Merry Christmas, Big Issue Bill

I buy the Big Issue from Bill. If you are a regular around Central Station, you may have noticed Bill. He’s a wiry looking older chap, who has constructed a vertical shelf as a shopfront which he wheels around with him. It provides a holding place for his magazines, music from a battery operated stereo, a collection of personal paraphernalia (including a small plush dog that often ‘escapes’ onto the nearby pavement), and a topical sign that greets passers-by.

You are most likely to spot Bill this time of year, when he dons his Santa jacket, hat and beard. He’s not a foolish man, so in this heat he opts for blue workman’s shorts. Buying a copy of the Big Issue from Bill is always and experience – I won’t share any of his wit and wisdom here, perhaps in another post.

Today Bill had a little surprise after he handed me the magazine. He reached down into a box at the bottom of his wheelie-shelf, and pulled out a plastic tray and a little piece of paper. From the tray he offered me a ‘tempter’ – a chocolate éclair to chew on. And then he handed me the piece of paper. ‘It’s a Christmas card’, he said, by way of explanation.

The ‘card’ is a quarter of an A4 sheet, printed with festive bunting and a photograph of Bill’s fluffy canine companion (wearing his Christmas headgear). It simply reads, in a suitably festive font, ‘Merry Christmas And a Happy New Year from Big Issue Bill And friends’.

My question is a simple one. Why is it that ‘Big Issue Bill’ is far more skilled at experience and relationship marketing than most of the faceless, charmless monster-corporations whose saccharine Christmas music and tacky festive displays we endure every day?

Merry Christmas to you too, Bill! See you next year.

(cross-posted from the Naked Communications blog)

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