Category Archives: Book Reviews

Antisocial Virtual Reality – Retinas Deep

I’m finally reading Ready Player One, Ernest Cline’s dystopian future sci-fi novel that’s chock full of awesome ’80s culture. It’s a fun read, accurately called a “nerdgasm” by John Scalzi.

Brief synopsis: In 2044, an energy crisis has resulted in widespread economic despair. The OASIS is a virtual reality simulator in which many people escape the depressing world. It functions as an MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) and a virtual society. High school student Wade Watts spends his days seated in an old cargo van in a junkyard wearing his VR visor and haptic gloves, attending school inside the OASIS and hunting for OASIS creator James Halliday’s Easter egg. (Full synopsis here.)

“In the OASIS, you could create your own private planet, build a virtual mansion on it, furnish and decorate it however you liked, and invite a few thousand friends over for a party.” p.57

15% through the book, these were my first two thoughts, one somewhat unique to me and the other not at all:

  1. OASIS users sit for hours or days on end. They probably take about 200 steps per day (bathroom breaks).
  2. The OASIS replaces real life interaction like Facebook on steroids, and it’s a scary but fathomable progression.

pop art woman wearing virtual reality goggles saying OMGPlenty of people have written about whether Facebook could become a sort of OASIS. It’s clearly on Zuckerberg’s radar with the acquisition of Oculus Rift in 2014, and the fact that the company hands every new employee a copy of Ready Player One.  All covered.

What interests me is whether technology will make our future lifestyles even more sedentary and less interpersonally connected than they are today. In a world that enjoys VR more than IRL, we could really lose our ability to interact in a vulnerable, face-to-face manner. That’s already happening with smartphone addiction (social media and checking behaviors). People are more likely to complain on Facebook about daily offenses by neighbors, fellow drivers, or rude cashiers than to confront one another. But furthermore, in an increasingly virtual future, our bodies could either atrophy (if food becomes scarce) or expand even more (if foodstuff replaces real food and we subsist on cheap sugary cereal and microwave dinners). It’s not a pretty thought.

I like technology. I like the idea of free, globally accessible information. It just worries me that we’ll all be sitting on our asses not talking to each other even more. Instead of being thumbs deep, we’ll be retinas deep.

Two girls playing hopscotch on playgroundOn the bright side, quite the opposite of Wade attending virtual school from his van, here’s an elementary school in California where students have standing desks.  Bloodflow improves cognitive function and learning. Add in some VR use with open source global libraries and submersive educational experiences. Maintain real outdoor recess and give them standing desks – that’s promising.

Book Review: “Delight Your Customers” by Steve Curtin

Steve Curtin’s Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary is about taking customer service from ordinary to extraordinary. The emphasis is on employees’ understanding of the difference between job function and job essence. It’s a good read for marketers, because we can help shape policies and culture for customer-facing team members.

Delight Your Customer book cover
Steve Curtin focuses on the difference between job function and job essence

Here are the service employee basics, according to Curtin:

Ordinary Service
Job functions: “The duties or tasks associated with a job role.”

“…job function is necessary—even critical (i.e., the shopping carts must be retrieved from the parking lot…)—but it does not represent the totality of an employee’s job role!… The other half…often neglected, is job essence. His highest priority at work is to create promoters.”

  • Job knowledge and skills
  • Typical customer service: “routine, expected, and ordinary”
  • Results-oriented: policies, procedures, checklists
Extraordinary Service
“Job essence: An employee’s highest priority at work (i.e., to create delighted customers!)”
  • Motivation (understanding why one performs job functions)
  • Reflected in employees’ personality, creativity, unique flair
  • Lasting positive impressions on customers

Teaching the importance of job essence can really make a difference in your employees’ attitudes, which you need to optimize for a great customer experience. Most people (in any job) don’t answer this question correctly: “What do you do?” They’ll talk about job function: “I collect shopping carts from the parking lot.” But they should talk about job essence: “I make sure every customer has a wonderful shopping experience, starting with their first impression.”

Bon Qui Qui is funny because it’s true.

Eye Contact

I quit going to LA Fitness for a few reasons, but the lack of customer service was a big one. For years, the greeter sensed my presence without looking up from her phone, held out her hand for my card, swiped it, and handed it back silently. It’s the case at most grocery stores, too. Over time, the effect of being shuffled along through impersonal assembly line transactions has a negative impact on our society. The difference made by a friendly Publix cashier who makes eye contact, offers a greeting, and thanks me first is a stark contrast to most transactions. We’ve come to expect the exchange of money for goods to be a robotic, thankless necessity. It shouldn’t be.

“Thank You” (for taking my money)

One of Curtin’s best observations is about the order in which thanks are given at time of payment. Do you find yourself thanking the cashier for taking your money before she thanks you? Does she even say the words “thank you”?

woman cashier taking customer credit cardIn our efforts to be polite or politically correct, we’ve become self-effacing toward workers in service jobs. We have established a pattern of not expecting to be thanked first for our business. This is a problem. Granted, plenty of customers are rude and service people deserve courtesy and respect. But the customer deserves the primary thanking. Curtin gets it and has helpful ideas about ways to motivate employees to provide great service.

Grab your copy here:

For all the lamenting of the loss of human connection due to technology, let’s remember the simple opportunities for positive impressions absent from mechanized transactions in too many brick and mortar stores.

When’s the last time you received excellent customer service?

Book reviewed:
Delight Your Customers: 7 Simple Ways to Raise Your Customer Service from Ordinary to Extraordinary

Watch: Delight Your Customers Book Trailer

Updated 11/1/16

Marketing to Baby Boomers

Declining Community Participation

In Bowling Alone, Robert D. Putnam cites numerous statistics to illustrate the drop-off in Americans’ civic engagement and community participation since Baby Boomers’ parents were middle-aged (c. 1950s).

Bowling Alone book cover

In light of such information, and the overarching question Putnam posits about changes in community, there are myriad theories one could substantiate about the replacement of physical communal interaction with modern online, redefined communities. I will focus on connecting one area: Middle-aged to older adults, (in their 50s and 60s) have traditionally been more likely than young adults to vote and to engage in various forms of community (from bowling leagues to garden clubs to signing petitions to campaign participation).

Americans are less active today in such activities than ever before.

Social media use among Baby Boomers 55-64 rose from 9% in Dec. 2008 to 43% in Dec. 2010 (from Marketingcharts.com via David Erickson via Keith Privette).

Correlation or causation? Are 60 year-olds hashtagging #gardening tips instead of heading to a neighbor’s backyard club meeting? Probably (although most Boomers are on Facebook (73%) and not Twitter (only 13%). For analysis on the implications of the overall implications of these shifts in community definition involvement, read Bowling Alone.

Marketing application:

Remember that with longer life expectancy and lower savings rates than previous seniors, Boomers are projected to spend an additional $50 billion over the next decade (via market-research firm SymphonyIRI). If your brand’s target audience is between 50-70 years old, maximize your use of Facebook and minimize your reliance on old ideas about this group. Be like Kimberly Clark: they spent two years overhauling the Depends brand to appeal to the anticipated higher demands of Boomers. By 2020, Kimberly-Clark expects 45 million boomers will need incontinence products, up from 38 million currently. Depends advertising: “We’re very subtle in that we don’t have to explain the problem and solution in the ads. Boomers like seeing the confidence part of it.”

bowling shoes with blurry pins
Photo credit: Benjamin Faust

When designing your Facebook page, remember your customer’s main reason for being there: “Creating and renewing personal connections online is the biggest draw for boomers. About 47% of online boomers maintain a profile on at least one social network.” Boomers don’t want to bowl alone too much, though they have readily accepted the Facebook era. Whereas Millennials aren’t Facebook with the organic, unadulterated goal of staying connected with friends sharing pictures of children and grandchildren; as of today, we’re on Facebook because we know no other way. Connecting with friends is one appeal, but our narcissism is the real impetus for updating our status. Thus, marketing to twenty-somethings is completely different than to Boomers.

9 second attention span, 140 character limit

It’s no shock that Twitter appeals to younger people. We have a tiny attention span of roughly 9 seconds (via Sally Hogshead – love Fascinate‘s goldfish book jacket). One hundred years ago, attention span averaged twenty minutes. This is no accident: People increasingly lacked the patience to sit through PTA meetings over the last five decades. The communal connections or friendships potentially garnered there were hit-or-miss depending on attendance and likability of your neighbors. Online communities that are targeted present little risk that you’ll struggle to connect with like-minded comrades. If the relationship is based on Twitter and never even leads to a real life meeting, it will still suffice to quench that community thirst. Although, Boomers might still need a bit more Facebook love. But the proliferation of Twitter, especially amongst those who will increasingly make up the majority of the population as decades pass, means one day marketers may fondly recall enjoying the 30 second attention span of a Facebook user.

Tupperware Party 1950s

How to be Fascinating – Sally Hogshead

Think of a brand to which you are loyal, or better yet, for which you are an advocate.  Toilet paper, automobile make, shampoo, yogurt… etc.  Why are you fascinated by this brand’s advertising or image?

I just listened to Wayne Hurlbert’s Blog Business Success May 7, 2010 podcast, in which he interviewed Sally Hogshead. It only took about twenty minutes of listening for me to be not only fascinated by her work, but eager to share the revelations with others. Hogshead’s book, Fascinate, is based on three years of researching thousands of people to find out what makes a person or a brand fascinating. People who work in marketing will find her ideas useful because consumers have what Hogshead accurately pegs, “the attention span of a goldfish.”

The premise of the F Score Test is that you are fascinating, but how?  Hogshead has identified seven universal Triggers of fascination: sally hogshead with Fascinate book cover

  • Power- Why we focus on people and things that control us
  • Lust- Why we’re seduced by the anticipation of pleasure
  • Mystique- Why we are intrigued by unanswered questions
  • Prestige- Why we fixate on rank and respect
  • Alarm- Why we take action at the threat of negative consequences
  • Vice- Why we’re tempted by “forbidden fruit”
  • Trust- Why we’re loyal to reliable options

Note: Fascination is not synonymous with respect, popularity, reverence, or even liking.  Fascination is just about captivation and not being able to ignore the subject.  We each have a primary, secondary, and dormant trigger we project to the world everyday.

What fascinates Chris Brogan?
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2o8tE4QZq6w]

Hogshead gives corporate brand examples in her interview with Zane Safrit:

Brand: Godiva

Primary trigger: Lust

Godiva. We developed a drink called Chocolixier. There was a whole sensory experience that lets the consumer relate.

Apple does this as well. You are able to be a part of the brand. It is about an openness and availability. You create a space where people want to draw closer. Brands are incorporating more of the Lust trigger.

I took the test and so enjoyed reading my results… incredibly accurate. I recommend at least taking the free 28 question online test on her site. Very quick and so useful. The results identify how you fascinate others (when you do fascinate them) and what you might do to round out your fascinating self (I.e., activating your dormant trigger. Mine happens to be mystique- so I would do well to hold back some information now and again.)

About Hogshead: Sally’s work and insights have been profiled by The New York Times, NBC, ABC, CBS and MSNBC. She’s been described by the press as “intrepid” and an “advertising mastermind…” And I love this: When not writing and speaking, Sally campaigns to bring back the ‘hogshead’ as a unit of popular measurement in the U.S.” (A hogshead is a barrel that holds 62 gallons.)