Don’t mention Cyclone Tracy – or do? A marketing question for Top End businesses

House after Cyclone Tracy (Photo by Bill Brady)

House after Cyclone Tracy (Photo by Bill Bradley)

How close to the surface of your memory is Cyclone Tracy?

I’m asking this because a friend of mine, a researcher, is staying in Darwin at the moment and asked this question on Facebook:

Where is Cyclone Tracy in Darwin’s psyche?

In all my years of working in the Northern Territory, I have never asked anyone that question so I was interested in answers from locals.

Of the answers he got back, here are three that weren’t jokes (I am deliberately keeping this anonymous):

  • Just under the surface for most long term residents
  • Adding its own layer on top of 1942 bombings
  • In a closet at the museum for short termers

Two things struck me about the comments:

  • Firstly, there was a clear distinction between long term residents and ‘short termers’
  • Secondly, there seemed to be some resentment towards ‘short termers’

What might this mean for marketing your Top End business? Here are a couple of thoughts.

It feels like yesterday

The big difference between how ‘fresh’ the memories of Cyclone Tracy still are for those who lived through it compared to those who have arrived later means marketers have a shibboleth.

A shibboleth is a certain word that only people from a particular group, race or culture can pronouce a special way. Shibboleths were used in historical times to tell who was in your group or village and who was out.

In this case, there will be certain words and experiences that people who lived through Tracy will understand and know in ways that the rest of us just won’t understand. If you are a marketer and one of your key target market segments consists of people who have been here since Tracy, then drawing upon those words or experiences will have a very powerful effect and will communicate a lot of information and feeling very quickly (done badly, it could backfire too).

How can you not know that?

Likewise, if your target market contains people who never experienced Tracy, locals or tourists, then it will make sense to find different words and experiences to tap into to communicate ideas with your group.

The other point from those comments above is this sense of frustration or disgust towards people who are enjoying Darwin now but didn’t have to endure Tracy. When I saw this I thought of salespeople, tradies, specialists, professionals and other service providers who roll their eyes or make fun of customers who don’t know much or anything about the products and services they are trying to buy.

In both cases it is probably useful to remember that it is not fair to judge or blame people for not having experienced the same thing you did. It seems pointless to hold it against them. But in the business environment, it is foolish to treat these customers with contempt because it is YOUR expertise that they are after.

As markets heat up and new competitors set up business in the Territory, it is going to become more important than ever to welcome all customers warmly and lead them through their education process towards an well informed purchase sincerely. The proof of value will be when their glowing endorsement of your care and attentiona to detail makes it into bbq conversation, spreading word about you in their own time.


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