Sunday 12 December 2010

Did the Grinch steal Christmas (TV)?


I miss the Christmas movie.

As a child, when we only had three TV channels, no VHS and single screen cinemas, the Christmas movie was for many people the first time the movie had been seen.

We'd cherish the Radio Times to see what was on and then plan ahead to watch all the great movies.

How times have changed.

I now have IPTV on 3 different boxes, I can choose to watch a film on demand through BT, Sony or LoveFilm. Invariably I've already seen it at our 10 screen cinema, purchased it on DVD or loaded it onto my iPad.

I watch more films, but they don't have the same special magic they used to. I still buy the Radio Times, but that's largely because it's the Christmas thing to do - I have an EPG on my TV and TV Guide on my iPad.

The Grinch didn't really steal Christmas TV - instead it was our desire to have everything now at the touch of a button, and the medias desire to supply it.

I'm not saying any of this is a bad thing. We've essentially traded the Christmas Movie that was created through scarcity for the everyday convenience of entertainment on demand.

What's interesting though is how this plethora of choice for something we really wanted and valued can actually result in us valuing it less.

Seth Godin discussed this in a recent blog entitled The inevitable decline due to clutter where he discussed the trend within digital to just keep giving consumers more of everything - more messages, more offers - because essentially it's free. However he points out that:-

Once you overload the user, you train them not to pay attention. More clutter isn't free. In fact, more clutter is a permanent shift, a desensitization to all the information, not just the last bit.

commsfreq.gifWe saw exactly this effect in some research we carried out a couple of years back. When looking at communications within retail, there was a increase in relationship strength as communications increased - suggesting that building a dialogue with customers is a positive thing to do.

However this quickly turned into a decrease as these communications became too frequent. Customers were tuning out of the communications as they got overloaded and at the same time, were tuning out of the brand.

If you want to keep customers coming back, want to keep them interested, then you need to keep things special.

  • Change the experience - Mix things up a little. Email is great and it's cheap, but finding other ways to communicate, even if it's just an occasional quality DM piece can really cut through.
  • Keep it relevant - It's better to send nothing than to send something irrelevant. If a customer consistently finds nothing of value in your communications they will simply cease to value them.
  • Facilitate, don't just communicate - As the clutter increases, people shut down the overload and start to look internally to friends for opinion. Be part of that conversation.

A great example of someone doing this currently is Coca-Cola. They have always "owned" Christmas, having Santa Claus in their advertising since the 1930's, but there is always a risk that people become "desensitised" to it.

This year however they have had their Coca Cola Truck touring Europe and this has managed to do all three things.

It has changed the experience, bringing the advertising to life. It has kept it relevant, doing something we'd expect from Coke at a time of year when we want it. Most importantly though, it has facilitated the conversation, with friends snapping pictures of the truck locally and posting them to Facebook (here's one a friend of mine took)


Having driven past it on the motorway, there is something almost magical about seeing it in real life - even if it is just a truck. I may have been even more excited than my kids - but it's nice that some things are still special.

Grinch image by Mykl Roventine (Flickr)