The Consumer’s Frame of Reference
This is a story of Know Thy Consumer…
Several years ago, I was part of a national deployment for a Leadership Development program at a large food & beverage manufacturer. I was pregnant at the time and had to travel cross-country to deliver the program, so I packed more durable, healthy snacks to fill the hours in between meals. My physique made my pregnancy obvious – my notable roundness was not the result of one too many beers.
Once the participants were actively engaged in table discussion exercises, I pulled out one of my snacks to munch on. It was Pirate’s Booty, a baked corn puffed snack. I rounded the tables to listen in on snippets of the conversation, as I ate my bag of “Booty.” One male employee looked at my bag and flatly said, “You can’t eat that here.” I noticed a female employee at his table make what looked to be a condemning stare, and then another female employee had a sympathetic tone when she spoke to her colleague, “She’s pregnant.” “It doesn’t matter,” he countered; then turning back to me, “Haven’t you heard about the guy at Coke who got fired for drinking a Pepsi at work?” “Yes,” I answered, “I understand that. However, those two products are comparable. Your company does not offer a healthy snack in a bag.” Another woman joined what was becoming a fracas, “Leave her alone.” He resisted and became more defiant and oppositional, with the “glaring woman” joining his side, “She can’t walk around our hallways with that bag in her hand!” Since I am aware that intent does not equal impact and my job is to listen, this gave me an idea.
I walked my fat belly back to the closest company kitchenette, where they had a full display of various bagged chips, free for the taking. I took one that was of comparable size to my Booty, dumped the contents into the trash, filled the empty bag with my Booty, and tossed the Pirate’s Booty bag into the trash. I returned to making the rounds at my tables to alert the participants quietly that they had five minutes or so to wrap up. I continued to finish the contents of my new bag, without hiding what I was eating.
Once I returned to the table in mention, the same fellow who was aggressively, and somewhat offensively, loyal to his company brand, looked straight at my bag with a scowl that quickly turned to a look of surprise and then apparent ridicule. He called out to a woman at the end of his table, “Look! She wants a healthy snack, and now she’s eating the highest fat content and cholesterol snack we have!” I let it rest.
Corporate Opportunity or Disconnect?
My initial interpretation was that this executive could not properly understand my Frame of Reference, i.e. life from my point of view. He was seemingly more concerned about what is “correct” behavior (ostensibly, APPEARANCES) within his company, which is his organizational culture and identity. And, needless to mention, has never had to nourish a growing child within his body. Perhaps it was while I was in the kitchen (changing the branding; keeping the content) that one of his colleagues explained to him that I was focused more on what was on the INSIDE (i.e. my growing child), and had no intent to disrespect him, his point of view, or the company. Interpretation and speculation aside, his words indicated that while he definitively HEARD what my viewpoint was, he still only SAW what he wanted to see (i.e. HIS frame of reference…the seller). This is Corporate Myopia.
When do you choose to stop looking at what matters? What matters? For whom exactly does it matter?
Mind over Matter
What does your natural reaction to viewing an entirely novel scenario indicate about how you show up, how you may be viewed, and how you can create a new or more powerful product? Let’s take a look, shall we?
Many people choose to look at the images below as fun or entertaining. While it may be intriguing to see if others see the same image(s) as you, what is critical to observe are the following:
- What do you notice?
- What do you notice about what you notice?
- How is this applicable to how you move forward at work and in life?
Some people adamantly insist that they are correct; and, they are correct…it’s just: What ELSE is “correct”? Others retire in frustration and may demand to hear what they are missing…with such a simple exercise, the question is: What is bubbling under that frustration of not having a matching perception?…Is life a competition? Some are eager to help others, and some refuse assistance…question yourself for each of your natural reactions. None of them are wrong, per se; they are indicators of how life has shaped you to be who you are: a perfect product of your culture.
While your product may be perfect for you and others, it may be ineffective and unsuitable for some. How marketable is your brand? What opportunities exist for you to maximize profitability? Market power increases when you understand the consumer’s frame of reference.
Everybody’s a customer.
Matey Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a bootylicious Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, author, cultural analyst, coach, speaker, and facilitator. CorporateLookingGlass.com.
©Rossina Gil, 2014
Posted on March 2, 2014, in Uncategorized and tagged Bootylicious, Corporate Myopia, Diversity & Pregnancy, Frame of Reference, Know Thy Consumer, Pirate's Booty. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.