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Is your Emotional Product Score helping or hurting you?

Monday, February 16th, 2015

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What’s your emotional value?

Emotional Value = Price weighed against emotional product score

We’re of the belief that audiences are tough-ass judges. No matter who you are, what you do, how nice you are, you are being judged good or bad. For most of us, this is inconsequential in the grand scheme of things as we don’t base our livelihood on promises and time can be very forgiving.

However,  for businesses, especially those on the front lines of consumer offerings and dishing up product promises, time is of the essence so it’s critical to be judged on the high side of the sum of emotional checklist weighed against the price of the experience. We call this the emotional value score.

Audiences subconsciously carry this emotional checklist of various categories that they weigh you against. At first interaction, the cross check is coarse, blunt and general — where audiences simply rate you with a good or bad through the list. If you have it – you get a good or a 1. Don’t have it, then a bad or a 0. If you score above middle then you get a second chance but if you don’t, then they move on, possibly forever.

If you are lucky enough to get a second chance, then things adjust. Audiences get more sensitive, spending more time to really gauge the nuances of your offering to see if they will come again as well as move in emotionally for the long term. The audience begins to weigh the list as it relates to them but also to your basic promise or proposition. They make excuses for bad scores and can become more forgiving, as long as you can deliver above average or better yet, you are showing improvement.

Hey, this is no different then any personal relationship. It takes time. You work at it, you sometimes get second chances but you can never take the other for granted and you must always score higher than middle, and continue to score higher, on the emotional value score.

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The Emotional Product List

All offerings break down into, among many things, these heavier emotional categories:

People — Treatment & relationships, culture & scene, personality and charisma, knowledgeable

Place & Spatial Environment — Beauty or awe of Land, aesthetic of a place, Interior inspiration, comfort, style, music

Experience — Enjoyment, entertainment, fun, learning, ease, time spent

Care — Thoughtfulness of design, Cleanliness and Pride, graciousness, attention to detail, passion

Quality (of “Product”) — Perceived quality of performance or Taste of Material Product or Food

Uniqueness — Perceived uniqueness of product and differentiation from the heap that allows people to remember — ask your self, “are you extraordinary?”

Fit & Relevance — Compatibility with audience’s lives in a emotional, practical use and technical perspective

Every time someone interacts with your product offering, they subconsciously re-score and decide if they need to do it again or take some time off — consciously-uncouple! This score is then often immediately communicated to friends or social extensions (social media) as storytelling or content by way of a summary of the highest weighted importance or argument to justify the conclusion they are summarizing.

“…just had the best coffee ever at Justa Bean again. Wow they know their stuff and now I don’t even need to tell them what I want…” “love the music they play there, I always come away with a new band to check out…” — Score: relationship, inspiration, learning, care, quality, relevance = 6 out of 7

In some cases, offerings fail miserably in a few categories, yet they still do well and audiences defend them.

“…had dinner at Snarky Dogs last night. Dam that place was dirty but how cool were the staff, and you have to try the burger — it’s killer and was just $25. BTW they have tons of local draft beer too.”

In this case the personal weight of pride and space scored low yet people, quality and uniqueness and fit added up to make a great experience that overcame the downside — so 4/7 = good emotional product and when weighted against the perceived low price point = good emotional value.

Be Strategic

So strategically you might consider that though the list seems evenly weighted and attainable for a business offering to score a decent average across all points, perhaps being really awesome in a couple of key categories while not so good in a couple others is better than just ok at all of them.

Perhaps the ones you can be really good at are your Promise and the points you are going to suck at are a part of your texture and personality; the things people see as funny, risky, memorable or hope to see evolve.

Being ok at all things may be a little boring and certainly isn’t a standout. For some brands this is ok to be that safe fall back. There is honour there for sure. But it may be a fragile position because the world doesn’t stand still. Things move fast around here and it won’t be long before good isn’t good enough as others in your competitive hood have raised the bar, or trends simply change affecting audiences desires for uniqueness, possibly leaning them toward riskier, trendier, more exciting brands. Sorry old man.

The promise

Remembering that your real product is emotional, not physical, you have to decide what you are good at and what you can consistently, confidently, deliver. This should be your promise — your offering and proposition.

Picking what’s achievable, recognizing what’s not, and then building this into the product promise is a realistic way of ensuring you can fulfil your obligation to not under deliver. You simply must match the promise with the delivery or you will fail and spend a whack of dough in the process.

You can also set the weight, emphasis, confidence and tone of the delivery of the checklist — essentially establishing personality and expectation around the promise. Assert what’s most important and confidently dismiss what’s not — what you aren’t good at — and people will get it as long as you are consistent.

One of my favourite pizza restaurants has from day one stated it doesn’t cut your pizza or pit the olives. So don’t ask. This establishes the limit of their customer service position — saying simply, “we are confident that making great food in a cool environment with a good culture is enough — we’re not servants, we don’t cater to special interests — so cut your own dam pizza”.

Being confident with who you are and delivering consistently helps you build a culture of understanding and anticipation of your brand among your audience and staff. Once this is in place, they’ll do the work of carrying the brand.

Honesty is the best policy

Tough love time. Run through the list and ask yourself how you score. Aha, take off the rose coloured glasses. Then ask some of your audience, customers and friends how you score. Be honest, it won’t hurt, besides if your brand is weak and product popularity is waining, you are already in pain.

If you score 50/50 or less then you have to get better at a couple of things and begin to confidently assert that the other things just aren’t, your thing. You can do it!

If you score 70/30 you are in a great spot so now begin to hit the high notes, the things you really love, even higher. Get really good at them, talk about them, build the offering into your position statement and build your culture on it. Then protect your position by confidently admitting what you don’t do and eventually you might find that this becomes less important to audiences, and therefore less of a competitive edge for other brands that can deliver on this note.

Steam Whistle, a Toronto brewery that had aspirations to be a successful brewery beyond small production craft, is located in a small swatch of a property with big rent in the downtown entertainment district. What they did well was make a good all round pilsner beer in a steampunk cool facility.

What they couldn’t do well was make a variety pack of beers due to the associated challenges of managing the logistics of variety at their location. So confidently they sewed their lack of variety weakness into their brand and product offering — “Do one thing, really, really well.” — and with it created personality, differentiation and a clear deliverable promise.

Apple Computer, that small upstart from California made well designed desktop computers of exceptional detail, high aesthetic, longevity and stability. Due to financing and production constraints as well as high standards for internal component cross-compatibity and reliability, they couldn’t provide product variety or open source operating system access — attributes dominated by their main competition. What Apple could deliver on was done so with confidence and consistency — asserting their pros and being really good at them. Fast track 30 years and the general audience no longer cares about the practical attributes of product variety or open source software. But they certainly appreciate the emotional quality, reliability, good design and inspiration.

Be consistent

The key in any scenario of emotional value is to learn to be consistent because that means reliability. People always return to reliable even if you are reliably bad in a few categories. If you aren’t currently consistent, then you simply have to fix that today. Identify the reason you aren’t consistent — staffing, ingredients, materials, culture, cleaning — all just variables that you can identify and control. Starting now.