Stop the Stupid Stuff®

Stop the Stupid StuffAmerican business is in trouble. Decisions are being made that are contrary to both good business sense and building consumer loyalty.

Most organizations’ marketing is usually an exercise in figuring out what to do – what promotion, what advertisement, what strategic plan, what THING that will get current or potential customers to spend a few dollars more with your business, store, hotel, restaurant, airline, park, golf course, etc.

I’m suggesting the notion opposite of doing something. That is, the art of finding and deciding what things to stop doing. To Stop Doing the Stupid Stuff.

Now, I want to make one thing perfectly clear: Stop Doing the Stupid Stuff is not some cost-cutting methodology. Nor is it a system for the analysis and elimination of the ineffective use of marketing dollars.

Rather, Stop Doing the Stupid Stuff means finding out what annoys, frustrates, inconveniences, or confuses your customers – and stopping it. It’s about learning the things that, at their worst, keeps customer from spending their money with you – and stopping them from ever happening again.

Northwest Airlines, American Airlines and other carriers now want to charge to speak to a “live agent.” That’s Stupid Stuff in two ways. First, they’ve chosen to penalize customers who want to continue getting what they’ve always gotten – one-on-one attention.

Worse, they’ve done it by saying they will charge more for this previously standard level of service. How many customers will they lose because they decided to charge more for talking to a live agent, instead of offering a discount for booking on the Internet?

I know of at least one.

Other major airlines are facing bankruptcy. Yet to a one, none of them is making the effort to provide more customer service or more competitive policies. Instead, they seem to be making their cabins more uncomfortable and looking for new ways to cut costs and add charges, from eliminating in-flight meals to fuel surcharges.

Is it any wonder the small airlines are now the industry leaders?

There are more subtle, but no less damaging, stupid things businesses need to stop doing.

Take, for example, the new Wheaties boxes. General Mills’ Breakfast of Champions recently announced the new Wheaties boxes with photos of the U.S. Olympic Gold medalists. Except that one was missing: Paul Hamm. Why? Here is their response to my inquiry:

“Thank you for contacting General Mills regarding your interest in seeing the Paul Hamm honored on a Wheaties package.

Selecting a Wheaties Champion has never been an easy task, especially when we have witnessed so many outstanding performances by so many championship athletes. But it simply isn’t possible to honor every champion on the Wheaties box.

We applaud Mr. Hamm’s Gold medal-winning achievement. We know he will have continued success. We are also very proud to honor Michael Phelps, Carly Patterson and Justin Gatlin as Wheaties champions.

As you might guess, we receive many requests from consumers asking us to feature a favorite athlete on a Wheaties package. Most are exceptional athletes and would represent Wheaties very well. But it is simply not possible to honor them all. I will ensure that your comments are shared with the Wheaties brand group.

Was there an answer there? They don’t have enough boxes to honor all the Gold medalists, so they leave off the first U.S. man to win the Olympics all-around gymnastics championship? In one of the sport’s greatest comebacks? His return from a disastrous fall to a near-perfect high-bar routine won near-universal praise, for most us defining the word ‘champion.'”

But there was controversy. The medal was disputed, but not because of anything Paul Hamm did or did not do. And the Olympic Committee refused to change the standings. Still, General Mills decided to do the “safe” thing. But by being safe and leaving out Paul Hamm, Wheaties is alienating the millions of customers who see Paul Hamm not as controversial, but as a hero, and losing customers in the process Now, that’s Stupid Stuff.

So start stopping!