When brands treat customers like one big customer

An avatar of the author

Doug Kessler

18. 12. 2014 | 3 min read

When brands treat customers like one big customer

3 mins left

Get the newsletter

Raw, unfiltered, too-hot-for-Wordpress B2B marketing insights, straight to your inbox, every month.

I think I’m too old to go to huge music festivals any more.

I like the small ones but the big ones make me feel like a wildebeest. I don’t like being in a big crowd — especially when the big crowd is tripping its collective brain out and I’m stone cold sober.

I get all nitpicky. A nitpicky wildebeest. Everything starts bothering me.

And one of the things that REALLY bothers me is when the lead singer of whatever act is on stage addresses the whole crowd as if it were one big person.

Like when they say, “Thank you Reading!” or “I love you Glastonbury!”.

And we’re supposed to go “Woo!” as if to say, “Yes! I am Reading and I rock!”

Only I’m NOT Reading. I live in London. And I DON’T rock. If anything, I roll. (Okay, let’s face it,  I neither rock nor roll).

What is it that offends me about being lumped in with a hundred thousand drooling, puking, hallucinating, teenagers?

It’s only partly that I’m not any of the above.

It’s mostly because I don’t FEEL like Reading. I feel like me.

I don’t want to be thought of as a subset of a horde. I want to be thought of as Doug.

And brands make this mistake all the time.

Just this morning, I pulled out a pack of bagels and discovered they no longer slice them for you.

No biggie. I kind of like slicing bagels myself. It’s like Russian roulette but with a knife and much more exciting: can I make two perfect halves or will I end up with a meaty chunky half (my slice) and a weedy sliver (my wife’s)? At my age this is life on the (serrated) edge.

But before I could hand-crank my right eyebrow back down to its resting position, I spotted this explanation on the bagel pack:

New York Bagels ain

Now I like this pack copy. I think it’s a cool way of announcing a fairly profound product change (profundity is of course a relative thing and we are talking about a bagel).

I hate when brands snivel and crawl about a change in product or packaging to prove to me that they didn’t do it lightly (“After much consideration and consultation, we have decided to replace the Sun Maid Raisin girl with Gary Vaynerchuk. We understand the consternation this may cause but firmly believe it is in the best interests of all grape-based snackfood lovers everywhere” type thing).

It’s cool to just put it out there, “We sliced, you dissed, we stopped.”

What I resent is the ‘You’ part.

Because I didn’t object to their slicing my bagels. Even if I hated having my bagels sliced I very much doubt I would have written to them or tweeted my dissatisfaction. It’s a goddamn bagel. In a bag. With other bagels.

Having designed and executed a scientifically-flawed survey of bagel lovers (three folks on Twitter), I estimate that very nearly half of the bagel-eating population prefer to have their bagels sliced and the other very-nearly-half don’t.

This is far from unanimity.

This falls way short of a bagel mandate.

It’s like the recent Scottish Devolution referendum. The Tories love saying, “Scotland has spoken: they want to stay in the UK! End of story.”

Well, not really. Scotland has spoken and almost half want to leave the union.

If you approach every Scot and say, “We gave you an out, you didn’t like it, so we ain’t giving you an out no more!” almost half of them would object.

Same with me and every brand that says, “We did this for you.”

No you didn’t.

You did this for this big blobby mass you call customers.

That’s your right.

Just don’t lump me in with all those lonely people who write in to bagel companies.

And don’t call me Reading.




Published in:

  • advertising

  • copywriting

  • persuasion

Enjoyed this article?
Take part in the discussion

Opt into our crap

We will send the latest stuff written just for B2B content marketers exactly like you. Sound good?

illustration of a an envolope

Related blog/content

How to break free from the benchmark trap

If you’re turning to industry benchmarks to set your performance goals – make sure you’re asking these two questions.

Agustin Rejon | 06. 09. 2023


  1. Howard

    January 2nd, 2015

    Quite. A personal hate of mine is when advertisers try to appropriate my identity by using “my” or “you” in the product or website name. Makes me want to scream at them – you don’t speak for me! You’ve never even me me! Lazy, lazy branding, and counter-productive too.

  2. Howard

    January 2nd, 2015

    ( never even *met me )

Leave a comment/reply

Hey look: a teeny-tiny cookie request. Would you mind? It’d help us out. Click here to read our privacy policy to see why. Or hit “customize” if you’re fancy like that.