Nir Eyal, author of Hooked, recently suggested that products are becoming increasingly addictive. Three macro-trends are driving that, he told me, and together they are lifting the addictive potential of all sorts of products and services:
- Companies are now able to collect more data about user behaviors;
- Interactive technology is more accessible; and
- The transfer of data is happening faster than ever before.
You don’t have to look far to see consumers heavily engaging with the apps they have integrated into their lives. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are all obvious but Marie Claire cites research that shows there are now 50 million active users on Tinder. On average, they check their accounts 11 times per day and spend an average of 90 minutes per day doing so. In the words of Led Zeppelin, that’s a whole lotta love.
Here are seven reasons why I think that’s happening:
- Universal need – great apps cater to something that all humans recognise as desirable. In the case of Tinder, everybody wants company.
- Simple – it’s easy to use, and there’s some sort of distinctive ritual that makes it what it is. In Tinder’s case, you swipe. In Pinterest’s case, you pin.
- Mobile – people can “check in” on the run, and they can do so through their devices.
- Repeatable – this is something that people can do on a daily basis – in fact, many times per day.
- Rewarded – there’s rewards for continuing to check in, and as Nir Eyal points out in his book, those rewards are variable, making them more intriguing and addictive.
- Social – the focus is on the individual but the app also enables them to engage with other people.
- Safe – there are enough safeguards built in for people to feel that they are not taking an undue or unforeseen risk. We could debate the reality of that – but the perception is certainly there.
The principle behind gratitude as a state of mind is pretty simple and works by tinkering with individual perception. A grateful person not only acknowledges what they have, they appreciate it. People in a state of abundance (rather than a state of lack) are happier and more productive. When a mind operates in a state of lack, it is more disposed to cheat and steal and or operate with unbounded ambition.
A few months ago I wrote on the subject of brand social value and the importance of viewing a network from the point of view of ‘entity as group’, as well as ‘entity as individual’. To best engage a network we need to not only understand the motivation driving an individual to join a group, but also be aware of the emergent properties that happen when the group is acting as a single network.
Isn’t a brand remarkably similar to a network?
Can we use ‘entity as group’ to help a brand adopt the practice of gratitude?
The human mind is visual. Millennia before we posted images on each other’s Facebook walls, our ancestors posted illustrations on the walls of the Caves of Lascaux. As both consumers and brands increasingly shift from a vocabulary of words to a vocabulary of images — videos, emoji, and infographics (which we substitute for words), brands should understand how this new visual language creates meaning in the minds of consumers.
We know the brain does not “see” the outside world as it actually is. There is too much information to process. Our eyes capture images and pass them along via the visual cortex to as many as 30 different systems. The process helps the brain construct a three-dimensional model of the outside world. As information is passed through these systems, which describe everything from what we label something to how we feel about it, there are multiple moments of discovery that also help us define and refine what that something means. Meaning is just another part of the model.
Tom Wujec and the folks at TED created a project called Big Viz, the goal of which was to capture the essence of 650 TED talks graphically. He asked the question, “What is it about animation, graphics, illustrations, that create meaning?” and gleaned three important insights: “Making images meaningful has three components. The first is making ideas clear by visualizing them. Secondly, making them interactive. And then thirdly, making them persistent.”
This has implications beyond idea visualization and relates directly to brands from the largest scale of storytelling to the transfer of meaning at the most granular and personal level.
Actions are not strategies. Great strategies change more than where you are, what you call yourselves, what you offer. That’s Michael Porter’s thought. Great brand strategies re-invent the emotional context within which your brand competes against others in the marketplace. That’s mine. A great brand strategy redefines the relationship that people have with a brand over time. People think about you differently because they feel about you differently. That opportunity often gets missed in the rush to give people internally things to execute.
Great brand strategies focus on shifting the consumer inclination. The myriad of things you intend to do over the next 6, 12, 24 months are the means to arrive at that distinctive emotional goal. Turning Volkswagen into America’s most loved car – strategy. Telling people to stop smoking – action. Lifting traffic with a promotional offer – action.
Actions are prompts, and therefore, like all tactics, they function as switches. Yes. No. In response, people do something or they don’t. Change the logo – action. Like. Or not. Notice. Or not. Consumers may be incentivized by an emotion to take an action or respond to it but that’s often as far as the emotive change extends. The residual emotion about the brand and what it means to someone often remains largely unchanged. The brand is what the brand offers at that moment.
So many “brand strategies” are really action plans. Innovations – actions. CSR – action. Sponsorship – action. Content – action. And every “media strategy” and every “digital strategy” I have seen in recent years was, in reality, an action plan. They have all been about getting people to do things. What they don’t do is lay out a distinctive, competitive, emotional arc for that brand that puts in ‘clear space’ to pursue its commercial goals.
As marketing teams finalize plans for the year ahead, the logistics of making growth happen should be strongly influencing the targets you set.
Most of us would agree there are four ways to strategize for growth: increase the share you hold in the markets you are strong in; develop new products for those markets; extend your reach by finding new markets for your current brands; and develop new products that cater to new markets.
But while the strategies themselves are well-known, your capacity to expand is of course directly proportional to your capacities to generate demand and to fulfil. It’s tempting to pluck a number that’s x percentage points above organic growth. But as the old direct marketing adage goes – be careful what you ask for, because it might just come true. Here’s 7 factors I suggest you look at to navigate a responsible course between stretch and over-reach.
1. Access – will your distribution strategy allow you to grow volumes of either current or new lines to the extent you need to? If reach is finite and static, your ability to physically deliver into market will bottle-neck. What have you done to open up access – and is doing so in keeping with your brand’s position in the marketplace?
As my colleague Brad VanAuken points out here: “Distribution contributes to customer brand insistence in two ways. First, it increases brand accessibility so that brand preference is more likely to be converted to brand purchase. But, more importantly, it increases brand exposure, which increases brand awareness … The only situation in which extensive distribution may not be right for your brand is if it is positioned as an upscale or luxury brand.”
Will you be available, not available or too available as a brand for the targets you are setting?