During the last few months, the Archers has seemed like an everyday story of country marketing folk. It seems like there isn’t a problem that can’t be solved by social networking, viral this or rebranding that. But despite the continued efforts of the continually odious Tom, and Pip’s celebrity sheep, the best brand practice for SMEs has been shown by serial husband-snatcher, publican Jolene Perks.
In Tuesday’s episode, we heard Jolene ban the display of a poster advertising the online petition against the megadairy. Jolene suggested ways in which Ruth could raise awareness for the petition elsewhere but she didn’t want the Bull to be seen as taking sides as that’s where the issue should be debated.
It’s entirely right that brands hold have personality. And that they should be able to take a view on matters that concern them. The bookshop in Hadleigh protesting against the proposed Tesco is fair enough. Too often, though, SME owners decide to go on a crusade which is nothing to do with their business. There’s a bookshop in a southern seaside town displaying anti-immigration press cuttings, about the evils of funny-sounding foreigners. It may have gained some custom because of it – people like to buy from people with whom they agree – but I wonder how many people really do think, let’s buy more books from this person for she’s a racist like me? In the meantime, she lost my custom.
In Battlesbridge, Essex, you can go antiquing in an old granary. The top floor is a cafe, where you can sip your coffee looking out across the marshlands. It’s a great view, but your eye is caught by literally hundreds of postcards, on every wall and beam, railing against the evils of the Euro. Now I have always felt that in economic terms the Euro is a terrible idea but this display is more about further funny-sounding foreigners, and indicates too much anger for my liking. A place for contemplation, serenity and guilt about the cost of antiquing becomes a place of shouty politics, where even someone who agrees with argument is repelled. You feel the owner is a bit obsessed – what can it be like to see this stuff all day every day – and you fear for the quality of their fare, which is in fact pretty average. Put your efforts into better coffee, you want to advise. But you wouldn’t actually advise it. Bit too dangerous.
Jolene understands what her pub offers and what it means to her customers. As a result, her decisions can be truly authentic. A word I would never use to describe the miserable wretch Tom.