September 13, 2009

The Thought That Counts

I often speak of what I describe as the Goldilocks effect: the way in which the creator of something can make it 'just right' for you without ever knowing you.

Think of the way we feel when we stand together in front of the Taj Mahal, built by an emperor for his lost wife, but somehow made just for us in that moment. Or the way the iPhone fits snugly in my hand as though crafted just for me (even though Steve Jobs and his technicians have never met me).

But I was reminded of something even more powerful when I spoke at the Fingal Women In Business Network event earlier in the week. One of its members, Margaret Fay of Gifts For All had been asked to supply the customary speaker's gift but what she produced was far from ordinary.

Margaret had done a little research into me and Islandbridge and produced a beautifully presented bottle of wine and bar of chocolate which were labelled with a picture of me and the following message:

Gerard, thank you for being guest speaker at our Fingal Women In Business Meeting

Islandbridge - We help you identify your strengths and match them with your market to build a brand that supports and drives your business.
Ingredients: Creative Energy
Nutrition Facts: At Your Service...100%, Creative...150% etc
Serving Size: One Winning Team

Now I know that since the advent of digital printing, it's very easy to dismiss much of what is clumsily passed off as customised but Margaret demonstrated what happens when you ally smart technology with even smarter (and more thoughtful) thinking. The effect was quite devastating. I was genuinely moved, far beyond a simple sense of gratitude for a polite gesture of appreciation. In every sense, I felt honoured by this crafting of a gift that was so clearly made just for me.

It didn't end there, of course. Although it was late in the evening when I arrived home, I put the gift in a prominent place in our kitchen so that Christine and the children could enjoy it when they came down for breakfast in the morning. After the kids had stopped clamouring to get stuck into the chocolate, they regarded the gift with something not a million miles away from awe. I suspect they even felt a little more respect for their dad and his odd job. (I'm still not completely forgiven for making a presentation on branding to the primary school assembly a couple of years ago and "totally embarrassing" them. "Why couldn't you do a normal job like the other dads?").

Christine was also inclined to tell her own colleagues at work about it. And perhaps they in turn spoke about it to others that we don't know about. I certainly mentioned it to other friends and colleagues in the meantime.

Even if it hadn't become a talking-point for the Tannam family, it did have a deep effect on me and I suspect that I'll always have something of a soft spot for FWIB, GiftsForAll and the people who made me feel so welcome and appreciated at their network.

I think there's a real lesson in there for brand-owners everywhere. Every day in town halls, conference rooms and other meeting-places, people are thanked for their contribution to an event. Mostly, the offer of thanks or gifts can feel like a token gesture but, as FWIB has demonstrated, with a little thought and effort it's possible for us to invest something powerful into the most perfunctory exchange.

Over To You: What simple gesture from a business colleague has left you feeling on top of the world?

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