Thank you AB INBEV: What have we learned? What can you do?

Conflict without any rules (De Standaard 21/10/2010)

The AB Inbev lay-offs saga continues to continue. My take on what we have learnt so far. Will update with more data soon. Had to get it online🙂

1 THE PROBLEM IS NEVER A PROBLEM
Your handling of the problem is. Your reaction to it: not explaining; sealing the factory gate; playing it legally.
Unions have matlock abilities, you can win in court but not in sympathy.

2 JUDGED IN A BLINK
Be first.
People judge in seconds.
If you don’t believe this, read Malcolm Gladwell’s BLINK.
Once the judgement is made, people will not easily give it up. We hate to be wrong.
Don’t let the unions set the story. Workers are easily identified with. They have a face. You are a big building with a big logo.
You understand soccer: Belgians sympathize with the underdog. You start the game ‘Big corp vs workers’ with a handicap.
0-1. You need to score fast and twice to win the game.

3 LAY-OFFS ARE NOT BLACK SWANS
Don’t say these lay-offs came unexpected. You saw them coming for months. If not, one can imagine easily lay-offs being a possible thing to happen to a company.
The financial crisis hit us more than a year ago. Market research, like the one form think.bbdo, announced changes in consumer spending.
Get your scenarios into place. Get them on paper. Get them approved. Excercise them.
Use role play for media statements and negotiations. Play both sides.

4 YOU ARE RIGHT. YEAH RIGHT
Off course you are right. Your fixed cost needs to go down to ensure future competitiveness.
But that’s not an emotional story. Find a metaphor.
Like ‘At home you don’t have your central heating running all year either. When it’s too cold or too hot, you want to be able to adjust.’
We’re right at the beginning of a long hot summer.
Then tell what you will do for the layed-off workers. Golden handshakes. Replacement counselling. Etc.

5 MANAGEMENT COMMITMENTS
Not all things are pleasant to do. It comes with the territory.
Take responsibility for growth. Both top line and bottom line. If you want to lower your bottom line with lay-offs, it is your right. But take the consequences too.
Get media training. Excercise. Act. React. Be open and care-ful.

6 EVERY TOUCHPOINT COUNTS
You’re the same company as in your ads. You risk to lose more than golden handshakes.
The factory gate (on the evening news) is a consumer touchpoint too.
Just like your bottles, crates, pubs, festivals, soccer games etc.
It will cost you. Competitors are vultures for market share that is otherwise scarce.
Act early and decisive.
Listen. Listen really good. And explain, explain, explain.
Trust your people. You have good people, let them do their jobs well.

7 PLAY AT HOME
Keep the discussion inside your walls. Treat the unions with respect. Understand that they have to do what they have to do.
Talk, don’t fight (verbally).
Don’t count on external people like politicians. Nobody cares about you. Everybody works for him/herself.

NEXT: NR 8, 9 and 10

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