Recently our management were discussing whether we should continue stocking our hands-on Science Centre with reasonably healthy drinks or whether we should give in and stock all the big names in soft drinks. The trade off here is between providing a product that we believe in and providing a product that we know will sell but we don’t fully agree with. This is the type of questions that has come up a lot for us.
Another example is whether we allow alcoholic beverages and a place to sit and drink for adults. We would prefer to keep TwistED as a family centre with adults playing with the kids rather than sitting and drinking while we take care of the kids. It would undoubtedly increase sales to do introduce alcohol however. A third example is whether we develop another, cheaper version of our party bag that would sell well but would have to be of lower quality than we are comfortable with.
Essentially the question is: Do we give people what they want or do we give them what we believe in? Perhaps it is a luxury to even ask this question and perhaps other managers would scoff and say that the first priority is to give the customer what they want and let the customer worry about whether it is the right decision or not for them. In general I would tend to agree with this sentiment if the motives to provide healthier (I use healthier broadly here to include options that would more likely generate long term happiness than other options in all areas and not just food) options were inspired purely by the idea of being morally good and to affect positive societal change. However there is another reason; to protect our brand. As a science education and entertainment company that deals with children, schools and kindergartens our brand must remain squeaky clean. There is the possibility that giving some customers what they want may negatively affect our brand. Alcohol and kindergartens don’t really mix for example.
In short my intuition is that we should always try to provide customers with what they want, even when we don’t necessarily agree hat they are healthy, as long as it doesn’t negatively affect our brand. This is a difficult balancing act and decisions must be made with incomplete information (as most decisions in business are). I was wondering what other folks might think about this. Do other directors and managers have similar concerns? Does anyone have any useful opinions for how to evaluate these ethical/brand value decisions? Please feel free to comment below 🙂