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What The #$*#@%!!#$%!!!! Get Mad, Get WOW
By Rick Hendrie ~ Remarkable Branding
Friday, 20th January 2006
 
When I speak to groups I am struck by two things, the eager yearning I see in many faces to elevate their game, to ‘Get To WOW' and a cloud of doubt that lurks, peeking out through the sudden downcast motion of the eyes.

The way to WOW sounds right. By God, it IS right, but the obstacles seem so large, the inertia to remain in stasis so profound that action appears doomed. So, let me reiterate the basic mantra, "WOW is not nice to do, it is a Must Do Proposition". How do you get the forward momentum? Get mad at the barriers which have held you back. Stand up, look in the mirror and shout, "What The #$*#@%!!#$%!!!!"

Many businesses still operate in medieval mode, processing transactions, offering pleasant, even spirited service, focusing on customer satisfaction and endeavoring to exceed expectations. What's wrong with doing a good, if conventional job? Nothing, if mindlessness is your preferred mode of business. There is a charming naiveté about wishing old strategies might create new outcomes.

But, magical thinking does not make it right. Continue to operate by focusing on ‘exceeding expectations' and you can declare, "It's Lemmings Time!" You will find yourself at the edge of the cliff with one foot over the edge, ready to chase a phalanx of furry dupes on their way to oblivion.

Follow the leader and end up like GM. March with the big guys and go bankrupt like United or USAir. The truth is that audiences of business people know that experience creation is right, that real brand success comes when we offer emotional payoffs on a platform of superior products or services. Only if you aren't intentional about embracing the emotional payoff, where the actual consumer interaction in all its particulars is imbued with it, you will have merely created another cute advertising campaign remembered by one in ten consumers.

There has been some scholarship around just what it is that great brands do. It can be broken into three categories

The Functional or Mechanical Benefit(s)– delivering a product or service that ‘does' something. A WOW brand offers superior products and/or services, but only as a prelude to the next two elements. I often use the Ritz Carlton's standing offer for any associate to spend up to $2000 grand to ensure the guest gets great service. There is no question that they are known for WOW service and hospitality

The Emotional Benefit – creating or evoking an emotional response in the consumer completely separate from the actual product or service. It may be Harleys promise of a ride with brothers and sisters of like spirit along a deeply metaphorical open road via its annual HOG (Harley Owner Groups) trips or the ‘bit of permissible sin' promised by a bite of a hot Krispy Kreme. Whatever the case, it's the emotional connection and its electro-chemical counterpart that resides in the part of the brain most responsible for buying a brand. Ask your self, "What am I really selling?" Nike sells the feeling of invincibility with its shoes. Starbucks sells refuge from the madding crowd. 

The Aspirational Benefit – creating the expectation that using the product or service gives the consumer access to some state or status to which they aspire. Lexus offers the promise of living the life of Architectural Digest or Food and Wine. Again, the state is not often related to any practical aspect of the product or service. This too resides in the ‘feeling part of the brain, but affects more parts of the frontal lobe. Aspirational benefits take the immediacy of an emotional experience and stretch it. The aspiration lasts after the emotion wears off. If Build-a-Bear inspires primal feelings of birthing in the children who create their animal, then the longer term aspirations related to being a successful Mommy or Daddy add resonance and depth to the child's relationship with her/his inanimate pet. Remember, this is not an intellectual exercise. Aspirations are every bit as visceral as emotions, just with a broader reach.

So what is necessary for us to decide to take the plunge, to meet the obstacles head on, to agree to bear the pain of change in order to transcend into a new realm of Experiential WOW branding? Get mad. Say to yourself, "What The #$*#@%!!#$%!!!!"

Why wait until the economy tanks or some smart competitor decides to go to this Promised Land first? Why allow the great River of ‘Doing What We've Always Done' carry you along? The steps to take are many, but they are specific and actionable. The shift in thinking is a hump, but What The #$*#@%!!#$%!!!! Being stuck in a commoditized world under the illusion that your service or product quality is enough to separate you from the competitive wolves is foolish. Look in the mirror and say What The #$*#@%!!#$%!!!!

Use the power of What The #$*#@%!!#$%!!!! to liberate you, use it as a rallying cry with your associates. The facts supporting the need to be about experience creation rather than transaction execution are overwhelming. It is only going to be more competitive tomorrow. So, What The #$*#@%!!#$%!!!! Why wait? Just get going.

Rick Hendrie is President & Chief Experience Officer of Remarkable Branding, Inc. a Cambridge MA based consultancy which helps clients create  and market memorable brand experiences. For a complimentary newsletter go to www.remarkablebranding.com
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