The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

The Importance Of Stubborness …
March 14, 2013, 6:10 am
Filed under: Attitude & Aptitude

In some respects, we’ve turned into an entitlement society.

In terms of business – especially the service industry – it seems to have moved from ‘the customer is always right’ to the customer can be as demanding and descriptive as they want’.

In other words, the service industry has become the subserviency industry.

Earlier this week I wrote about what business can learn from Claridge’s hotel.

Believe it or not, I wasn’t talking about their incredible ability to satisfy their clientele’s needs and wants, I was talking about their stubbornness to maintain their standards, values and approach.

You see while their objective is to always give their guests the experience of their life, they believe it should be done to their standards, not necessarily what everyone else thinks it should be.

What this means is they have rules.

Yes, rules.

Loads of them … from only serving tea when they believe it is at the correct temperature to be consumed to insisting every diner must wear a jacket in their restaurant and countless in-between.

Now I appreciate to some, this sounds counter to ‘customer service’ … but here’s the thing, it’s their stubborness that sets them apart.

This doesn’t mean they want clients to leave unsatisfied.

Nor does this mean they’re closed off to new things or new possibilities.

What this means is that Claridge’s know who they are and what they stand for … not in terms of quoting some mission statement that sounds awfully similar to every other mission statement, but in terms of how they think and behave on an ongoing basis.

Now to some, that might sound like a stupid thing to do because the ramifications of that attitude could be that you alienate potential guests. However there is a counter point of view to this and that’s their willingness to sacrifice those customers who don’t appreciate what they do and how they do it, means it could attract others that do.

In other words they don’t ‘chase’ their audience, they attract.

They create feelings and experiences that not only create a powerful bond with the recipient, but become very hard for others to duplicate.

For me, stubborness and sacrifice are attributes that set great brands apart from all the others … and while many can talk about it, the truth – and value – is in the actions and behavior.

So why am I saying this?

Because I think adland is one of the industries that needs to remember it most.

We bitch and moan about how brands need to behave and then 9 times out of 10, do the absolute opposite.

We talk rather than do.

We chase rather than attract.

We bend rather than staying true.

And yet we have the audacity to talk about differentiation when in many cases, agencies are all the same, just with a different name above the door.

It’s too easy to say the agencies who do the best creative are the agencies who stand out the most, because whilst there is obviously a degree of truth to that, the reason they’re in that position is not just because they’ve been able to attract the best talent and the best clients … but because they’ve stubbornly refused to relinquish the values and standards they believe contributes to creating work of commercial & cultural significance, even if that means sacrificing the opportunity to work with rich clients who might not like what they do or how they do it.

When done in the right way and for the right reasons [not to mention, with the right proof], stubbornness and sacrifice aren’t signs of petulance, but awesomeness.

45 Comments so far
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Comment by Pete

Hi Rob, really like this post. Something we talk to our clients about is to be distinctive, not differentiated (inspired by Ehrenberg Bass institute marketing thinking) and your post is a great example. Brands like Claridges embrace their distinctiveness in product and service ie jackets being required for the restaurant. It contributes to what the expected Claridges experience is for potential visitors and helps stand them apart from grabbing a tea somewhere else.

Comment by Nicola

Hi Nicola, thanks for commenting and thanks for being so nice. Of course what I’m saying is not new and of course, there are many brands who adopt this stance … however I find it tragic that so many in the industry I work in, fail to embrace this view, let alone practice it.

Comment by Rob

Just in case you think I’m being sarcastic with my precious comment, I’m not, I think this is a brilliant post.

Attract, don’t chase. Don’t fear sacrifice. Be stubborn.

Apart from all sounding like future wiedenisms, they can be summed up as simple “rules” that represent the difference between a brand that affects society and a brand that sits on a supermarket shelf.

Of course, to be successful requires a lot more than simply following those 3 terms, but I still like them, especially the way you linked stubbornness to traits that defines and differentiates Claridge’s in their audiences eyes.

Comment by Pete

Let’s hope they don’t become future ‘wiedenism’s’ because if they do, I won’t let anyone forget where they came from, ha!

Comment by Rob

I preferred it when you were in the north pole.

Comment by Billy Whizz

dont get any ideas in your head campbell than stubbornly refusing to wear shoes, listen to decent music or wear clothes that doesnt have some military insignia attached to it makes you fucking desirable, it doesnt, it makes you a sad bastard that no one wants to be seen in public with. apart from that, this is a good post.

for you.

Comment by andy@cynic

and yes, that was a fucking long sentence. deal with it.

Comment by andy@cynic

But I’m glad you’re semi back.

Comment by Billy Whizz

This made me laugh out loud though I’m not sure if it’s because [1] I’m happy you’re commenting again or [2] it’s funny. What I do know is what you say is true – so maybe I should be crying more than anything.

Comment by Rob

Very good post Robert. Without standards, we have nothing.

Welcome back Andrew. Very pleases to see you back here. I trust all continues to improve with the little one.

Comment by Lee Hill

insanely good. the docs think she has superhero genes.

Comment by andy@cynic

Like & love.

Comment by Rob

+ 1

Comment by DH

Great post, Rob. I have passed the previous post on Claridges along to some people, and this one will quickly follow suit.

Comment by Ciaran MCCabe

Have you watched any of the show yet Ciaran? I’d be really interested to hear what you think. I also would love to talk about that post I mentioned to you a while back … if you are still interested. Let me know.

Comment by Rob

This is a wonderful companion to your Claridge’s post. Combined, they’re like a double a-side single, which shows how old I am and how bad I am at metaphors.
I particularly like Nicola’s “distinctive, not differentiated” comment. Very nice.
You are on a roll Robert. Long may it continue.

Comment by George

This isn’t bad either:

“When done in the right way and for the right reasons [not to mention, with the right proof], stubbornness and sacrifice aren’t signs of petulance, but awesomeness.”

Comment by George

I hope we lived by that with cynic. Or I should say I hope our clients think we lived by that.

Comment by George

I’m sure they did. But depending on the day and the individual involved, they may have considered there were times when it was more petulance than awesome. Wink wink.

Comment by Pete

Excellent summation Peter. Don’t fret George, it was always good.

Comment by Lee Hill

That’s brilliant Pete.

Comment by Rob

if youre trying to suggest i could be a prick to deal with, you can fuck off. i wasnt being a prick, i was protecting you from yourselves you ungrateful fucks.

Comment by andy@cynic

Your comment took me back to a particular meeting we all had around 2006 … the night before a pitch involving a carbonated drink client.

Weirdly, it’s a very nice flashback despite the pain of the conversation, the meeting and the client.

Comment by Rob

So you’re saying stubbornness is when you will only serve tea when it’s at the correct temperature? Can’t you get that at northerns house for a fraction of the price?

Comment by DH

Are you saying Northern is cheap? Maybe in his choice of car, but never in his choice of tea.

Comment by Rob

Well put. The attract rather than chase idea is very important.

In terms of the worst agencies in that regard, I think it has to come down to the fact that accountants not creative people tend to run them. Leading to the situation where agencies throw away their creative reputation in order to get money, and then find no one wants an agency with no reputation.

I don’t think there’s any coincidence that agencies which attract rather than chase have both the best work and healthy profits.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Good point, but I think it’s too easy to blame everything on the ‘bean counters of adland’. Sure, a lot of things link back to them and their influence but given how much ‘wastage’ I still going on in agencies, I believe there’s a whole lot more factors contributing to adlands passive approach to helping clients business … including clients and their desire to ‘protect’ rather than ‘grow’, despite all the hype they put out to the press and shareholders.

Comment by Rob

True. The short termism of some clients is never good, nor their often misinformed financial practice (I saw a big piece of business that had won effectiveness and recall awards get moved in a global realignment without even a chance to repitch).

Just irritates me knowing that in many capable agencies right now there are people doing work they hate, for the very worst kind of clients, who want the earth for no money and have no creative understanding – simply because those at the top of the agency were more interested in the short term low margin money it brought than the creative opportunity and long term high margins from good work.

The way some agencies act is like Stephen Spielberg directing a series of porno films for a few quid instead of working on his next blockbuster.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Isn’t there a genre of porn where everyone has to wear dinner jackets and cocktail party dresses are am I getting mixed up again?

Comment by Charles Edward Frith (@charlesfrith)

Remind me to never invite you to a cocktail party.

Comment by Rob

A Comment By Me That’s Maybe Worth Reading. For Once

A very nice person has pointed me in the direction of 2 posts [by other people] that captures the point I’m [hopefully] making in this post.

I proudly admit they are about the company I work for – but in all honesty, that’s coincidental – the key is to read what’s being said and understand that when you are expressing your fundamental beliefs and values, ‘stubbornness’ isn’t something that is to be derided, it’s something to treasure.

Post 1: Dan Wieden

Post 2: Russell Davies

Comment by Rob

Thank you for posting this and the 2 links Rob, they are very inspirational. I don’t work at a company like claridge’s or w+k, but I hope I do one day.

Comment by Pat

Russell’s post is excellent but Dan’s speech is simply phenomenal. Inspiring.

Comment by George

All those words go to shit when you remember he hired rob. At least he was sane enough to keep him in china.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Even Sir Martin would want to work for Dan after that speech. Brilliant.

Comment by Pete

“Don’t be a whore.” –Anyone who ever made anything good, ever.

Comment by Charlotte A. Cavatica

i didnt realise dan swore so fucking much. i like him even more for that.

Comment by andy@cynic

Reblogged this on Make design happen blog and commented:
Rob Campbell on the attraction of self awareness, stubbornness and sacrifice to set yourself apart

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