Marketing When It Really Matters

I was sitting on the tram, travelling from Zurich airport to a meeting last week. Minding my own business. Looking out the window at the newly snow-covered roads and field. When I heard a funny sound.

It wasn’t unpleasant. Just a bit weird. A sort of high pitched, choir- boyish warble. I looked up to see what it was and down the other end of the carriage I spotted the beggar.

Short, stooped, leaning on an aluminium orthopaedic stick, with long straggly white hair sticking out from a dark baseball cap. I couldn’t really see much of his face as it was covered in a massive white bushy beard. But I guessed he was probably in his late sixties.

And out of his mouth was coming this light, slightly strangulated singing – a bit Robert Wyatt-ish, if you know what I mean. Oh and as he carefully shuffled down the aisle, his other hand was outstretched in the usual way.

I couldn’t help myself. Out came all my change, we made eye contact and probably his next meal was sorted.

What made me give him money? Well I reckon his long white hair and straggly beard made him look a bit unloved and in need of care. The stick and limp gave me the idea that his begging was to pay for treatment. He was old enough for me not to think he was work shy. And his sad song almost a lament for lost happiness.

You could see passengers of all ages respond. Young girls thinking that could be my Granddad. Old geezers like me feeling there but for the grace of God. Middle aged women wanting to take care of him.

I’m sure it wasn’t planned but every element we all saw or heard produced an emotional response. Just what good brands do.