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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Somebody save these people from themselves

Photo_10Recently I saw the movie "The Queen" (I caught it late, it was released in '06). If you haven't seen it, the film chronicles Britain's monarchy--most especially Queen Elizabeth--during the week following Princess Diana's death in 1997.

Due to keeping mum and stoic in her mourning, the Queen was harshly criticized by the nation (and the world). After all, a nation world had lost its princess, was deep in grief...and looking to the Queen for consolation. But she wanted to abide by protocols of duty and nobility. That was tradition and tradition was sacred.

The Queen was struggling with a world imploring her to 'modernize' the monarchy into one based less on dignity, much more on sensitivity. Especially given the person that people most related to was Princess Diana--and Diana was the "People's Princess" because she signified personality (not protocol) and vulnerability (not regal values).

This was a display of emotion and outreach that the Queen couldn't relate to; it wasn't how she was raised, and it wasn't true to tradition. But the world was changing around her, the death of Diana just made her resistance to change...or her insistence on maintaining tradition...more pronounced.

What struck me about the film were its parallels to the current business environment, and its struggles with the dynamic changes of Web 2.0. In essence, we have the liberalist movement of consumers being connected and, hence, in more control. And then we many businesses simply not able to relate...which positions them as cold (or just plain irrelevant).

While some businesses are modernizing, many others are sticking to tradition through:

  • waiting for it to 'go away', just as the Queen's husband tells her "just wait and see, the public cries will go away in 48 hours" (they didn't).
  • sticking to 'policy', like with the Queen saying "My role means duty first, self second." (she let go of duty in the end).
  • staying behind their walls, as with the Queen saying "Restraint and dignity must be shown since that is what England is admired for." (and yet the public only started admiring her when she reached-out to them).

At one point in the film when the royal family refuses to reach-out to the people, amid their consistent cries, Prime Minister Blair exclaims to his staff, "Will somebody please save these people from themselves!" I found that especially telling as I've felt this frustration when trying to explain how the trends of Web 2.0--not just the tools--signal a mandate to modernize (along with a bunch of opportunity).

But then again, when the polls show the monarchy's popularity has plummeted, the Queen finally acknowledges, "But I can see the world has changed...and one must modernize." So if a one-thousand year old monarchy can take some steps towards change, then maybe even the most traditional businesses can too.

(And if they don't they should regard this film as a cautionary tale.)

PS: MarketingProfs featured this piece--and their take on it--right here.


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CK -

What great parallels! Waiting for the calls for change to go away is a common tactic among change resistors. Sadly, in many organizations that tactic works and only makes it harder to change the next time. It's like not finishing your prescription for antibiotics and getting a stronger bug!


@Ann: Agreed. Hey, change is hard for most. But adapting (and Darwin would back me up here) is critical for survival. This level of connected-ness is unprecedented but it's a heck of a lot easier to be open to change--and reap all the opportunities--then to be deemed irrelevant, even cold (as the Queen found).

What was sad, and the film portrayed this well, was that she was trying to stick with what she understood and was taught since she was brought up during War time, a very different time with different values. But the nobility of yore was not supporting the very people she was serving during these times. Much as she saw her popularity plummet, and that fateful week will always hurt her image, companies that are not modernizing are facing the very same scrutiny. They're perceived as "closed," not caring about their customers and even cold. Very striking the similarities in the film (and a great film, too). Co's should take it as a cautionary tale.

CK, what an intriguing comparison! I have not seen this movie either, but it was recently recommended to me by a friend so it's on my list of movies to rent. Now I'll be viewing it through your eyes as well.

You wrote, "I've felt this frustration when trying to explain how the trends of Web 2.0--not just the tools--signal a mandate to modernize (along with a bunch of opportunity)."

Good reminder that we mistakenly focus on tools (blogs, podcasts, wikis, etc.) when it is the TRENDS behind the tools that are truly significant. And I share your frustration when trying to explain this to the "old guard" who want to dismiss all this sea change as a fad of the young. (And here I am at a grandmotherly age trying to convince them they're wrong! LOL)

@Connie: It's a benefit to be a pro with experience (vs. a 20 year-old) because so many of the traditional companies are going to be listening to you versus snubbing it off as "just for kids". I view that as a huge benefit in your proposition to them. I know it has helped me to explain to my clients that I have experience in traditional and Web 1.0 so I understand what's a fad and what they're overlooking. (that said, I'm hoping more will start listening).

Yep, my focus is that it's about the trends--the tools are just a byproduct. That helps in a lot of cases when I'm trying to give a "reality check". And most definitely check out the movie, no surprise why it nabbed so many Oscars. And let me know what you think after you watch it, k?

Great article on a great film and great ideas for marketers!

Great analogies! I saw this film back in March so I was fairly late in seeing this too. I'm personally trying to follow and grab on to this incredibly fast and incredible creative web 2.0 world. I am a tradition print designer who needs to catch up as quickly as possible, it is at times like learning a new language. Ideas and strategies are of course the most important elements but it is invaluable to know the tools available.

What a great analogy! I too have suffered with clients who are not prepared to start taking steps to modernise. There is only so much you can do to help them, beyond which they have to realise for themselves that they stand the real risk of being left behind. Great post, and a good reminder of the power of the narrative to get accross complex ideas.

Way to go! I have invested over a year in qualifying leading edge web services and web 2.0 and web based solutions for businesses. Every service has been checked and double checked for doing what they say they will do. When speaking to business owners, it's as if we were having a conversation about quantum physics! I've discovered www.just212.com video, bought it and play it for them upfront on a portable dvd player, then pitch web 2.0 features and functionality and it's cost savings to them in productivity and profitability.
Doug Scott

How interesting: I also saw the movie The Queen this weekend and was struck by some of the same thoughts.
Particularly, I was moved by the Queen's confusion regarding how the landscape had changed. She clearly had not realized the power of the new media and information landscape and how it shapes emotional reactions.
The parallels with the Web 2.0 world are clear: "the People" are now empowered, and top-down, linear dispensing of information (a la many corporations) no longer works.
Today, marketing and public relations is about conversation and sharing, not simply telling from on high.
Good for you for highlighting this.

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