Why “Surprise and Delight” is Tougher Than it Sounds for Marketers

The customer isn’t king and never was. Try waiting in till dusk for a delivery promised for “morning” and see how regal you feel. Try flying 13 hours with your knees around your ears and a pong coming from the loos, and ponder the throne-like qualities of seat 45F. Kings don’t live like that. They snap their fingers and wishes are granted, whims indulged. Little exigencies like profitability, operational logistics, industrial relations and regulatory constraints don’t come into it. But in business they do. So the art is always the delicate reconciliation of outrageous customer desire with pitiful commercial possibility. Sir Tim Clark, president of Emirates, had a good way of articulating the problem – and finding solutions. When asked why he never commissioned consumer research, he would reply: “We already know what customers want – a four-poster bed and lobster for an economy fare.”


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