Stephen Fanning

the first few days after the Brexit announcement were filled with uncertainty – three years on – it is still uncertain – perhaps more so.

themarketingconcept [e-book] identifies ‘situational factors’ as the characteristics of the customer, organisation, market, and the product [COMP]. The notion is that the COMP factors influence consumer behaviour and consequently their behaviour impacts on organisational performance.

COMP factors can be viewed from both a customer and/or organisational perspective. Although, the customer and the organisation will look at the COMP factors through different lenses – both will influence the other.

This article looks at how situational factors can quickly change perceptions and how the situational factors may impact on customer and organisation decision making.

I have visited London more than a dozen times. You would think that I would be comfortable with the arrival procedures; however, I always find arriving in London a little overwhelming. Maybe it’s 24 hours of inactivity on the plane and then the sudden overload of information, or, it could be that lots of little things change between visits, or, the differences between the different airports and multiple terminals. Regardless; the process always seems unfamiliar and a little stressful. After a long walk from the plane – hoping that the luggage will also arrive, then relief at finding the luggage, negotiating several long queues at immigration, descending and ascending elevators, locating the tube station, understanding the different tube options, buying the correct tube ticket, and maneuvering the luggage through doors that always close at the wrong time – you collapse into a seat, if you are really lucky, on a train in the London Underground. There you are, a little flustered, and hoping that you are on the right tube train.  On the Heathrow to London tube you always feel a complete foreigner; surrounded by unflustered people who appear familiar with what to them appears a routine task. It is hard not to speculate when you watch people, perhaps, they are going home, going to the shops, or going to work. One thing is obvious, on this tube over 90% of commuters are holding a mobile phone and over 60% of this group are occupied with some sort of phone task.

As I sit on the tube I reflect how I saw my first mobile phone in London many years before. This was a few years before the Motorola ‘Brick’ arrived and changed everything. In those days you would occasionally spot a business person walking through ‘The City’ with a large battery about 50cm X 30cm X 30cm, an 180cm aerial rising from the battery and located on the top of the battery would be a traditional phone with a push button pad for dialing. It must have weighed between 30 to 40 kgs.  Now 10 years after the first iphone the mobile phone has become central to many peoples lives – the only constant is that we are still complaining about battery life. Before mobile phones the tube was full of people reading newspapers, I remember marveling at how a tied and suited man could read and fold a newspaper with absolute precision –I tried and failed and returned to people watching instead.

The unflustered people around us are not constantly checking that their luggage is safe, they are not counting the stops or planning how to best exit the tube. Adding to our exit dilemma is that on our last few visits to London we have stayed at the Premier Inn at County Hall next to the London Eye, however, on this occasion we chose to say at the Double Tree in Westminster. I am a bit of a fan of Premier Inn hotels, they are clean, the staff are always efficient and friendly, they have simple booking processes and a good breakfast deal. However, this time it was peak season, Wimbledon has just started and the conveniently located Premier Inn County Hall was booked out well in advance.

Therefore, we are not familiar with the exact location of the Double Tree or the best way to get there. The plan is exit the tube at Westminster Station, which, by the way, is one of the most complicated tube stations; you may recall it from the Bond Movie -Skyfall, and then, because of the suitcases, catch an elevator to street level, and then, even though it is only a five minute walk to our hotel, catch a cab. A word of warning it was not quite that simple, to catch an elevator, and I have empathy for mothers with prams and people negotiating wheelchairs, but eventually we find ourselves staring up at Elizabeth Tower which contains the clock of Big Ben; it is raining moderately, however, something is going on that makes London more chaotic than usual. It takes a little while for it all to sink in – there are multiple Police sirens and possibly a thousand police on the streets some in normal uniforms but many in riot gear. What is going on? We assumed a terrorist attack. Anna later commented that the world is now a more unnerving place and people are programmed to assume that the worst has happened.

We wander down Whitehall and hail a cab. Within a minute or two, but at the time seemed longer, we were in the safety of a London Cab. The Cabbie apologises that he has to take a longer route to reach our hotel, ‘because of the police barricades’. We ask what is happening and he announces ‘BREXIT’, before leaving Australia we had heard very little about the British referendum to leave the European Union. The cabbie explains ‘Britain has decided to leave the EU, the outcome was unexpected, and some people are concerned about what this means and are now expressing their concerns; it turns out that what seemed a simple decision, in the cold hard light of day, is a more involved than what was previously thought’.

In my experience, taxi drivers around the world are generally very good. Only now and then do you get a bad taxi driver. I have never had a bad taxi driver in London – in fact, to me, they are part of the overall London experience – sometimes I take a Cab when I want to rather than need to – I just want to enjoy a greater London experience – sure the tube is convenient but the tube experience is a more functional – more of a service than an experience. It is therefore pleasing but not a surprise when we pull up to our hotel that our Cabbie hops out and helps with our luggage; he gives us a little map and then explains that to get to Westimister Tube Station we just walk down the road and turn right, then left when we see the Thames, 300 metres is the Westminster Tube Station. Later we agree money that the taxi fare was money well spent.

We negotiate the front desk of the Double Tree Hotel, present our credit card, collect our plastic access cards and push and pull our luggage into our room – after 14,470 kms the carpet really slows you down in the last 50 metres. We have made it. And for what is probably the 100th time in my life, Anna, makes an affirmation to pack less and travel lighter next time – I just give her that ‘I told you so’ look that has no malice and no belief that she will ever travel light.

We look around our hotel room – if it was an ice cream it would be vanilla – however, no better or no worse than what we expected.

Three minutes later we are back on the streets to explore – after all – why waste time in a vanilla hotel room.  Shall we go left or right? Go right. For some reason we tend to always head in the direction of the city centre.

We are soon in the middle of the protesters, I ask a Policeman to explain what is happening, he said “are you from this planet” I said “I am from planet Australia and just arrived on your planet” he laughed “It’s Brexit – basically everyone is trying to get a spot on TV to present their opinion”. He points in the direction of a group of white tents erected in Abingdon Street Gardens – some tents are two stories all are populated with video cameras pointed at the Houses of Parliament – “the press” he explains. He is a friendly chap and points – see that guy with the white beard he is the Labor leader. I nod. I can see that he is walking quickly, as if he is in a hurry to say something important, and is being followed by a group of overly dressed people, this makes them stand out from the untidy crowd, one of the followers has well coifed hair, a string of pearls, matching pearl earrings, and trying to keep up with the group which is difficult in high heels, all the followers are trying to conceal their excitement at suddenly being important, and all trying to advise the white beard [I have forgotten his name] on what to say.

We wander around and then find a pub, an Irish chap tells me that this could impact on his ‘start up’ – it means that it might restrict his entry into Europe and effect the value of his IPO. He is speaking quickly and rather excitedly and I am having trouble understanding his brogue. So I asked – “what is your unique product proposition? and who is your customer?” Being succinct was all a bit beyond him.  He asked what I did for a job and when I told him I lectured in marketing he announced to his friend that “we need to speak with him a bit more” He offered to buy us a drink but his credit card was rejected and his friend ended up buying the drinks – he blamed BREXIT.

We make our way back to the Double Tree and watch the BREXIT event on TV. Next morning it is still the major news item – and it remains so for the weeks, then months to come. It was only weeks later, when I was in Italy and away from the constant noise of BREXIT, that I realized, that in the first few days, the only people that made any sense were the Cabbie and the Policeman.

Looking at BREXIT from a marketing perspective is quite insightful. Firstly, it has to be said that all of the early concerns that were expressed about BREXIT were understandable.  Most marketing plans begin with a situational analysis; this provides the reader with an overview of the situational factors that were identified, analysed, and considered when the marketing plan was crafted. What is often overlooked is that the situational factors in a marketing plan are the factors that influence the organisation because these are the factors that collectively influence consumer behaviour and market behaviour.  Also most of the decisions made by marketing practitioners are made after considering the situational factors of a particular time – this is second nature to marketing practitioners. When considering the situational factors, marketing practitioners generally have a mental template of four overarching factors that they must analyse – the characteristics of the customer, the characteristics of the organisation, the characteristics of the market, and the characteristics of the product. To make this easier, I refer to them by the acronym COMP, my thinking is that COMP brings the factors together and suggests that they are interdependent.

What had happened with BREXIT was that all of the COMP factors were now unknown – therefore the situation was unpredictable. The known COMP factors of the past had been abruptly and completely disrupted. Businesses who had freely traded across Europe saw uncertainty and therefore increased risk; managers were now trying to predict possible scenarios and to craft new and appropriate business strategies for possible scenarios – one said “we may have to completely reshape our business – we don’t know”. I spoke with several business people in the days following the announcement that had been contacted by European clients trying to understand the situation and seek reassurance – the European clients were just trying to plan for the future. Smaller retailers that I spoke with were also conscious that individual consumers were distracted and felt anxious – clearly, overall consumer confidence had dropped suddenly.

Perhaps, there would not be a negative impact across all sectors, I soon realised that the impact of BREXIT would also vary according to the sector and the product type [comP]. Some sectors where purchases are generally funded from discretionary income would likely be postponed, such as automobiles, homes, furnishings, high cost fashion, jewellery, overseas travel, would suffer an immediate impact as consumers delayed decision-making. Therefore, the buyer decision process for many products had an uncertain dimension; and as individual consumer decision-making influences collective decision-making – this would have an impact on retailers and then the channel partners. However, I also felt that in time the shock of the decision would lessen and consumer confidence would normalise with time.

When we caught up with friends in London they questioned whether the narratives expressed for and against BREXIT were fully accurate and whether the whole referendum process had been highjacked and dominated by emotions rather than accurate data. One person questioned whether the rules regarding misleading advertising had been breached.

Adding to the overall concern were opinions in the media from representatives of other countries, generally they could not speak specifically, however, the general view was that this would impact on macro-economic factors. Marketing practitioners generally have to manage changing situational factors, however, rarely would all the COMP factors be so radially disrupted as they were in the United Kingdom in June 2016[1].

One senior executive stated that non-British staff had sought reassurance that their jobs would be safe, he understood their concern; another senior executive echoed this concern and added “that most people really live day to day and are aware that if they lost their income would within a month be unable to pay their bills – mortgages, or rents or utilities and I think that small and medium sized companies are often in the same situation”. Within days it was clear as we travelled around London and spoke with people that although the consumers ability to purchase had not yet changed their willingness to purchase had changed dramatically.

[1] I explored the GfK Consumer Confidence Index [] at the end of July 2016 and the end of August and the falls were as we would expect an immediate sharp fall in consumer confidence the highest in a quarter of a century and some recovery in the Consumer Confidence Indicator as people became less concerned rather than more confident.

The consumer dream

In this survey [run on two occasions with similar findings] participant were asked whether they agreed, disagreed, or neither agreed or disagreed with this statement:

‘There is a view expressed in the media that many consumers have bought the promise of the ‘consumer dream’ yet feel left out of the dream and that this is leading to a general disenchantment in society.’

abbey rd

the most photographed crossing in the world

Visiting the Abbey Rd cross walk had been on my bucket list for a very long time, however, on my many visits to London I just forgot only to remeber as I was leaving – strange.  When I was about 15-16 years old, the songs from the Beatles and the Abbey Road album were popular, and there was a time when we would gather and listen to the album over and over again.

The fact was that we listened to the Beatles songs so much that for a long time I didn’t even play their music. Then with the passing of time I began to enjoy the Beatles music again, but in a nostalgic way, when I hear some of the songs I remember events, experiences and sometimes see the faces of good friends and people I know –  really nice people that somehow I have lost touch with.

When planning this particular trip I thought, it is about time I went to Abbey Road .

I had an idea that it would be nice if I brought my old vinyl Abbey Road album with me. I know this is a bit unusual. A friend said I was making a ‘pilgrimage’ and was like a Catholic who would take their rosary beads with them to get them ‘blessed’. I reasoned that the album hadn’t seen much action in the last 40 years anyway, I no longer have a vinyl record player and never will – although I know a few people who still hang onto the tradition of playing vinyl records.

Bringing the album could have been a nice little ‘money spinner’ as a number of people asked if they could borrow it to take a selfie and/or a photo. When they saw the age some asked if it a first edition?

I lingered at the crossing mainly observing – people came and went, some people who were there when we arrived were still there when we left. From a consumer behaviour perspective it was extremely interesting talking to the visitors; finding out where people had travelled from and why.

There was an Australian family, mum, dad and children in their teens, the children going through the motions to please their dad. The dad trying to pass on his excitement – but it wasn’t cutting through. He told me their next stop was Lord’s Cricket ground – I asked the son if he liked cricket and he said ‘not particularly’.

Another group, were in late teens, on vacation from the US, they were music students, a couple of them had Beatle T-shirt – it was like a flashback to the sixties.

There were four music ‘tragics’ in their early twenties – who were playing Beatles songs; it surprised me that they would see the Beatles as ‘their’ music – one of them walked across the crosswalk in bare feet. There were also people who were there simply because they were travelling with someone and it meant something to the person they were travelling with and they got into it to varying degrees.

There was an overexcited Spanish speaking man in his 50s, whose poor partner had to take what seemed like a thousand photos on his iphone and he kept coming back and checking to see if she had it just right and then he would try again and again and again – often disrupting the traffic and other visitor photographs – he was totally self-absorbed. I guess for the delivery-drivers on tight schedules the Abbey Road crossing could be a delay and somewhere to be avoided – what could be sacred to some could be profane to others.

Some grandparents from Canada were telling their families about what the Beatles meant to them, and about the Beatles phenomenon. The family all got into it; the grandson and granddaughter took photos with my album, their father thanked me, and when I placed my album on the crossing for a photo the grandchildren joined in and took some photos of it – they thought it cool – the event was posted on social media at the speed of light and with an enthusiasm that made their grandfather so happy – I can still see his face with the yellow light of the crossing behind him.

I visited the Abbey Road studio shop but it was more out of curiosity than to purchase something – really – I wanted to walk down a path that the Beatles had once walked down – I read that Abbey Road was the last time the Beatles recorded together as one group.

We tend to think of sacred sites as religious sites – to many the crossing at Abbey Road is sacred – I am glad I went and paid homage. The sun came out [there is a song there] and I walked to the St John’s Wood tube station.

This is a very pleasant area of London and the spring gardens were looking their best.


[portobello road]

film inspired tourism creates attention, interest, desire, and action

After visiting the Abbey Road crosswalk we had some time on our hands and decided to visit Portobello Road, which runs through Notting Hill. We caught the tube to Notting Hill Gate tube station. If Abbey Road was more for me then this exploration of shops in Portobello Road was more for Anna. Some may be familiar with Portobello Road from Disney’s Bedknob and Broomsticks movie, released in 1971; it is a perennial favourite of children you may even know the lyrics … Portobello Road, Portobello Road, Street where the riches of ages are stowed, anything and everything a chap can unload, is sold off the barrow in Portobello road. You’ll find what you want in the Portobello road.

We had a coffee and a cake at the Farm Girl Café and then descended down the hill to explore the Portobello Road shops and markets. We wandered through Alice’s antique shop looked at the signs, and crockery, and stuff, discovered a number of well presented stores.

Notting Hill is also the name of a romantic comedy featuring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. In the movie, released in 1999, Anna Scott [Julie Roberts] is a film star and enters William Thacker’s [Hugh Grant] travel bookstore, she is recognised by William’s off-sider and Hugh Grant does that ‘trademark’ being awkward with silly faces, a little stuttering, nevertheless, with perfect diction. Later they bump into each other, William spills coffee over her, she goes to his flat to get cleaned up [as superstars do], later rings him and asks him to meet her at The Ritz …. Oh, I forgot to mention that that the movie also features a hapless character named  ‘Spike’ [Rhys Ifans] the flatmate who appears on William’s doorstep in his briefs only to be photographed by the paparazzi [who have tracked Anna Scott to William’s flat].

After a little exploring we found the book store that was the inspiration for the Travel Book Co [the bookstore in the movie]. It is a great bookstore and it was easy to see why it was selected. We chatted to the staff who were delightful. They patiently answered my questions. Have you noticed how people who work in bookstore are, generally, very pleasant? We purchased a few postcards. They told us about where we should visit and then gave us directions to the famous blue door of William’s flat. They mentioned that many of the visitors to their bookstore were inspired by the movie and that even after all this time there many references to the movie in Google, which, they mentioned ‘coincidentally commenced in September 1998 around the same time as the movie’. We were not the only film tourists that day nor the only ones that had a selfie in front of the blue door. A little later were asked directions to the Travel Book Co and happily chatted and shared stories.

As we traveled it became apparent that film inspired tourism influences the traveler’s decision making process far more than I initially realised.

We wandered through streets, noticed the number of people, of many ages, who were taking advantage of the weather and riding bicycles to work or to the shops. A little later we found a great ice cream shop, coincidently another Morelli’s [there was another at Covent Gardens], we had an interesting chat with a chap from Zambabwe – he said that Morelli’s has been recognised as the best ice-cream in the world; with 5 generations of ice-cream makers, and was ‘authentic Italian ice-cream’. As a marketer, and an interest in personal selling, I always find it a pleasure to meet a salesperson so passionate about their products, brands, and organisation. Needless to say, we ended up having an ice-cream, and, yes it was most enjoyable. As I enjoy my ice-cream in Portobello Road, I am aware of the importance of the people component of a product and the importance of the service provider’s disposition. From a marketing perspective ‘disposition’ could be thought of as the functional, social, emotional, and spiritual qualities that naturally influence a service provider’s way of thinking, feeling, and acting during a service encounter. Creating a marketing culture requires a great deal of effort.

We then caught a cab and had a quick look at Little Venice, put in on our list for the next time we visit London and went back to our hotel to get read for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Given that this was our last night in London, and after a day of sightseeing, we were quite hungry, we went to The Regency Café. It was still busy but less busy for diner than breakfast, we met Claudia’s husband Alistair, and had a nice chat. Then down into the underground and a tube to Covent Gardens and a fifteen minute walk to the theatre. The musical was better than we expected and we were grateful to the Norfolk couple we met outside the Ritz London.

Within themarketingconcept [e-book]  the metaphor of business as theatre is described and this was certainly apparent after a day in Notting Hill and then the musical.  After the show we walked down to Trafalgar Square, hoping to catch a cab – but I guess we didn’t try to hard and we soon found ourselves taking a long walk back to our Hotel and taking in some of the key sites of London. It had been a long day and by the time we arrived back at our hotel my feet were aching

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