• August 1, 2006
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

A Treatise Concerning the Flogging of Expired Equines

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This month's column is less humor than pique. I wonder sometimes if people don't hold onto their sales receipts as long as they should. Perhaps if we didn't throw that slip out with the wrapping paper, we wouldn't keep buying the same thing over and over again. First, by way of explanation (and apology), let me admit that I am a nerd. While this hasn't gotten in the way of my having a relatively normal and productive life, it will be easier to understand my angle here if you accept the fact that I am a huge science fiction and fantasy geek. I was a studious, precocious five-year-old in 1977 when Star Wars (since renamed Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope) hit the screens. George Lucas became my fairy godfather, and I progressed down a path strewn with his works, and also Star Trek, The Lord of the Rings (the books as well as the Ralph Bakshi film), Dungeons & Dragons, and much more. Recently, Mr. Lucas announced that he was finally going to release Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi--the so-called classic trilogy--on DVD, after years of statements from him that the special editions of these films were the only versions he was willing to sell. Perhaps he accepted the wisdom that art, once released, is no longer subject to reinvention; more likely, he received one too many death threats over the matter of Greedo shooting first. Dungeons & Dragons has a history dating back to 1974, including many different versions of and additions to the game rules. I couldn't walk you through the convolutions without putting us all to sleep, so I won't even bother. Suffice to say that, after a long period of stagnation, the game spawned a new version (3rd Edition, they called it), which was quickly supplanted by a revised one (Version 3.5, really), each complete with a new printing of expensive hardcover rule books. There's a very strong rumor that the current publisher is working on the 4th Edition rules as we speak. The endless release schedule of rules supplements ensures that people who still play the game will be broke for years to come. My problem is not with buying new, exciting toys, it's with the endless repackaging of my toys to make them seem new so that I'll buy them all over again. I treasured the memory of Han Solo blasting his assailant under the table; when Mr. Lucas changed it to Han returning fire after a head-fake, the last bit of my innocence was gone. I never bought the Special Edition DVDs, choosing instead to get copies of the original films from laserdisc--rationalizing that there was no other way to acquire the stories as I remembered them. Now I'll be able to buy legitimate versions, and I get the feeling I'm supposed to thank Lucasfilm for the privilege. Ain't gonna happen. Customer loyalty goes a long way, but it only goes so far. The previous examples have managed it this long because they grab onto a part of the psyche that craves a sense of belonging. Random widgets and CRM software upgrades don't come anywhere near that, regardless of what the vendor says. Bug fixes and minor additions don't excite me; new companies in your partner program or a few customer wins do not constitute news. If you aren't delivering something new and groundbreaking, don't tell me you are. Honesty also goes a long way. Contact Senior Editor Marshall Lager at mlager@destinationCRM.com
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