I`ve always considered myself as having quite a critical eye for the world I live in, but it`s amazing how many new things I can see (or see more clearly) since I started studying Business. And I`m only four blocks in.
Take, for example, the concept of people branding, which is hiring staff for their ability to help building and maintaining an image as well as doing the job description. Has anyone read Restaurant Babylon (can recommend the whole series!!)? This guy openly admits that, in order to get a bar job with him, you have to be female, young and sexy. He wants punters to come not just for the food and drink, but also for the eye candy. And while I`m not saying that`s fair, I can see his point. Most places are selling the same drinks, and many are serving similar foods, so you have to pull all strings to differentiate yourself from the competition. I`ve insured my car with a company who takes pride in being local, and I only ever spoke to people with a broad Scottish dialect. In an investment bank who caters for a well heeled middle class however, this dialect may be considered “common” and hence not employable. My course work featured a piece about a coffee shop chain who likes to hire young Italians for their bars. It doesn`t sound right, however, when I go for an Italian meal, deep down, I like to be served by Italians, or when I go for a Chinese, by Chinese. I just assumed that it was all family businesses rather than staff hired for their looks.
Most of my observations relate to marketing, for example, price differentiation – where different people pay different prices for the same thing. My course cites student discounts or peak time surcharges, and the media have picked up on single use razors, which seem inappropriately pricier for women than men.
Here is another one: I work in a care home for the elderly. We have a visiting hairdresser who is herself over 60 and has a speech impairment. This lady comes once a week to work in an adequately sized and furnished salon in the main corridor and charges £6.oo to females and £4.oo to males. Comparing this to what I pay makes me want to weep, but I can now appreciate that I`m getting an awful lot more for my money. Our residents probably don`t care much about stylish surroundings, the chat and look of their stylist (see people branding above), opportunity to buy products and have your nails done in the same place, or the prestige of being seen to walk in and out of this swanky place. I`d love to say neither do I, but granted, when I get my hair done, it`s a holistic feelgood experience rather than just seeing to a necessity. We`re talking not just about price differentiation (discount for the elderly) but also fringe benefits (the more attractive surrounding in which I receive my service).
Or take filling stations. They were named in either my course work or some other book: Everybody hates taking petrol. You have to interrupt your journey and add time to it, they are seen as tax collectors for the state, and you don`t even get anything for your money other than protection from the inconvenience of running out of petrol or having to stop using your car. Recognising that they are unpopular, filling stations have, first slowly, started selling other items, too, in order to make the experience more bearable by attaching a use (buying necessities) or pleasure (buying a bar of chocolate) to it. Just the other day, I found this concept working perfectly on myself: I didn`t actually need petrol, but I needed bread and milk and didn`t want to do the detour. A filling station featuring a minimarket however was on my route, so I stopped there, bought what I needed and, because it was now convenient, I also filled up on petrol again (here rather than elsewhere) and saved myself doing so again for that bit longer.It felt good having done three necessary things so quickly and conveniently, and because my tank was still half full, it didn`t even cost much – going to this petrol station had become a feelgood experience.
I really enjoy what this course is doing for me in addition to teaching me skills for my career, and felt a spontaneous need to share this morning. 🙂