational culture and an important part of greater success?

Answers on a postcard please or to @lucyinnovation.

P.S. If you are interested in failure you might also like my blog on