Monthly Archives: February 2008

The Expectation Economy

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We heard about the New Economy, the Experience Economy, the Attention Economy and, according to Trendwatching, we live now in the Expectation Economy. Here’s how they define it:

“The Expectation Economy is an economy inhabited by experienced, well-informed consumers from Canada to South Korea who have a long list of high expectations that they apply to each and every good, service and experience on offer.Their expectations are based on years of self-training in hyperconsumption, and on the biblical flood of new-style, readily available information sources, curators and BS filters. Which all help them track down and expect not just basic standards of quality but the ‘best of the best’.”  

This idea has been around for a while: Luxury brands always had to deal with high expectations. If they didn’t perform they were greeted with irritation, indifference or closed wallets. Luxury brands could survive underdelivering for a certain period time since they were one of the few games in town. Since luxury brands have become ubiquitous, they need to perform on a higher level. And, even worse, the expectation benchmarks are increasing every day: Once Virgin introduced Upper Class, all domestic First Class experiences just felt cheap. How would you feel flying Virgin today when you experienced the new suites on Singapore Airlines with stand-alone beds?

The big difference from yesterday’s luxury expectations to today’s Expectation Economy is how common high expectations have become. From your 2 minutes on hold with a call center, to exploring a website or utilizing the return policy: Companies need to overdeliver every time. Or they face the wrath of the consumer. BusinessWeek calls them ‘Consumer Vigilantes’:

“Meet today’s consumer vigilantes. Even if they’re not all wielding hammers, many are arming themselves with video cameras, computer keyboards, and mobile devices to launch their own personal forms of insurrection. Frustrated by the usual fix-it options—obediently waiting on hold with Bangalore, gamely chatting online with a scripted robot—more consumers are rebelling against company-prescribed service channels. After getting nowhere with the call center, they’re sending “e-mail carpet bombs” to the C-suite, cc-ing the top layer of management with their complaints. When all else fails, a plucky few are going straight to the top after uncovering direct numbers to executive customer-service teams not easily found by mere mortals.

And of course, they’re filling up the Web with blogs and videos, leaving behind venom-spewed tales of woe. “There’s a certain degree of extremism that’s popping up, [a sense of] I’m going to get results, whatever means necessary,'” says Pete Blackshaw, executive vice-president of Nielsen Online Strategic Services, which measures consumer-generated media. “Companies can brush these off as being atypical, mutant consumers, or they can say there’s a very important insight in [their] emotions.”

Behind the guerrilla tactics is a growing disconnect between the experience companies promise and customers’ perceptions of what they actually get.”  

This cleary indicates where traditional marketing/advertising has its biggest problem today: It used to be okay to lure people with beautiful imagery and promises of a better life. People knew it was a promise nobody could deliver. They were attracted by glossy $2 million commercials and knew they would get the key in a dreary dealership. It was disappointing but, hey, what can you do?

Not anymore.

Businesses need to bridge this huge disparity through new tactics and models. In a perfect world, the make-believe world of traditional advertising  builds an emotional response. This response has to be nurtured through conversational marketing and social media tactics that draw people closer to the product and business. Allows people to express themselves, build relationships.

Businesses have to value conversations equal to transactions. Or as Mark Silver said in response to Doc Searls question “Can marketing be conversational?”

“I believe that many web-based proprietors are trying to re-engage this aspect of ‘marketing.’ But, in order to succeed, the marketer has to prize the conversation as highly as the customer does. And, the marketers has to be willing to say ‘no’ to customers, as much as customers might say ‘no’ to a merchant. This brings a sense of ease, equality and, yes, partnership to the experience.”  

We have move away from CRM to PBRN (People Businesses Relationship Nurturing)

Because ‘Relationships – of all kinds- are like sand held in your hand. Held loosely, with an open hand, the sand remains where it is. The minute you close your hand and squeeze tightly to hold on, the sand trickles through your fingers. You may hold onto some of it, but most will be spilled. A relationship is like that. Held loosely, with respect and freedom for the other person, it is likely to remain intact. But hold too tightly, too possessively, and the relationship slips away and is lost.’ – Kaleel Jamison 

How to turn visitors into fans

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Want to know how to turn customers into fans? How to develop strong connections with people? Just do what Angler’s Boutique Resort is doing. I researched the hotel before, it’s ranked as #1 in South Beach on Tripadvisor. Good start but I remained sceptical.

I arrived in Miami after a grueling overnight flight from Los Angeles, tired and worn out. I requested an early check-in at 8am but I’ve done this many times before and often had to wait until early afternoon to get a room.Arriving at 8am, I was greeted by a host, already expecting me and immediately heading to the room. No wait for paperwork or any other bureaucratic tasks. I was introduced to the amazing entertainment system (linking your iPod to all rooms, making DVD’s accessible throughout the suite – did I mention I was upgraded to a suite?) The host left with my credit card, leaving me time to unpack and get settled. For the first time in my life, I experienced a Hotel Internet connection faster than my DSL at home. The room was setup for an overnight traveler: dark room, bed ready to take a quick nap, temperature perfect for a morning sleep.

Yes, I could rave about the bed, the shower, the amenities. But I can get that from many hotels. Adjusting to the needs of a specific customer, that’s what I want to talk about. These little things felt so thoughtful and opened a space in my heart for this boutique hotel. Add to that a little note left on my bed after turndown service, showing the weather forecast for tomorrow (60 degrees in Miami? Whhh-whhh-whhat?) and you feel so good being a guest in this hotel. And, once I get my work done tonight, I will reciprocate by posting a review on Tripadvisor and Yelp. Love is not selfish. Love is about sharing. How does your business transform customers into fans?

Can you still buy marketshare?

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Yes and no.

According to HuffingtonPost, Mitt Romney spent $1.16 million per delegate, a rate that would cost him $1.33 billion to win the nomination. The pundits will give you many reasons for his failure: flip-flopping, religion, track record, etc. The real reason is that he never connected with people in an authentic way. Most people thought he didn’t stand for anything, was not an authentic candidate. His campaign was muddled, never had a real focus and left possible followers shrugging their shoulders.

Compare this to Al Gore’s ‘Inconvenient Truth’ campaign (If you want to call it a campaign.) The benefit to people was tangible, easy to understand. The premise and science behind was complex but it gave people hope by asking them to change their daily habits. Even though many detractors tried to undermine the climate change movement, they didn’t stand a chance against an audience that believed Al Gore was authentic and truthful when he was communicating his message.  

Marketshare can still be bought: Chevy Malibu showed us exactly that in the last few months. But you need to support your mass reach campaign with platforms that help people start their own mini-campaign within the campaign. This will help move your message from the Cul-de-sac of mass media to the viral world of social media and conversational marketing. Ask Mitt Romney.

80 happy years. Don’t count on the next 20.

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Dear Mr. Oscar,

happy birthday. You’ve lived a long life and shared with us many beautiful moments. But it’s time to get the Ginseng root out and stop acting your age:

Watching the Academy Awards has become a borefest. We’re all waiting for moments (Jack Palance one-armed push-ups, streakers, whatever) but instead we get songs and dances and ‘I want to thank the Academy’ speeches.

Mr. Oscar, you’re suffering from a problem shared by many businesses: You don’t listen.

How many of us complained about the length of the show? 4 hours is even too long for a Super Bowl. 8 hours if you count the pre- and post-event coverage. Do we really need to see all the songs? Wouldn’t a medley do it? How about all the smaller awards? Animated Short, for example. Is there a way to give the nominees a decent platform without boring us to death? Acceptance speeches – Does everybody have to thank the Academy and forget the rest of their speech?

Don’t get me wrong, Mr. Oscar, all award shows are facing a tough future: It used to be good enough to have the likes of Amy Winehouse and Brittney Spears on the bill to glue the nation to the TV. YouTube changed the consumption habits: Why wait for Amy Winehouse until 11pm if I can watch it next day rested in the office? The YouTubification makes 4 hours of Academy Awards almost unbearable. While we sit through another ‘Enchanted’ song we feel life slipping way: I could have read the Sunday NY Times, a book, my toaster manual – anything would be better.

What to do? First and foremost – Listen.

Listen to the desires of people why they watch the show. Understand that most people don’t care about 90% of the show. They are looking for the big awards, the big stars colliding, the big moments.

It’s going to be tough, Mr. Oscar. 80 years it’s been all about you. You were the center of the universe, everything revolved around you. Not anymore. People are snacking entertainment, easily distracted, bored. You have to make the show about the people outside of the Kodak Theatre. In this new marketing reality, the less selfish brands become, the more successful they will be.

Mr. Oscar, you had a good run. And I hope the run continues. But you need to change. It’s tough when you’re 80, I know. But you have no choice. Remember silent movies? Just saying.

Good luck!

Happier customers want less information

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We’re living in the information age. We bombard people with product information, spreadsheets, comparison charts. Because that’s what people want: More and more information, right?

Wrong.

Researchers at the Tippie College of Business learned through a study that customers with less information about a product are happier than those with more information:

“We found that once people commit to buying or consuming something, there’s a kind of wishful thinking that happens and they want to like what they’ve bought,” said assistant professor of marketing Dhananjay Nayakankuppam. “The less you know about a product, the easier it is to engage in wishful thinking. But the more information you have, the harder it is to kid yourself. This can be contrasted with what happens before taking any action when people are trying to be accurate and would prefer getting more information to less.”

(…)

“Although the research used inexpensive items like chocolate and hand lotion in its experiments, Nayakankuppam said the Blissful Ignorance Effect could apply to bigger ticket items, too, such as cars or houses. However, since people tend to do more research before buying expensive items and thus would have more information, the effect would be more limited.”

This turns the traditional purchase funnel on its head: Marketers are used to finding and addressing passion points in the awareness stages and overwhelm consumers during the consideration and shopping phase with just the facts, ma’am.  The study clearly shows that businesses need to better engage with aspirations and desires of people throughout the shopping process. People buy into dreams, into wishful thinking. Not into facts. Sure, some product decisions are purely based on facts (Did you ever buy a flash drive because it made you feel sexy?) but most are based on emotion.

Based on this study, brands should revisit their marketing strategy and find ways to speak to passion points throughout the sales process. And beyond. These passion points are best addressed by utilizing social media and conversational marketing – the places where people discuss their desires and needs.  In the end, people want to feel good about their purchase: They want to get recognition from their peers, get an emotional lift, feel better about themselves. Successful advertising has always known that.

Conversational Marketing not only guides people through the shopping process, helps them with information and resolves possible tripping points. More importantly, Conversational Marketing helps people to share their passion and emotions and extend the reach of their ‘post purchase high’.

Love alone is not enough

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A few weeks ago, the NY Times discussed the failure of ‘Friday Night Lights’, one of best reviewed TV shows, to attract a larger audience. Virginia Heffernan explained its failure with the lack of online extensions and discusses how TV shows can’t survive without franchising:

“…in a digital age a show cannot succeed without franchising. An author’s work can no longer exist in a vacuum, independent of hardy online extensions; indeed, a vascular system that pervades the Internet. Artists must now embrace the cultural theorists’ beloved model of the rhizome and think of their work as a horizontal stem for numberless roots and shoots – as many entry and exit points as fans devise.”

She explains further:

“Without a sense of being needed or at least included, fans snub art – at least when it takes the form of prime-time TV. They won’t participate in online dialogues and events, visit message boards and chat rooms or design games. As a result, platforms for supplementary advertising aren’t built, starving even the show fans profess to love of attention, and thus money, and thus life.

As the writers’ strike has made clear, art and entertainment in the digital age are highly collaborative, and none of it can thrive without engaging audiences more actively than ever before. Fans today see themselves as doing business with television shows, movies, even books. They want to rate, review, remix. They want to make tributes and parodies, create footnotes and concordances, mess with volume and color values, talk back and shout down.”

Conversational Marketing is often misunderstood as just an opportunity to initiate conversations between people and brands. It is so much more.

Conversational Marketing can help brands to tell their stories better. Through various platforms, innovative storylines, transmedia storytelling. Trans…what?

Well, I can’t do as good a job as Henry Jenkins:

“Transmedia storytelling represents a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience. Ideally, each medium makes it own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story. So, for example, in The Matrix franchise, key bits of information are conveyed through three live action films, a series of animated shorts, two collections of comic book stories, and several video games. There is no one single source or ur-text where one can turn to gain all of the information needed to comprehend the Matrix universe.”

People can handle more than one idea. It’s not enough to interrupt people for seconds on TV or 5 seconds as a roadblock on a site and hoping to be able to sell your product. We need to offer more than an idea.

We have to change the paradigm from individuals reacting to the world to adopting ideas and transferring them into communities. These communities will happen around inspiring storylines: They invite you to discuss, explore, exchange, interact, engage. Yes, we want engagement. But engagement without any value for people falls flat.

‘Friday Night Lights’ developed numerous loving relationships with people. But they had nowhere to go to express their love. And so everybody moved on.

Wallflower vs. Barfly

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Two people at a bar: The demure wallflower, most of the time in agreement with you, a lot of smiles, nodding. Two stools down, the opinionated barfly: controversial and polarizing. Who would you rather hang with? Short-term/Long-term? Brands often make the mistake to become wallflowers when they venture into the world of conversational marketing: Let’s be nice to everyone, make sure not to offend anyone. Conversational Marketing is seen as a minefield that’s best maneuvered by walking on eggshells.

Strong brands always had an opinion: a transparent and credible point of view about the world and the brand’s place in this world. Strong opinions are the match that ignites conversations. Opinions arouse emotions, make brands stand out in the cluttered nothingness of advertising. And don’t be afraid to change your opinions over time: People change, realities change, brands change. Opinions are supposed to change.

Your transparent and credible point of view should not change. Ever.