Ben Perreira

My head's dropbox.

Month: September, 2013

Congruence

There is something very attractive yet scary about entering a market that has been long monopolized. It is attractive because it can usually be assumed there is demand for more than just what that one organization offers. It is scary because it is hard to tell exactly what that would be, making it likely people will reject it at the outset.

Fox Sports recently launched a 24/7 sports network to compete with ESPN. There are a couple small competitors, but FS1 made a huge splash when it launched last month. As they entered the market they faced a huge challenge: ESPN is all sports fans have known for a long time. If that is true, and if we are used to consuming sports highlights their way, is there a better way to do highlights? That is, will consumers perceive any other way of doing highlights as inferior to ESPN?

I don’t think this is true in the abstract. Of course there is always room for improvement. But we have to throw out purely rational arguments when we’re talking about consumer behavior.

I think one way in for new entrants is to show congruence. Congruence juxtaposes a brand with its competitor then shows how the protagonist brand will do that better. If poorly executed (examples abound, but I’ll refrain) it looks like a straw man argument. If executed correctly if shows how the brand’s offering is better, despite being new and different from what people have always known.

Flops and Dives II

This morning I came across an article on cheating in sports: http://www.psmag.com/culture/defense-diving-flopping-cheating-sports-66007/

The author assesses the differences between how fans treat the different ways athletes try to win. His examination mostly covers the objections many of us have toward flopping or diving to get foul calls. He cites three possible motives for this: xenophobia, insecure masculinity, and disrupted authenticity. They are all well thought out, but I think they mostly miss the mark.

Fans know that athletes will do whatever they can do to win, and we generally have a team we want to win in a given match. We also expect a certain amount of honesty about how they will play the game.

Player A intentionally fouling his opponent and Player B flopping to get a foul called against his opponent are far from morally equivalent. Player A is knowingly putting himself at risk of being called for a foul; Player B is trying to make it look like his opponent has hindered his ability to perform fairly. Fouls are in place to promote fair play. Flopping exploits the spirit of these rules, rewarding inferior performance.

The position is not without precedent. We hold those who try to cheat to win in a different category than those who commit all other offenses. A few examples:

– PED offenders (Lance, A-Rod, Braun etc.)

– Bankers who find loopholes in SEC regulation to create new products (Wall Street)

– A company lying about the merits of a product (Sketchers)

– Using chemical weapons against your own people rather than traditional weapons (Syria, it now seems)

– Hiring someone to take out your close competitor’s knee (Tonya Harding)

You could make the argument that all offenses are created equal, as the author of the above cited piece seems to do. You would be, indeed, making a weak argument. We love sports in part because they simulate war in many ways. But we also show an overwhelming preference for fair over deliberately cheap competition.

Ritual Loops

A consumer journey is the path from need to purchase that a person follows for a given product or category. It is important to develop a consumer journey to identify opportunities to reach him/ her when s/he is most receptive to a message.

A sub-section of the consumer journey is the ritual loop. The ritual loop exists when a love for the product and the process of purchasing it supersedes a specific need for it. The size of the loop reflects the purchase cycle, so it may be small (Gatorade) or large (Audi).

Take Ben & Jerry’s.

Ben & Jerry’s is just ice cream. And frozen yogurt and Greek frozen yogurt. But pretty much just ice cream.

It is also delicious, and its flavors have cool names that relate to TV shows, music, art, and other cultural totems. A ritual for buying Ben & Jerry’s may look like this:

– Develop a craving for ice cream.

– Decide you MUST have Ben & Jerry’s ASAP.

– Identify store nearby that sells it, preferably one with the best selection.

– Go to store, peruse flavors. Note cleverness of some flavor names.

– Select the one you wanted all along, head home.

– Once home, get a spoon and find favorite place to sit (couch, recliner, bed, etc.).

– Eat some of ice cream in the package, but not all of it. Put the balance in the freezer.

– The next day, or the day after, remember you have Ben & Jerry’s in the freezer. Do a good deed and allow yourself the reward of said product.

– Repeat actual eating ritual.

– Once the product is finished, recycle the package, or possibly re-use the package.

– See the package in the recycling bin or in its reincarnated state and lament the ice cream being gone.

– Remember how delicious it was. Remember the music you were listening to, the person you shared it with, or the TV show you were watching.

– Consider whether you will buy the same or perhaps try a new flavor next time.

At the end of the loop that is the consumption ritual of Ben & Jerry’s starts a new circle. You are obligated to yourself to fall in love all over again.

Interaction Analysis

One of the first classes I took as an undergrad studying sociology was called “Interaction Analysis.” It was taught by a Professor Zimmerman who had been doing research on the subject since the sixties. 

The crux of the learning was that the way we say things makes a big difference in the response we get. He discussed 911 calls, courtroom dialogue and pedagogy. It turned out there is a significant difference in response when a teacher asks “Are there questions?” versus “Are there any questions?” That little “any,” he said, made people less likely to respond with questions.

This type of work can get a little esoteric when not applied. When applied it become ultra relevant. In this type of analysis we can find the difference between successful and less successful social media campaigns, for instance. If people are primed for a certain type of interaction (e.g. a shareable meme or line on Twitter) and we give them something different (e.g. the same message in YouTube video form on Twitter), the interaction rate goes down.

Content and users engage in a dialectic about how the content must be relayed to those users. Beyond simple usability and friction though ultimately related, there is a flow to how we scroll through mobile social experiences that differs greatly from how we receive messages in other mediums; we dedicate fractions of seconds to reading tweets whereas we dedicate :30 to each TV spot. When we understand the style in which users expect to be communicated, the brand’s message moves to the front of the stage.