What The World Cup Did For China, Some Other Brand Will Do To You – Be Ready

Billions of people around the world watch the World Cup – but all of those people aren’t necessarily noticing the same things. Some fans are really focused on the football while others are just waiting to hear Andrés Cantor yell “GOAL!” the way only he can. And in China, where the strictest COVID control measures have been in place for quite some time before censors could stop the images from getting through, World Cup viewers were exposed to the crowds of fans watching the game in person.

Fans who were not wearing masks. Fans who were not observing any social distancing guidelines whatsoever. Fans who were having a good time, celebrating in crowds, together. 

This has been very eye-opening to Chinese people who have been living under severe restrictions. For example, in some areas, people have not been able to visit the grocery store without submitting negative PCR results. Personal movement is significantly controlled, and there has been much suffering.  This has all been attributed to COVID prevention – but exposure to the World Cup fans has revealed to at least some Chinese people that the rest of the world is not living the way they’re living. 

The Awareness of Alternatives Often Prompts People to Change

The Chinese authorities have heavily censored coverage of the World Cup fans because they know that when people are aware of alternatives to the way they are currently existing, it can often prompt the demand for change. Seeing throngs of people celebrating together, without masks, can easily inspire the question “Is the hardship we’re being forced to endure really necessary?” Mass protests against China’s zero COVID policy have swept across the country, and as of this writing, restrictions have been eased in two of the larger cities, Guangzhou and Chongqing – impacting more than 31 million people. 

Now, how does this translate to your ongoing quest to keep your customers in love with your brand? Well, the first takeaway is that there’s really no such thing as a captive audience. Even in a very authoritarian state, the people want what the people want. And while getting change in that environment is difficult and requires a lot of personal self-sacrifice and courage, your customers here can change brand loyalty without consequence or obstacle. 

Sometimes brands forget this. It’s common knowledge that some convenience retail chains got by for years and years offering a pretty substandard experience because they were the only option. Customers had no choice. In fact, customers got used to dirty bathrooms and food products of questionable provenance to such a degree that they didn’t realize things could be any other way. 

This created an opportunity for a brand like Buc-ee’s to come in and disrupt the industry by offering a significantly different, significantly more enjoyable experience. When people see better, they want better – and they change their behaviors to get better. 

The question for the brand manager is are you running the company that’s hoping your customers don’t see things could be better for them just a short distance down the road – or are you running the company that tells customers you don’t have to settle for the experience you’ve been having?  

The choice is yours. I’d love to hear your thoughts, you can reply to this email, especially about those moments of discovery that changed the way you viewed or interacted with specific brands.

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