Saturday, 23 January 2010

Democratisation of Journey fills me with Glee

journey Sometimes it feels like we’ve rewound time back to the 80’s.  Whether it’s the Virgin Airlines advert with Frankie Goes to Hollywood theme tune and Our Price record store (remember those) in the background, girls wearing leg warmers or the fact that Journey are now in the Top 10 chart with “Don’t Stop Believing”.

Whilst I have to admit to already owning this particular Journey track (and handful of other 80’s soft rock tracks), it does show how different the music industry has become.  With services like iTunes, providing access to millions of tracks, the charts are much more democratic – reflecting what people actually want to listen to rather than what they are told they should listen to.

Of course what people listen to is still influenced by media – whether this is Mass Media like the Cadburys advert which caused the Phil Collins track “In the Air Tonight” to reach number 9 in the download chart or Social Media which managed to get Rage Against the Machine to the Christmas number 1 and displace the “sure thing” X-Factor winner.  In the case of Journey their leap to the top of the chart has been influenced by the new hit E4 show Glee – which interestingly has also released a version that is running neck and neck with the original.

However, it’s not only the music industry which is benefiting from this democratisation of choice.  Waitrose opened up their CSR programme to customer choice about 18 months ago – and in the process have really engaged customers. 

Most corporate CSR programmes feel like little more than an attempt to stem criticism of any perceived obscene profits or sky high executive packages and customers have typically little choice, knowledge or even buy in for the nominated charities or “good causes”.

What Waitrose did instead is throw open their programme to the customers through their Community Matters scheme.  Each customer is given a token at the tills which they then place into one of three bins at the exit, with each bin representing a local charity which the customers have nominated that month.


I was in Waitrose the other day and stood watching customers as they placed tokens into the bins.  Two things struck me.  First, almost every customer placed a token into one of the bins so this scheme has very high participation(or a very successful nudge) even after 18 months.  The second was that many customers actually considered their choice before placing the token into the relevant bin – demonstrating engagement.

In one newly opened store they reported that “In the two months since opening we've had more than 200 customer nominations for charities to support [and] had so much feedback I had to order another box of suggestion slips.”

Although never explicitly stated, CSR programmes are also meant to provide a positive customer feeling which leads to ongoing loyalty – and this is exactly what Waitrose see through this scheme saying “[We’ve] been able to help local causes through [Community Matters], and in return, customers are remaining loyal to Waitrose.”

It’s also driving advocacy with one store reporting that “One school sent a text message to all parents telling them to shop with us and put their token in the school's box, as did a vicar when he mentioned us in his parish sermon.”

All of this for a token which on it’s own is next to worthless.  Each store gives £1,000 to the charities each month, based on the percentage of tokens received so an individual token would be worth less than a penny in real terms – and yet customers take part, interact, engage and advocate.

I’d struggle to be able to tell you what charity my regular supermarket supports or indeed if they support any – but after shopping at Waitrose I know that for that month at least, they’ll be donating some money to a local school playground.

Unlike me, you may not favour 80’s soft rock in the charts, but at least you can try and change it if you like by downloading what you want.  What Waitrose have shown is that you can provide that same level of democracy for customers – distribute over £2m in charitable donations – and reap the rewards of increased engagement at the same time.