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The only way of staying in control is by letting go

A word to the wise to all the megalomaniacal chief execs and senior management types in the fashion business: if you’re busy worrying about which customers are saying what about your products, you’re barking up the wrong tree.

When Harvey Nichols fashion director Paula Reed said in this week’s Close-Up interview that “the days of control are gone”, she was spot on. That old word-of-mouth adage that people are far more likely to pass on a negative comment about a product or service than a positive one still rings true in today’s hyper-communicative world; only the message isn’t getting through to just a handful of friends, but potentially hundreds, thousands, millions even, via, in the main, social media.

The talk for years was around trying to leverage the ‘conversation’: in some cases turning a negative into a positive, but more often either bluntly telling the consumer they were wrong or, at the very least, ham-fistedly trying to get involved, chatting with da kidz like a drunk uncle at a family meal. “We’re cool too,” they’d say. “We know what you like, we’re one of you! But would you be so kind as to stop saying those well bad things about our company please?” Tragic media at its finest.

Where once there was one big, booming broadcast directed to consumers, there is now a tangled web of multi-directional chatter as mistakes and ill-conceived ideas get shared instantly, taking the ‘message’ beyond the grasp of brands. This is how it’s going to be for the foreseeable future (until we all get bored of this over-exposure and noise and retreat to a remote log cabin to live in ignorant bliss), but instead of trying to influence something you can never control, why not feel liberated by letting go? Rather than trying to control the conversation surrounding your products and services, concentrate instead on simply making them better.

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