The Era of Over-compensation.

My fourteen-year-old daughter and I were watching the news together the other night and after I had let loose with another volley of middle aged verbal abuse (at a television screen that can’t hear me) she said “Dad – chillax. You know we live in the era of over-compensation.” Trust a fourteen year old to have the wisdom of the ages compressed into a sound bite.

Thanks to the wonders of modern media ‘noise’ and how easy it is to manipulate social reactions through increasingly easy to broadcast propaganda from any passionate interest group or even individual voice, we sit in a reactive sea of ducking and weaving. Not only do we get sucked into reacting to an issue that is raised by a minority viewpoint, we want to be seen to be reacting to it in a way that turns a negative voice into a positive endorsement.

As a result, many retail businesses get caught in an issues management led cycle of over-compensation based on propaganda. Going overboard to re-make the playing field in favour of the media championed ‘disadvantaged’ under-dog. What this often creates is a growing sense of resentment from the silent majority of retail stakeholders who in turn then feel disadvantaged themselves by the brands and stores they have previously supported.

There are always genuine issues and the retail industry is not over-populated with saints.

However the vast majority of people I have come into contact with in this industry are very good people working extremely hard to achieve positive outcomes for all stakeholders. Is the world a totally fair and balanced place where everyone is equal? No. And for people with a genuine disadvantage there is a great deal of work still necessary to make things fair and equitable.

As a general rule, retailers in Australia are not very sophisticated in their media relations or their lobbying of government. They either hide behind an issues management representative, hide completely, react without thinking or worse – do nothing. None of these reactions is going to help a retail business maintain success in the future.

As a society we need to re-gain a sense of equilibrium. As an industry we need to champion ‘common sense decision-making’ in a clever way that changes the dialogue around to acceptance of actions and outcomes that are balanced for all not artificially distorted in favour of minority points of view at the cost of the majority.

It is a mad world that sees penalising the skilled, restricting the successful, handicapping the smart and holding back the motivated as politically correct. Retail thrives on these attributes and needs them to satisfy the increasing demands of shoppers. Dumbing down does not work in the long run.

Retailers must lift their game in how they manage the propaganda game with confidence, cleverness and charisma. As an industry and as individual competitors, we need a stronger voice that ensures political correctness becomes a synonym for balanced.