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’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.

Embracing passion make the folks @LEGO_Group part of one of best brands in the world

Going Above and Beyond

#1043 in the Purple Goldfish Project is LEGO

lego purple goldfishThis purple goldfish was submitted by Stephen Holodak . In Stephen’s words,

I’m not sure if this is lagniappe or if it’s just exceptional customer service, but in either case it’s a great example of a company doing the right thing.  Just thought I’d pass it along.

Here is the YouTube video Stephen attached:

This is a tremendous video on so many levels. A brand that relates in a personal way with both words and an extraordinary gesture. Parents who were so touched by LEGO’s efforts that they wanted to share the experience.

Make sure you read the description below the video. It has the original letter and Lego’s two written responses. Thomas only reads the second one in the video. The first is a typical written response to a consumer inquiry. The second one is pure lagniappe. Giving a little extra that’s thrown in for good measure. One sentence stood out in that letter,

Due to your passion for LEGO and your heart-warming letter, we knew we had to go above and beyond to help make this a reality.

Kudos to Megan and the entire team at LEGO for going the extra mile to embrace passion.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – I had the opportunity to hear LEGO Group Head of Social Media Lars Silberbauer speak at the DIALOG Conference in Sweden this past summer. Lars shared a few really interesting projects including the crowd sourcing platform called Cuusoo. He also shared a snippet from a video that LEGO created for its 80th anniversary. It’s an instant classic. Bookmark it if you don’t have 17 minutes to spare to learn about the history of “playing well” and the “importance of a system”:

The Purple Goldfish Project is an continuing effort to crowd source 1000+ examples of marketing glue. Brands that ‘give little unexpected extras’ to drive differentiation, increase satisfaction and promote positive word of mouth. Learn more about the concept and the 12 ways to stand out in a sea of sameness: Slideshare presentation.

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.