Since the only other language I can speak is pidgin Hebrew, and half our office is fluent in Spanish, I decided it was time to learn that noble language. I found this video online about the Pimsleur Method and got all excited about it. For some reason I’d always thought of Pimsleur as kind of stodgy, but this was hip and entertaining, and I ended up with the message that learning a language is no big deal—anyone can do it, and even have fun at the same time. That’s what the Gen Xer in me likes to hear, so I signed up, got the introductory course, and started learning.
A few weeks later I got the follow-up course in the mail, the big guns, the Pimsleur Approach Gold Edition, and it looked anything BUT hip and entertaining. Arriving in a faux-leather box complete with a “passport” and 16 CDs, it was obviously designed to appeal to an older Boomer who wants to travel the world, either for business or pleasure. I actually had a moment of confusion when it arrived—I thought maybe it was a mistake, the second message was so radically different from the first.
The intro course had been eight CDs, though packaged in a single, thick CD case. No big deal—if I decided to go the distance, I’d just download the rest of the courses. Well, I’ve looked all over Pimsleur’s website, and I haven’t yet found a download option, and there’s no way I’m going to try and jam a box full of CDs in my car somewhere. That’s why we have MP3 players, right? Also, I know at least two Gen Yers, interested in both language and travel, who would look at this box and say, “I don’t even have a CD player; what am I supposed to do with this?” Good question. I don’t think Pimsleur knows, either.
This is a classic example of an organization trying to reach out to a diverse group of consumers with no integrated strategy to deal with the differences involved. It’s good to diversify your customer base; in fact, it’s necessary. But organizations that don’t recognize the fundamentals of interacting effectively across difference are only going to alienate those they’re trying to reach in the first place. Effective organizations allow the differences to guide the message or, as a recent participant in a discussion on Public Radio said recently: “You’ve got to let the customer tell you how they want their message delivered.” Amen.