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Edition 84 – What is Premium

In 2007, just prior to turning 40, I decided I’d treat myself. Up until that point in time, the biggest reward I’d given myself was an iPod Shuffle. Nope, I’m not kidding. 

By that time, I’d been in business a few years, we had a young family and had recently moved into our dream home. I’d always put our family first. An idea was had, I discussed it with my wife and I splashed out just shy of $100K on an 18 month old Mercedes Benz ML 500 SUV with 7000km on the clock.

This was a beautiful car. Rich, dark blue in colour, tanned leather interior, magnificent wood grain dashboard and a Harmon Kardon stereo that would blow out your eardrums. The stonking 5.0 litre V8 that had no regard for fuel efficiency, carbon emissions or anything green. For me, this was a reward for years of effort, study, risk taking and entrepreneurialism.

That beautiful car turned out to be the most unreliable motor vehicle I have ever owned. The automatic tailgate failed five times. The air conditioning system quit a month after the vehicle came out of warranty. The sunroof went one Sunday afternoon and needed to be rewired. Finally, the fancy air suspension system ran out of puff. After four years of ownership, I ripped up 64% of my purchase price, traded it in and went back to my humble roots – a Ford Territory – which, six years later, is still going strong, now in the hands of our eldest son, Callum.

All the while, I wondered if that was merely a one off – my brush with premium and whether it is all it is stacked up to be. Now, I wonder no longer.

Recently, my wife and I travelled to New York and we took a short cruise on the Queen Mary 2, Cunard’s (so called) premium ocean liner.

Yes, it was a beautiful cruise ship. There was opulence everywhere, from chandeliers to walnut grained interiors. However, the experience was anything but premium.

  1. The line up to board the ocean liner in New York was time consuming and hot inside what was, essentially, a waterside tin shed in downtown Brooklyn.
  2. Once on-board, we immediately noticed the impersonal nature of the crew. A lot didn’t smile. Others walked by, heads down and no eye contact at all.
  3. The food in the dining room was below standard. I’m not a fussy eater, however, I sent a meal back, perhaps for the first time in my life as it was undercooked and too tough to cut. The buffet was much the same – limited options, some of it dried out from laying around in baie maries for too long.
  4. Then, there was the shemozzle of disembarking the ship when it docked in Boston. For some reason, you clear US Customs & Border Protection inside the ship. The ship’s crew had no control over anything – people were queue jumping, lines ran around in circles and once you had cleared the authorities, the crew didn’t know where to send you so you could disembark. If this was what it was like to simply hop off the ship for a day trip, how will they ever handle an emergency?

So, I like nice things. I like the idea of being pampered for working hard. However, when it comes to the term premium, I wonder if some of it is merely marketing speak and whether the corporations that espouse their premium-ness do so based on old laurels rather than current achievements.

This Week’s Tip

If you offer a premium service or product, ask your clients, competitors, suppliers and staff why they consider it premium. You are then likely to hear the answer you need to hear, not the answer you want to hear