Brand Morsels in Down Times Kris Woyzbun

Engage new brands through compelling micro-moments

It’s not surprising that in tough economic times, people spend less and take the “essentials only” approach in their purchasing decisions. What is surprising is that in times of bust, people are often willing to take on more risk, not less. How to explain this paradox?

People hate taking losses and will often make surprising gambles to avoid it. This risk-taking tendency means many people are more willing to gamble on new brands in a down market than is commonly supposed. Designers can further nudge people by inviting them to experience “brand morsels” that require little commitment and cost. These brand experiences create golden moments that bring in new customers, which in turn produce potentially huge payoffs when boom times inevitably return.

The Evidence — Stories from around the globe

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Kitschy is cool

On a chilly evening in the West Village, a crowd of twenty-somethings peers at a store window announcing, “Guys & Gals–Plastic, Rubber.” Down below on the glass, practically hidden, the store’s name: Marc Jacobs. The smell of off-gassing plastic seems to lure people inside the corner boutique.

Set up like a hip version of a dollar store, winter hats, sparkly metallic wallets, and watches are snatched up by the eager crowd. One girl snags a pair of bright blue rain boots. When asked why she would pay more for “normal” boots she could find in any big box retailer, she responds, ‘”because it’s the only thing of his that I can afford.” She can finally say that she owns a “Jacobs.”

How might experiences allow people in for a peek of the brand?


Image credit: Brenda Natoli

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Can’t live without it

Like most graduate students, Darren doesn’t have a lot of extra money. One day in Starbucks, he picked up GOOD magazine’s free mini-magazine, GOOD Sheets. Since that moment, he has become the magazine’s biggest fan, often sending links from the online version to friends.

Darren enjoys GOOD Sheets information graphics because they allow him to absorb complex topics without all the text, and he appreciates the fact that they take him only a few minutes to read. Before long, he even signed up to take advantage of GOOD’s sliding-scale subscription option for GOOD Sheets. Without the mini version, he might never have noticed GOOD magazine. The flexible subscription rates make him feel good about supporting something he believes in.

Can the right taste in the right place lead consumers toward deeper and more long-term investments?

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Spread the word

Andrea has watched every episode of Lost since the show’s premiere. Over dinner she and her friends discuss what will happen next and why. She even watches the ratings on a weekly basis to see how “her show” has done against its competitors.

Not all of Andrea’s friends share in the conversation, however—they complained that it was too late to start watching and they simply didn’t have the time to catch up on previous episodes. Then Andrea discovered ABC’s Lost Untangled “minisodes” and sent around several of the four-minute videos to bring her friends up to speed on the characters, plot, and story line. Several of them took to the minisodes and are now part of the dinnertime conversation.

Are there tools that will help brand advocates engage people who aren’t ready to make a full-time commitment?

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Tasting the waters

Nancy and her husband are always interested in trying new wines, but even with the sales people’s help, they feel as though they are taking a chance with every bottle they purchase. On a recent road trip through San Luis Obispo, California, they encountered Enomatic, an altogether different experience. For a nominal fee they were given a tasting card that allowed them to try any of the wines they were interested in. After finding a few that they liked, they left the store with half a case of their favorites.

How might introductory experiences allow for a personalized brand interpretation?

‘2.50’

Jim and Karen had never been to the local symphony because it seemed like those evenings could easily become too long and expensive. Instead they tended to stick with dinner and a movie. When Karen heard on the radio that the New World Symphony Orchestra was offering 20-minute concerts for $2.50, they decided to give it a try. Dinner, a short concert, and a walk around Miami made for a perfect, romantic evening. Maybe they will turn into music lovers after all.

How might brands offer a more relaxed, entry-level version of their offering?

Digging deeper

In the spirit of sampling a few bite-size morsels before ordering the full, five-course meal, here are some ideas worth tasting:

In Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness, Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein provide an accessible treatment of how structuring choices affects the decisions people make.

Marty Neumeier’s book, Zag: The Number One Strategy of High-Performance Brands, offers ideas about everything, from defining a brand identity to determining how and why people engage with brands.

In Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions, behavioral economist Dan Ariely provides an entertaining and insightful analysis of how people make decisions in everyday life.

Discussion

Matt Jones

June 29, 2009

A variation on this idea is presented in the HGTV show “Sleep On It” where people who are interested in purchasing a home get to spend the night in that home as part of their decision process. The potential buyers are given a way to “sample” the new home they are considering. 

Statically, people buy homes for emotional reasons more than for logical ones.  “I can see my self in this yard playing with the kids” outweighs “I want 3.5 bathrooms”.  The offer to sample builds the emotional connection that they are creating with the home.  This response is not limited to people on a TV show.  Ask your friends who are house shopping if they would like the opportunity to sample a home before they make an offer on it.  You will find a very positive response.

The interesting part of that equation comes when you ask people that have homes for sale if they want to let potential buyers stay in their house.  The overwhelming answer is “NO”.  Two specific reasons are given: First, they just don’t want people they don’t know to stay in their house.  Second, they are concerned that the potential buyer will uncover things that they are trying to conceal to make the house more sellable. 

In both cases, the seller is going to make the home look less attractive by not accepting the request to sample.  It will feel like either a personal rejection or like you are trying to hide something.  It won’t really matter which is the truth, because the potential buyer will emotionally disconnect from your house for either reason.

Just as in the examples of wine and symphony tickets, there is a cost associated with sampling.  It would be interesting to see this develop as a tool to sell homes in a very tough economy.

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wildblue

May 25, 2010

I understand the sentiment, that now I own a pair of Jacobs. If people can indentify themselves with a particular brand or niche they are more likely to stay true to the brand and spend more money per average sale. Given the recession we are in, I find that to be very powerful. Reason being, if a company can show they will be there for their people and customers through thick and thin, this gives the impression that they are in it for the long haul.

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maxsikis

September 29, 2010

The interesting part of that equation comes when you ask people that have homes for sale if they want to let potential buyers stay in their house.  The overwhelming answer is “NO”.  Two specific reasons are given: First, they just don’t want people they don’t know to stay in their house.  Second, they are concerned that the potential buyer will uncover things that they are trying to conceal to make the house more sellable. 
nowww!

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