Episode #20: The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is the Perfect Metaphor for 2020

Every winter, the Rockefeller Center in New York displays a beautiful, stately, lush Christmas tree. Or do they? This year’s tree borders on the scraggly side, and is being described on social media as the perfect metaphor for the year that shall not be named. On today’s episode we explore the chasm between promotion and reality, and why the Rockefeller Center should lean into this year’s Charlie Brown tree.

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Wow, it’s Friday. And welcome to the CXM Experience as we wrap up another exciting week, I am Grad Conn CXO at Sprinklr, and we’re here to talk about a kind of experience that’s maybe a little different. This is going to be a bit of holiday themed podcast today, so I’m looking forward to it. And we’ll hear a lot more holiday themed stuff as we go through what is quickly turning into my favorite time of the year.

I’m actually kind of excited, I’ve actually come down to Florida to have Thanksgiving with my future father in law, which is pretty exciting. And then also got a kind of cool birthday coming up for my fiancé and then we potentially head back to New York. We’ll see. We’re having a pretty good time in Florida… potentially head back to New York and then go through the holiday season in the greatest city in the world. So it’s all good.

So the holiday season… what comes in that time? Well, obviously, you’re all thinking, Hey, you know, isn’t the holiday season when we get the Forrester Social Listening Wave results in? You’re absolutely correct. The Forrester social listening platform Q4 2020 wave just came out on November the 13th. And once again, Sprinklr is named a leader in the Forrester wave. You can download the complimentary report from the Sprinklr website at www.sprinklr.com. And that’s S-P-R-I-N-K-L-R dot com. We’re a startup and couldn’t afford the “E.” But sprinklr.com. Feel free to read that pretty great report on how Sprinklr is enabling listen, learn love with the key piece of that being Listen, if you don’t hear what your customers are saying it’s very difficult to react to what they need and how they need you to help them. And if you really want to love your customers, you got to listen to what they’re doing and what they’re saying. So read that check it out.

So what else is happening? The Disney holiday sing along, of course hosted by Ryan Seacrest. I think it’s mandatory that he hosts everything. So the Disney holiday sing along is coming on ABC, Monday, November the 30th. Super exciting. It’s got performances by BTS, Michael Bublé, Ciara and more. So feel free to watch that. That’s one of my favorite times of the year. Of course, Michael Bublé, is very tightly associated with the holidays. So it’s always good to see him back and singing for the holidays.

And then, you know, Christmas countdown is always important. I like to stay on track. And so Christmas Day is 36 days, 10 hours, 37 minutes and 56…55…54…53 seconds away. So it’s coming and it’s coming fast. And if you don’t celebrate Christmas Day, that’s okay. It’s still a great time of year. There are many holidays and many other traditions around this time of year. And particularly it’s the new year. I think there’s a collective sigh of good by 2020. And we’d like to see you go. And a sort of excitement about maybe we can get ourselves into a new year, and maybe 2021 will be better. And certainly the recent announcements this week of a vaccine for covid 19. A couple of different ones. Very promising. And although that won’t be distributed broadly immediately, by this time next year, hope for things to be back to normal somewhat. I suspect we have a long winter ahead of us. But there is light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not a train.

Alright, so what I want to talk about today about experience. I’ve got kind of a funny one today, actually. And so I just I don’t know, I think I can file this under experience and the way I would file it is inadvertent experiences.

OOne of the big traditions in New York City this time of year is the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. And so this year they have a 75 foot Norway spruce. It was cut down in Oneonta, New York and then escorted by police escort into the city. And then lifted into place by a crane. They just did on the weekend just a few days ago, they did it on Saturday. And this is a beloved New York institution, been around forever. You know, who hasn’t heard of the Rockefeller Christmas tree lighting ceremony. And seen the tree lit up. I mean, it’s one of my favorite things to do every year is to walk by and look at the tree and enjoy the crisp air and it really is something very, very special.

But this year, it’s almost like 2020 just can’t win for itself. This year, there’s a 75 foot tree. So it’s a pretty magnificent piece of wood they’ve got there. But it’s very scraggly. I don’t know if you’ve had a look but take a look at them standing it up. I mean, it is the scraggliest Christmas tree I have ever seen. And I am not the only one. It’s so funny because the Rockefeller Center itself — and this is a good example of where I think there’s a really interesting opportunity here for the Rockefeller Center to own what’s going on here. So we’ll see what they do here, but they put out a tweet. And they said, Let the holiday season begin, exclamation mark. The 2020 Rockefeller Center Christmas tree has officially arrived at the Plaza… and then Christmas tree emoji. And then below it is a picture of this super scraggly, messy, almost partially denuded of branches tree. And I guess they’re gonna, you know, put a lot of decorations on it and try to fix it up. But if you watch the actual video of it going up, it’s even worse.

And so people started responding on Twitter, right? And one person said, Could the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree look any worse, but 2020 on brand? Okay. And I think then you started to see everyone’s has to kind of say, Hey, wait a second… 2020 Rockefeller Center Christmas tree be looking like Charlie Brown LMFAO. And there’s a bunch of Charlie Brown videos as well. This is maybe my favorite one. From one person. She goes, Charlie Brown: I have the saddest Christmas tree. Rockefeller Center: hold my beer.  Or people just said things like the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree does not look like it had a particularly good 2020 like the rest of us.

And I think what’s funny, is that the Rockefeller Center’s post, just keep being like, it’s so great look at our amazing tree. And everyone keeps saying things like the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, just like the rest of us really been through things in 2020. And I think that’s kind of an interesting opportunity. Because this is where I think experience in loving your customers really comes into play. So if you’re listening here at the Rockefeller Center team, they’ve got to know I mean, it’s all over the place. I’m looking at MSN news, it’s on the Vulture, it’s on the Hill, it’s like every single site has got something about it. It’s all over Google home pages. And so, this is like a big deal. And they can’t possibly not know that people are making fun of the tree.

So I don’t know, this is where I think it’s an interesting example of…do you just ignore all that? And just keep plowing ahead and saying how awesome it is, and, you know, put the decorations on and kind of move ahead? Or do you lean into it? Do you lean into it and say, you know, yeah, thank you for noticing, we got a sad tree for a sad year. But just like Charlie Brown, we’re gonna make that tree shine. Because if you remember what happens in Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie Brown brings home his super, super sad tree. It’s a tiny tree. And they, they put a bulb on the end of it, and it falls over, right? Waaah, I can’t even do the tree, right. And then Linus comes over and wraps his blanket around the base of the tree to support it. And then there’s this great scene where all the kids en masse go towards a tree and there’s a…. and then the kids walk away and the tree’s all decorated and looks beautiful. And you can’t tell that it was a sad tree.

And I think there’s a real interesting opportunity here for the Rockefeller Center to really lean into the fact that Yeah, they got a Charlie Brown Christmas tree this year, because you know what, 2020. And they’re going to do the same thing to it that the kids did to the Charlie Brown tree, and come and watch how they transform their Charlie Brown tree into a beautiful tree. And in maybe do a blow by blow day by day decoration by decoration. You know, here’s how we’re filling in the spots. Here’s how we’re fixing branches. This is how we’re bracing it. And you know what, I would think it’d be cool. Like do a little cross promotion with the Peanuts. Get them in there. I’m sure that United Syndicate would love to do something like that, super fun. They’re obviously really tightly associated with this time of year. Be great to bring them into the Rockefeller Center. Have the Peanuts characters at the tree lighting ceremony, right? Like, instead of having them in Time Square, have them at the tree lighting ceremony.

And wouldn’t it be cool to have a giant super sized Linus blanket around the base of the tree like, amazing. And this is where I think I sometimes see organizations and companies and individuals, etc. When they get into a situation like this, their reaction is often not to listen and not to lean in. And they ignore it. And so what happens is there’s this chasm that opens between what they’re saying, and the reality of it. And this happens a lot of times in formal communications, particularly the broadcast world, but there’s no need for it anymore. And I just think that the Rockefeller Center has an opportunity to gain amazing credibility, and an incredible amount of just super awesome internet cred by saying, yep, thanks for noticing, and this is how we’re going to do it.

Anyway. We’ll see what they do. We’ll see how it plays out. I’m looking forward to seeing how they turn it into a beautiful tree and I’m looking forward to walking by it this holiday season. And I would encourage you to as well if you’ve never been to Rockefeller Center at the holidays, it’s a pretty amazing place. I don’t know if the skating rink’s going to be open this year or not. But hopefully it will be and see people skating and the crisp air and the flags and the whole Plaza. It’s pretty amazing. And for me, it’s been a holiday tradition for a very, very long time, even before I lived in New York.

So that’s it for today. Thanks for joining me, this is the CXM Experience and I’ll see you next time.