Faking It Just Ain't Right.
By Yeoh Siew Hoon
Wednesday, 6th February 2008
Yeoh Siew Hoon learns that everyone craves the genuine article these days – if only they knew what it is they want-

I heard a branding guru speak at a conference the other day. He was telling us about The Soul of The New Consumer.

Karthik Siva, the man who gave us the Global Brand Forum, was sharing key findings from a new global consumer survey in which they interviewed 250,000 people (supposedly like you and me) around the world.

The most important thing you need to know is that the new consumer is on "The Quest for Authenticity".

It seems we are fed up with fake things – fake products, contrived experiences, phony service, smooth salesmen, superficial relationships, clichéd holidays, processed food, fabricated news and artificial plants, even artificial nails.

Well, I could add some more to the list, I suppose. I once stayed at one of those urban chic hotels in Edinburgh and one of the things I look forward to when I am in countries know for their dairy produce is full-cream real milk for breakfast.

I found at this place they only served skimmed milk. When I asked for full cream milk, the waiter looked me up and down as though to ask, "Are you sure, lady?"

I insisted, he resisted. But in the end the customer is always right even when she is wrong.

Said Karthik, "In a world of manufaketure, authenticity is priceless."

Problem, I guess, is authenticity is relative. A=MC Squared. What is authentic to some may not be authentic to others.

Nevertheless, I'd like to see banks get more authentic. I'd like them to actually address me by name instead of writing, "Dear Valued Customer". I'd also like them to stop calling me to tell me, "We've got a really good deal for you", when what they really mean is, "We've come up with a great way for you to spend money you don't have so we can make more money off you."

Talking of money, Karthik also said the survey found there were basically two types of people in the world – the first group spend all the time trying to make money and the second spend all their money trying to find time.

To me, it sounds like a new spin on an old tune – the old Eagles song, to be exact where in "Take It To The Limit", Don Henley and the boys sing, "You can spend all your time making money, You can spend all your love making time …"

Money, time, love – ah, the eternal pursuits of man and womankind.

Anyway, here's the hard honest truth about the new customer. No matter what you do, they are perennially dissatisfied.

Says Karthik, "Customers are more satisfied today but they complain more. They seek personal service but resent intrusion – the waiter is confused. Consumers are wealthier but they insist on value for money. They don't act their age, sex or class. Stereotypes don't work anymore."

And that's the authentic truth.

Yeoh Siew Hoon, one of Asia's most respected travel editors and commentators, writes a regular column on news, trends and issues in the hospitality industry for 4Hoteliers.com.

Siew Hoon, who has covered the tourism industry in Asia/Pacific for the past 20 years, runs SHY Ventures Pte Ltd. Her other writings can be found at www.thetransitcafe.com . Get your weekly cuppa of news, gossip, humour and opinion at the cafe for travel insiders.
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