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The two most important factors of how we relate to people, products and companies

Book Review: The Human Brand

In our evolution as humans, we were forced to develop skills integral to our survival. One of which was the ability to make snap judgements about our surroundings with a high degree of speed and accuracy. As we walked out of the “cave” our senses went immediately into survival mode. We judged everyone and everything we encountered on two basic criteria:

  1. Are they a threat?
  2. What was their ability to carry out that threat?

The Human BrandThis basic truth is at the heart of Wiley’s new book The Human Brand by Chris Malone and Susan T. Fiske. Their research has shown that over 80% of our judgements as based on these two factors. It boils down to our perception of 1. warmth and 2. competence. These perceptions don’t just apply to people. We also apply the same standards to products and companies. We automatically perceive and judge their behaviors on a subconscious level. Brands are people too.

Here is author Chris Malone talking about the two dimensions of Trust:

Relationship Renaissance

From the Local Village to the Mass Market to the Global Village

The mass market is a relatively new phenomenon. Merely 150 years ago we consumed almost everything made from people we know. A merchants reputation was as precious as gold. If a small business wronged you, everyone in the local village would quickly know about it. Merchants faced public censure, potential ruin and even losing a limb (see story of the “Bakers Dozen“). As a result, businesses worked hard to establish trust and earn repeat business.

But then the mass market emerged. Almost everything we consumed was made by a faceless, far off company. The voice of the customer waned. We were powerless to expose or punish brands that acted badly. Outside of lodging a complaint with the Better Business Bureau or writing consumer advocates like Ralph Nader, we were handcuffed.

Enter Digital, Social and Mobile. The internet has changed the game. In the words of author Chris Malone, “For the first time in history, the entire world is wired in a way that is consistent with the way evolution has wired us to think and behave.” Social has flattened the earth. Each consumer has the opportunity to share their experiences with millions of others. There is a huge ripple effect in the global village.

A phenomenon John Lennon famously called Instant Karma,

Lyrics from the Hard Rock Vault

Lyrics from the Hard Rock Vault

“Instant Karma’s gonna get you
Gonna look you right in the face
Better get yourself together darlin’
Join the human race”

Need an example to drive this home? Look no further than Panera and the story of Brandon Cook.

panera-purple-goldfish

The Human Brand shares the touching tale of a Panera store manager who used good judgement to help the dying grandmother of a customer. Making soup and sending along cookies for good measure. In less than four weeks, a single Facebook post by customer Brandon Cook garnered 800,000+ likes, nearly 35,000 comments and scores of national media attention. Why? Because Panera empowered its employees to demonstrate warmth and competence by doing the little extra.

BOOK TAKEAWAYS: Consumers want to be heard. Social accountability is back and its here to stay. Consumers expect to have relationships with their brands. Companies must forge genuine relationships with customers. We now expect relational accountability from the companies and brands we support. Consumers will view the actions (or inaction) of brands based on warmth and competence. And warmth is absolutely key.

Chris Zane of Zane's Cycles

Chris Zane of Zane’s Cycles

The Human Brand is not just theory. It draws from original research, evaluating over 45 companies over the course of 10 separate studies. There are plenty of case studies. The book features in-depth analyses of large companies such as Hershey’s, Domino’s, Lululemon, Zappos, Coca-Cola, Panera, Amazon, Chobani and Sprint. It also touches on small to medium sized businesses with compelling case studies such as Dr. Kelly Faddis, the University of Dayton, Zane’s Cycles and Loeber Motors.

I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s a game changer. I guarantee you will be rethinking your approach to customers and prospects after reading this book.

  • You’ll rethink your approach to loyalty programs
  • You’ll rethink how you prioritize people vs. profits
  • You’ll rethink ever doing a “daily deal” like Groupon or LivingSocial
  • You’ll rethink the cost of new customer acquisition vs. upselling current customers
  • You’ll rethink how important is to make the first step in demonstrating warmth and competence
  • You’ll rethink how your actions will be perceived through the Principle of Worthy Intentions
  • You’ll rethink how leadership can become the literal “face” of your brand
  • You’ll rethink how you handle a crisis

In the words of Malone, perhaps the greatest takeaway is this, “Companies need to embrace significant change in the way they do business with customers, better aligning their policies, practices and processes to reflect warmth and competence.

One word: AMEN

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Here is John Lennon singing his classic, Instant Karma at Madison Square Garden:

’13 – The Year of the Baker’s Dozen or Little Extra

Happy New Year

It’s New Year’s Day. The first day of 2013. When I think of 13, I immediately think of bad luck or the Baker’s Dozen. Given my choices, I’m focusing on the 13th bagel or little something extra for the next year.

But in order to truly understand a baker’s dozen, we need to travel back to its origin in England  800+ years ago:

baker's dozenIt dates back to the 13th century during the reign of Henry III. During this time there was a perceived need for regulations controlling quality, pricing and checking weights to avoid fraudulent activity. The Assize (Statute) of Bread and Ale was instituted to regulate the price, weight and quality of the bread and beer manufactured and sold in towns, villages and hamlets.

Bakers who were found to have shortchanged customers could be liable for severe punishment such as losing a hand with an axe. To guard against the punishment, the baker would give 13 for the price of 12, to be certain of not being known as a cheat.

The statute deals with weight and not the quantity. The merchants created the ‘baker’s dozen’ to change perception. They understood that one of the 13 could be lost, eaten, burnt, or ruined in some way, leaving the baker with the original legal dozen.

The irony of the Baker’s Dozen is that its not based in given a little extra for the customer. It was about insurance and covering one’s backside for fear of losing a hand.

A Conscious Choice

I advocate that business should purposely goes above and beyond to provide a little something extra. Differentiation by design. A marketing investment back into your employees and customers. It’s that unexpected surprise that’s thrown in for good measure to achieve differentiation, drive retention, reinforce culture  and promote word of mouth.

Therefore I’m officially abandoning the Chinese calendar (Year of the Snake) and declaring it,

“The Year of the Goldfish”

2013 Year of the Goldfish

Here are my plans for 2013: The Year of the Goldfish

Purple Goldfish: Continue to promote the book, “What’s Your Purple Goldfish?” and spread the word about the importance of creating signature added value for customers. I will continue to do keynotes, will introduce half day and full workshops and offer consulting services under the banner of 9 INCH marketing.

Green Goldfish: Finish the Green Goldfish Project. The little signature extras for employees. I’m currently at 807 examples with a targeted completion by the Ides of March. The second book in the trilogy, “What’s Your Green Goldfish?” will be published on Friday, March 29th.

Golden Goldfish: Kick off the Golden Golden Goldfish Project. The extras you provide for the Top 20% of both employees and customers. The concept is based on the Pareto Principle and the fact that 80% of profitability can be typically attributed to 20% of your customers. Similarly, 80% of the value created by a business is generated by 20% of employees.

I’m looking forward to a big year exploring the extra mile.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – 2013 if the first year in the last 25 whereby no digits are repeated in the year. You have to go back to 1987 for the last occurrence.

Unleash the power of lagniappe

What if . . .

What if there was a simple marketing concept that moves the needle towards achieving differentiation, driving retention, and stimulating word of mouth? What if your execution was 100% targeted, with 0% waste and given with a personalized touch?

I believe the answer lies in focusing a greater percentage of your marketing budget on the customer, not the prospect.  Deal with the one that is “in hand” rather than the two “in the bush” through a concept called ‘lagniappe’.

What is Lagniappe?

Lagniappe is a creole word meaning ‘the gift’ or ‘to give more’. The practice originated in Louisiana in the 1840′s whereby a merchant would give a customer a little something extra at the time of purchase. It is a signature personal touch by the business that creates goodwill and promotes word of mouth.

LAGNIAPPE (lan‘yəp, lăn-yăp‘) Chiefly Southern Louisiana & Mississippi

  1. A small gift presented by a storeowner to a customer with the customer’s purchase.
  2. An extra or unexpected gift or benefit. Also called regionally boot.

Etymology: Creole < Fr la, the + Sp ñapa, lagniappe < Quechuan yapa. Interesting fact- Napa comes from yapa, which means “additional gift” in the South American Indian language, Quechua, from the verb yapay “to give more”

Enter Samuel Langhorne Clemens

According to Mark Twain in Life on the Mississippi:

“We picked up one excellent word–a word worth traveling to New Orleans to get; a nice limber, expressive, handy word–’lagniappe.’

They pronounce it lanny-yap. It is Spanish–so they said. We discovered it at the head of a column of odds and ends in the Picayune, the first day; heard twenty people use it the second; inquired what it meant the third; adopted it and got facility in swinging it the fourth. It has a restricted meaning, but I think the people spread it out a little when they choose. It is the equivalent of the thirteenth roll in a ‘baker’s dozen.’ It is something thrown in, gratis, for good measure.

The custom originated in the Spanish quarter of the city. When a child or a servant buys something in a shop–or even the mayor or the governor, for aught I know–he finishes the operation by saying– ’Give me something for lagniappe.’ The shopman always responds; gives the child a bit of licorice-root, gives the servant a cheap cigar or a spool of thread, gives the governor–I don’t know what he gives the governor; support, likely.”

marketing lagniappe, i.e. purple goldfish,  is any time a business purposely goes above and beyond to provide a ‘little something extra’. It’s a marketing investment back into your customer base. It’s that unexpected surprise that’s thrown in for good measure to achieve product differentiation, drive retention and promote word of mouth.

So – is it just a Baker’s Dozen?

In order to understand a baker’s dozen, we need to travel back to its origin in England:

The concept dates back to the 13th century during the reign of Henry III.  During this time there was a perceived need for regulations controlling quality, pricing and checking weights to avoid fraudulent activity. The Assize (Statute) of Bread and Ale was instituted to regulate the price, weight and quality of the bread and beer manufactured and sold in towns, villages and hamlets.

Bakers who were found to have shortchanged customers could be liable for severe punishment such as losing a hand with an axe. To guard against the punishment, the baker would give 13 for the price of 12, to be certain of not being known as a cheat.

The irony is that the statute deals with weight and not the quantity.  The merchants created the ‘baker’s dozen’ to change perception. They understood that one of the 13 could be lost, eaten, burnt, or ruined in some way, leaving the baker with the original legal dozen.

A baker’s dozen has become expected and therefore it is not a ‘marketing lagniappe’.  Now – – if you provided a 14th bagel as part of the dozen . . . that would be lagniappe.

Acts of Kindness

Another way to think of lagniappe is as an ‘act of kindness’.

There are three types of ‘Acts of Kindness’:

  1. Random Act of Kindness – we’ve all seen this before.  Good deeds or unexpected acts such as paying tolls, filling parking meters or buying gas for consumers. Usually a one off feel good PR activation.  This draws upon gift economy priniciples.  Giving with no expectation of immediate return, except maybe for potential PR value. But it doesn’t just need to be random anymore.  Executed correctly, as part of an integrated strategy, ‘branded’ acts of kindness’ can create brand awareness and more importantly drive brand loyalty.
  2. Branded Act of Kindness – next level 2.0.  Here the item given is usually tied closely with the brand and its positioning.  It’s less random, more planned and potentially a series of activations. This has the feel of a traditional marketing campaign.  Many brands are moving in this direction.  According to EVP / CMO Joe Tripodi, Coke is leaning more towards ‘expressions’ than traditional ‘impressions’.  Less eyeballs and more emphasis on touches.  What is an expression or a touch?  It’s a ‘like’ on Facebook, a video on YouTube, sharing a photo, a tweet on Twitter etc.
  3. Lagniappe Act of Kindness – 3.0 stuff.  Kindness imbedded into your brand. Giving little unexpected extras (g.l.u.e) as part of your product or service.  This is rooted in the idea of ‘added value’ to the transaction.  Not a one off or a campaign, but an everyday practice that’s focused on customers of your brand.  The beauty of creating a purple goldfish as a ‘branded act of kindness’ is that there is no waste.  You are giving that little extra to your current customers.  You are preaching to the choir . . . the folks who are already in church on Sunday.