Knowing me, knowing you (ah-ha)…

Originally Published: Packaging News, January-February 2022, by Paul Allen

PKN’s B2B advice columnist Paul Allen finds similarity in the timelessness and themes behind songs by Swedish supergroup ABBA, and the strategic insights of customers.

​The reunion of Swedish supergroup ABBA proved a cultural highlight for many in 2021. Love them or loathe them the band sure knew how to produce a catchy tune and Knowing Me Knowing You (released in Feb 1977) is considered by founding member Benny Andersson, to be one of their finest.

The song tackles a recurring ABBA theme of relationship breakdowns; it predates the divorces of the two couples within the band and was a forerunner to another classic – The Winner Takes It All. Sound familiar? Let’s face it, pop music and B2B relationships alike, can be hard work.

I confess to not being a true fan of the four Swedes, but I do believe their musical journey provides us with timeless customer strategy insights, and you don’t need to play their records backwards to find them.

Consider this: Due to any number of Covid-inspired supply chain pressures, chances are that in 2022 one or more of your customer relationships will come under extreme pressure. You may not be able to meet your commitments, or your customer may not be able to meet theirs. Will this be the end of the line? Will the honeymoon be over? Do two parties call it a day and walk away from each other?

ABBA took this path when things got hard in the ‘80s. Tired, hurt and fed-up, they split up. Some members didn’t talk to each other for years. Others attempted solo careers, while the key songwriters successfully mined the band’s legacy. However, despite countless eye-watering offers to reform and tour, the band just wouldn’t get back together.

“Breaking up is never easy I know, but I have to go…”

As 2022 gets underway, you might be thinking the same thing. If so, take a breath. Business relationships, like personal relationships, sometimes need a reset, and dusting off that filed away supply agreement might be the best place to start. Re-reading a contract can remind you of why you got together in the first place. Vows were made. Expectations were set, and service levels agreed to. Summarising these afresh and inviting your supply partner to sit down for a discussion on where things are on or off track, can work wonders. What needs to be tweaked? Where do I need to give ground or accept more responsibility? What will it take to keep us together? It’s called courageous communication.

Forty years down the track the members of ABBA worked these questions through and managed to agree on a single condition that would enable the band to reunite. It had nothing to do with money and everything to do with privacy. The two female vocalists, Agnetha and Anni-Frid, simply wanted no part in media interviews. Benny and Bjorn readily agreed, and the band came roaring back with a new album, tour and merchandise.

Knowing me, knowing you – there is always something we can do.