Marketing Viewpoint by Ruth Winett
A Lesson from Winston Churchill
In the movie the Darkest Hour, Winston Churchill takes his first ever Tube ride in order to talk with ordinary citizens. He asks Tube riders, "Should England negotiate with Adolf Hitler, or should England fight Germany --to the end?" The Tube riders respond, "Never! Never! Never capitulate." Reporting their response to Parliament, Churchill persuades his own Conservative Party, as well as former Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and his supporters, to vote to fight Germany without first negotiating.
Collecting and analyzing military data was important for the War Cabinet and for Churchill. They needed to know how many troops, ships, and planes Germany and England had. Still, Churchill knew that besides collecting data, he also had to take the temperature of the populace. As an unpopular war will probably fail, he needed to know if he had popular support for going to war without negotiating first.
Actor Gary Oldham portrays Churchill in the Darkest Hour as cantankerous, but wily. He turns on the charm and asks the Tube riders for their names. He then addresses them individually by name, establishing a brief one-on-one relationship. Later he refers to them individually when speaking to Parliament. If Churchill's speech had been broadcast, imagine what these commoners would have felt hearing their names on the radio.
Whether real or imagined, these dramatic scenes from a World War II movie remind us that you can accumulate a lot of data, but if you don't understand your constituency on a deeper level, you are operating your business in a vacuum. Your products might be faster, better, or cheaper than your competitors' products, but if they don't suit your customers' needs, and if they don't address real issues that customers encounter, your products probably won't succeed.
Talk to your customers, observe them in action, and become familiar with their situations, their problems, and also their feelings. You may have to get outside your comfort zone as did the privileged Churchill who had to learn how to pay for a ticket and navigate the Tube.
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