Hm, it's six, twenty-six, o-six (or as some would say, ought-six). Isn't something bad supposed to happen today?
I Am No Ben Bernanke
Of course, as under fire as the new Fed Chair has been lately, I'm OK with that. But despite the recent criticisms of Dr. Bernanke, you have to admit, he's probably one hell of an economist. This is one area in which the two of us are quite different, (well, this and that grisly beard he has that extends much too low on his neck); hence, my lack of understanding about why marketing (and, some may add, advertising) is not the savior to the oligopoly. Mr. Bernanke probably understands why, and I think it would be great if he were to read this intern's blogsite (that currently, only 4 people are even aware of and maybe two of those 4 actually read) and explain to me why it is that banks, entertainment companies, oil companies, cable television companies, etc., industries in which very few companies hold very much of the power, do not spend their time, effort, and extra cash on differentiation. Consumers see many of these companies as commodity providers-two words that cause marketers to tremble in their cubes (see entry: Lunch 6-16-06--another 666-type date-there's something weird at stake here). Why would a client choose one company over another in these situations? Take the wireless industry. It's not like a customer is going to be able to get a significantly better price on a wireless phone plan from one wireless company over another. So why not differentiate, say, in the area of service? I like what Citi is doing right now (or at least, what they say they're doing-I have not experienced this personally): one of their most recent advertising campaigns implies that with Citi, you'll actually be able to talk to a human being on a customer service call rather than a computer. (And no, Sprint, having computer-generated customer service recordings with verbal pauses like "OK" and "Well..." does not make it seem any less like I'm having to deal with computerized customer service.) This is one area of differentiation in an oligopoly-the credit card "industry" (is it an industry?) that I believe is effective.
Why do I spend money on gas exclusively at Quiktrip rather than Kum and Go? Well, for one thing, every time I say "Kum and Go," I get this incredibly strong urge to giggle like a school-boy. But the real reason is that Quiktrip has separated itself from the rest of the pack by making the conscious effort to brand its employees (see post 6-23-06). I don't mean that executives heat up metal implements and press them into the skin of everyone they hire. I mean that Quiktrip employees categorically act different from other convenience store employees, they treat their customers differently, and they provide a service that is unique and valued by their customers (which leads into an entirely different discussion about satisfaction vs. loyalty vs. commitment advocacy, but I digress).
So, ologopolists around the world, rather than dissecting the pay scale of your already underpaid staff (read: high turnover rate), couldn't you instead make an investment in differentiation and become a mini-monopoly in your own, newly created, unique market? Dr. Bernanke, can you help me out here?