Most brands are just beating their chests.
Bragging about their organic ingredients, posturing about
their benevolent charity efforts, yammering about their innovative technology, posturing
about their third round of funding and raving about their company culture.
Good for them.
But if they’re so great, whey don’t they make their
customers feel great?
Smart brands champion their causes through other people’s
feats and bravery.
Undroppable is a campaign
and documentary that features students who graduate against great odds. These rock stars were given a media platform to share their stories, a chance to engage with the film as it was
being produced and permission to change
the conversation around education at all costs.
And by allowing their brand to become a witness to people’s
lives and a stand for their greatness, the world stood up, took notice and took action.
Take that, Tarzan.
Riddle me this.
What do doctor’s appointments, getting haircuts, working
out, tech support, taking pets to the vet, visiting the hospital, filling out
forms, buying a car, sitting in waiting rooms and going to confessional all
have in common?
are experiences that most people have always hated.
in every business, there’s a parallel experience. Some transaction, some
activity, some part of the process that customers usually view as a hassle.
This is the golden opportunity.
Lund, a renowned dentist from down under, has completely redefined the patient experience. In his office,
there’s no reception desk, cappuccino machines, fresh baked buns for clients, thirty
varieties of tea in fine china, and an overall vibe of happiness unmatched by
any dentist on the planet. His
team members never leave and his customers are clamoring to buy his services.
He turned a
painful process into a pleasurable practice. He gave people an excuse to spend
more time doing something mundane. And he proved that the dental experience
doesn’t have to be torture after all.
What if you found the activity that people previously
avoided as a badge of honor and used your brand to make them obsessed
If your word of mouth marketing plan is to put street canvassers at busy intersections to interrupt passerbys, verbally spam them with annoying questions about the cause and hand out pamphlets people are going to throw away ten seconds later, you missed.
Mindshare is a neutral entity.
Like tofu, it takes on the
flavor of whatever sauce it’s immersed in.
And yet, organizations spend
thousands of hours and millions of dollars generating word of mouth about their
brand, when what they should be deciding is what
kind of words they want coming out of people’s mouths.
Because when most customers
think of brands, all they think of is how crappy they are.
What good is being memorable
for the wrong reasons?
The best stores are temples to belief systems.
They’re places to enter into a fantasy world, practice our
religion, worship objects of devotion, experience products that inspire fervor, humbly walk in
reverie, soak up the ambiance, kibbutz with people who share our worldview, take
refuge from everyday life, seek shelter from the winds of the world and feel something closer to love
than simple convenience.
sounds like hyperbole, until you walk into a place like Trader Joe’s.
For the past thirty years, they’ve mastered the art of
creating an atmosphere worth coming to, a second home where customers just
happen to shop, an entire universe that people can become a part of, a place
that feeds the heart and soul of everyone who comes into contact with it.
Is it any surprise that they have the highest sales per square foot
of any grocer in the country? Is it any surprise that they have the friendliest, happiest and most helpful employees on the planet? Is it
any surprise their customers are so loyal that many routinely travel to
other cities to shop there?
in the slightest.
Because they’re not just a store that displays and sells
groceries to people, they’re a temple that creates and holds a whole meaning
system for people.
A good chef doesn’t just cook the food, he connects the people who consume it.
My friend Jonathan, a chef who only makes things he hasn’t cooked yet, develops
new recipes every week. Then, on the weekends he performs cooking
demonstrations at his local farmers market. And not only is the food delicious,
but his ingredients are available right there at the market, from his vendor partners,
along with free samples and recipe cards for the guests.
customers love it because of the healthy dish ideas, the vendors love it
because it highlights their products, the farmers market loves it because of
the community building, the bystanders love it because of the entertainment
value, and the chef loves it because he has the opportunity to do what he
And the food is only the beginning.
you step back at see the genius behind this strategy, it’s all about the social
function of Jonathan’s work. He is the glue that connects disconnected people,
the knot that ties together all the parties of the supply chain and the
middleman that helps all the relevant players get business out of the equation.
Food truly is life’s binding agent.
Are you cooking for your customers or connecting them to
Some digital marketing feels too close for comfort.
of a customized, helpful recommendation, it feels more like an alarming, creepy
intrusion. Instead of an enthusiastic engagement between the brand and the
customer, it’s another opportunity for companies to use new technology to
interrupt people more effectively. Instead of orientating the company
around what the customer needs or wants, it’s another online vanity exercise
about what the company does.
Instead of offering to change the world on behalf
the customer, it’s a patronizing
attempt to control what meaning consumers take from the brand. And instead of
creating a brand that gives meaning to our experiences and communicates
our thoughts and feelings with others, it’s visual pollution on an already
of it as a litmus test.
it’s right for your business and not for your customer, it won’t work. If
customer frustration outweighs economic benefit, it won’t work. If privacy
violations overrule convenience, it won’t work. And if it induces a shiver in
the user, it won’t work.
first, then market.
Toshi’s has live music every night of the week.
isn’t uncommon in a big city, except for one key difference.
The stage is catty cornered
between two massive floor to ceiling glass walls.
allows bystanders, tourists and other people passing by to get a perfect view
of the stage. Some take pictures, some hang for a moment, some stand for a few
songs, and some decide to come in to dance the night away.
to an interview with Toshi, his club has five or six hundred customers come
through every night. Even on Mondays. That’s way more than the industry
Because the act of running his business makes the funnel
Without the huge window, without the generosity of a free
show to anyone who walks by, it would be difficult to convince people of the
club’s value. For all they know, it’s just another one of the two thousand bars
in the city.
I wonder how much business you’re missing because future customers
can’t see you in your element, doing what you do, the way that only you can do
A fabulous product always has a longer shelf life than fabulous marketing.
If your team is planning the creation of a new product,
promotional tool, piece of software, tactile delight item, sharing device or
social object, consider thinking like a designer asking a few of these
How could we make something people want to use? How could we
turn the product into an object of devotion? How could we design the product so
it gets better with use? How could we plug the design into natural human
behavior? How could build interactivity into every part of the product? How
could we build the product as something that entertains society? How could we create
the product as an instrument for social enhancement?
How could we package the product as a form of theater that
creates a story? How could we make the product so beautiful that people want to
leave it on display? How could we use the product to make people famous, recognized
and part of something? How could we build the product as something cool people
talk about to increase their status? How could we design the product as
something that invites fondling and makes you want to lick it?
How can we offer intellectual playfulness that demands
active participation? How could the design induce a delayed response that
creates curiosity and intrigue? How could we make something familiar enough to
be understood but unusual enough to be engaging? How could we go beyond surface
value where the more you look at it, the more it will repay you?
point is, design isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. It’s not a veneer your company
applies after the hard work is done.
is the hard work.
If you look at the fastest growing companies and highest performing organizations in the world, they don’t rise to the top because they’re leveraging technology.
It’s because they’re learning new ways to fulfill the human
desire to belong.
Do I stop by the same coffee shop each morning because of
the espresso, or because of the feelings of familiarity and connection when I
walk in the door? Do I practice yoga at the same studio every day because I
enjoy torturing my body, or because I enjoy the camaraderie and community?
go to concerts to hear one song, or to speak in the universal love language
that allows us to share our humanity with each other? Do I listen to podcasts
nonstop because I need the information, or because I need to feel less alone
while working in my apartment all day? Do I cherish my job because I love the
work, or because I love seeing the look on people’s faces when I tell them
where I work?
to belong is a basic human need, an expression of our humanity and a
powerful trigger for making decisions.
you want the world to beat a path to your door, don’t build a better
mousetrap, build a friendlier welcome mat.
Almost everything has changed.
The technologies with which we innovate have changed. The processes by which we execute have changed. The ecosystems in which we do business have changed. The platforms that connect us have changed. The knowledge that we gain has changed. The way we document and store that knowledge has changed. The systems by which we spread our ideas have changed. And the structures through which we support and fund the execution of those ideas have changed.
But the one thing that hasn’t changed, the one thing we can
count on never changing, is human nature.
People are still people. People will always still be people.
And if we can stay in touch with that constant, forever
thinking from the thesis of humanity, everything else will fall into place