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Jessica Sieff: Lessons learned in this — the winter of our disconnect

Published 9:29pm Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I don’t know when I first noticed it. Maybe it was the uprising against Bank of America when they tried to charge their customers fees for no real reason. Maybe it was when Verizon tried to charge their customers for no real reason.

Maybe — I’m getting there  — maybe it was when Susan G. Komen tried to get political, angering women everywhere and putting the organization’s total purpose in an uncomfortable light.

Maybe it was when McDonald’s told one regional group of radio listeners that their food was safer than petting a stray pit bull.

Or maybe it was Target’s stalker Valentine’s Day card.

But at a time when it’s more important than ever for big business and big name brands to connect with their consumers – it sure seems like some of them are making some crazy decisions. Decisions that I think are part of a bigger problem.

Apparently, being disconnected? It’s not just for politicians anymore.

All of the above, of course, are examples of decisions made by men and women of collective, notable organizations which would come under immediate scrutiny, lead to immediate retreat and ultimately end with public apologies and reversals.

Most people would say that those reversals are an example of the power of social media.

That armed with 140 characters, people can make incredible waves of change. And that might be so.

But what’s happening here is something else entirely. What’s happening here seems to be an epidemic of sorts. An epidemic in organizations on some level become removed from the people that fuel their purpose.

And when you do that – more is lost than just a sense of perspective.

Odds are in time, these will be little pop culture blips on the records of Bank of America and Susan G. Komen and Target and the rest of them. Maybe they’ll be briefly noted in digital history books as random decisions that got a little media attention.

But there is a teachable moment here.

In an economy such as this, the almighty dollar is not just a piece of paper anymore. It’s an emotional attachment to those Americans who are suddenly having to stretch it thinner than ever before. And even though it seems like we might waste a few bucks here and there this week, really think about it… That dollar you threw away on a bad movie at the big red box at the grocery store wasn’t a luxury. It was a choice to go home, sit on the couch with your friends or your family and try to squeeze a little entertainment out of the day.

And yeah, eating out might cost more than staying in. But sometimes, you just need one thing to be easier on you.

Small businesses seem to get this. There’s a quality to that shop around the corner. It’s the challenge to compete for those dollars, unfortunately, that can be so much harder at that level.

But at least they get it.

Of the thousands of men, women and children who walk for the cure – they’re walking for the ones they love who fight or have fought a courageous battle with cancer. Not for political agenda.

For the members of big banks, they enter into that relationship with the understanding that they’ll have to pay for what’s necessary. Not for what’s novelty.

And seriously, nobody wants a Valentine’s Day card with the word ‘stalker’ on it anywhere.

It’s the emotional connection. Just as they are fluid within us on a daily basis, emotions influence everything we do, think and feel about how, where and why we spend our money.

You can tweet until the sun goes down.

The fact is – we as a people want to connect.

And we want our businesses, banks and leaders to connect with us.

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