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Say what you mean and mean what you say in business…
Writes Matt Wonnacott, founder of Ennovamark - a new agency created to help aircare, hygiene and washroom technology brands and businesses develop effective innovations and marketing strategies. Matt’s two decades of experience in the industry, enables him to support clients with outstanding and truly innovative ideas - both for branding and products.
“Make good of your word… one of the most important life lessons I was taught and something I hang my hat on. Yet recently, has talk become ‘cheap' in business and culture?
Meaning what you say may sound like an easy thing to do, but for businesses, it can be a problem keeping promises. Saying what you mean, on the other hand, can often be even more difficult as it means and shows your true intentions.
I wanted to talk about this topic as it is very timely because of three things that happened this week - the start of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the FTX failure and the Pepsi 'Harrier Jet' story that was published on Netflix.
FIFA World Cup - inclusive or still 'exclusive'?
The human rights issues in the host country, Qatar, have been rightly covered by many but something else about 'saying what you mean' and 'meaning what you say' struck a chord with me. So much, that I wrote about it on my LinkedIn account.
Evidently in the run up to the competition, we have seen FIFA itself, along with Football Associations, media outlets, players, pundits and sponsors, talking about how we, in general world culture, should be more 'inclusive'. The BBC in the UK, put on a show where paid celebrities 'lectured' us on the shortcomings of Qatar instead of showing the opening ceremony. We then had the England manager, Gareth Southgate and the FA supposedly 'adamant' that the captain, Harry Kane, would wear a rainbow armband during matches. The rainbow armband is intended to show support to the LGBTQ community and supports inclusivity for all (something FIFA has also tried to portray this World Cup as being).
It was ironic therefore, that the FA, the England manager and the England captain, didn't actually follow through with their stance after FIFA threatened them with 'sanctions' - if you can call them that. In effect, empty words from all involved, which makes anyone involved in the actual inclusivity movement on a regular basis, feeling nothing but empty.
Speaking of other f words...
What the actual FTX?
Corporate failure? Regulatory failure? Or a just a moral failure at the core? The founder famously promised to keep just 1% of earnings and give away the rest - maybe one of the reasons why it was so heavily publicised. Launched by Bankman-Fried when he was 28, within three years, FTX became one of the largest crypto exchanges with a 'modest'(!) valuation of $32 billion. As we have seen, the FTX cryptocurrency exchange platform, has completely unravelled as a business.
A new CEO stepped in this week to restructure it, calling the FTX collapse 'the largest corporate failure in American history'. It doesn't stop there. This was a global exchange that touched people from around the world. Like with the FIFA World Cup, celebrities got on board and advertised the platform heavily - these such celebrities, unlike those at The World Cup, are now being sued by investors citing 'deceit' as a cause of the lawsuits.
Pepsi - the Harrier Jet ad that didn't go down well
Talk about opening up a can of worms (not coke)! The Leonard v. Pepsico case is now in the history books (well, actually, law books). Netflix, this week, highlighted the story on its platform with the surprisingly addictive series named 'Pepsi, Where's My Jet?'.
The plaintiff in the case, John Leonard, counter-sued PepsiCo (after being sued himself) in an unsuccessful effort to force the company to redeem 7,000,000 Pepsi Points (which cost Leonard $700,000) for a Harrier jet. Leonard did not collect 7,000,000 Pepsi Points through the purchase of Pepsi products, but instead sent a certified cheque (check) for $700,008.50, as permitted by the contest rules.
In the 1995 TV advert run by Pepsi, it clearly stated that if somebody collected 7,000,000 Pepsi Points, it would get them a Harrier Jet. However ridiculous the advert was, it came down to a simple, moral judgement for the viewer. This was heavily influenced by - in my mind coming from a marketing background - the fact that there was no disclaimer shown on the US advert at any point of the clip (a disclaimer limits somebody's or an entity's liability).
At a deposition hearing, Leonard was offered by lawyers a settlement figure that could rise to $1million. He declined it, citing that Pepsico should follow through with its promise and that the settlement offer was barely 1/30th of the value of the jet.
Now this begs the question, if a company says it is going to give something away in a competition, but then doesn't (however ridiculous the prize may be), does it actually have the moral obligation to fulfil its promise or is this just an allowed can of 'empty words'?
On a wider subject, evidently, the price of words and value of actual actions should not be taken for granted.
24th November 2022