Making the humdrum remarkable

Virgin Trains put a smile on my face today. More specifically it was Damian, the train manager on the 15.35 to Euston who raised a smile on most people’s faces on what might otherwise have been a rather dreary commute.

His intercom announcement was Oscar-worthy – starting out with ‘Hello’ in ten different languages, he went on to explain how the buffet offered a range of lip-smacking snacks and thirst-quenching beverages and that they accepted payment in the form of cash, credit card, debit card and…cauliflowers!

I watched the other commuters’ faces down the aisle, a mixture of bemusement and amusement, but I thought it was fabulous.

It reminded me of my marketing hero Seth Godin and the central message of his seminal book The Purple Cow – to be remarkable. In his opinion, instead of spending our marketing budget pushing an average product under people’s noses we should invest time and money in making our product more remarkable – literally, worth talking about. That creates a buzz which essentially does our marketing for us.

Our Virgin friend made the commute to London that little bit more remarkable. This is something they encourage at Southwest Airlines too, as demonstrated by this treatment of the pre-flight safety announcement.

The lovely story of Johnny the Bagger also springs to mind. This young man, employed by an American supermarket to ‘bag’ the groceries of shoppers, didn’t let his learning difficulties prevent him from sharing little nuggets of wisdom with his colleagues, friends and family. But when his father typed out these philosophical musings on to strips of card, Johnny secretly dropped them into the customers’ bags, ready for them to read at home. Before long, the supermarket manager noticed an ever-growing queue for Johnny’s check-out aisle as shoppers sought out their regular fix of wisdom!

I don’t know whether word will reach Mr Branson about Damian’s bravura performance on the London train, or indeed whether anyone tests out the cauliflower currency at the kiosk. I only know that it made a few people happy and was self-evidently remark-able!

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