Sep 24, 2013

Crafting Memories


The persistence of tattoos
Persistence: the length of time in the state of engagement, usually expressed as enduring or situational.

The subjective state of engagement has three main properties (Andrews, Durvasula et al. 1990; Lawson and Loudon 1996; Wirth 2006): intensity, persistence, and duration. This post discusses persistence.

Persistence of customer engagement is related to relevance (based on Interests, Values, Impressions or Outcomes, as discussed in other posts). For example, a wine connoisseur's interest in wine is enduring -- he will find the notes of graphite, black currant liqueur, incense, and camphor in a bottle of 2006 Chateau Malescot St. Exupery lastingly engaging. A habitual beer drinker's interest in wine is likely to be situational -- she will stop thinking about the taste after the first few mouthfuls.

Value- or interest-relevant propositions are more likely to be enduringly engaging. Impression- or outcome-relevant propositions are more likely to be situationally engaging.

Novelty often fades fast.
A proposition may be intentionally designed to be either enduringly or situationally engaging. Hospital way-finding systems (signage), for example, are designed for situational engagement; they do the job and are then forgotten. A luxury watch, in contrast, is designed to connect with enduring aspirations and values. It does more than tell time.

Persistence of engagement is related to memorability.
Research into the phenomenon of duration neglect shows memory of an experience is determined by only two factors:

  • the quality of the highest moment of intensity (discussed in the previous post) during the experience, and 
  • the concluding moments of the experience. 

So, to craft a happy memory of an experience, designers should create a moment of high positive intensity, and a pleasant conclusion. This applies even when designing a first use experience (aka, "out-of-the-box," "first use," "unpacking," or "onboarding").
way-finding systems are situationally engaging

In practice, this means that less engaging (often lengthy) parts of the experience, such as filling in a form or indexing files, should be situated early or mid-experience, and offset with a moment of humor, personal encouragement, or quantified achievement (see the previous post for the mechanics of intensity). The conclusion of your customer's experience should be differentiated from the rest of the experience -- so to be untainted by any preceding unpleasantness -- and emotionally positive in tone. This is why movies usually end with an upbeat song: your memory of the movie is more positive when you walk out of the cinema singing.

Bottom line

  • For enduring customer engagement, make sure your proposition is personally relevant to your customer (via Interests, Values, Impressions or Outcomes).
  • To engineer a strong memory of your proposition, design to create a moment of high positive intensity, and an emotionally positive conclusion.

Did I get it in the box? Before you forget, leave a comment below. Please engage.

This post is part of a series on Design for Customer Engagement.

If your interests extend to theory and philosophy, please check out my other blog.

Sep 17, 2013

Turn it up to 11


The subjective state of engagement has three main properties (Andrews, Durvasula et al. 1990; Lawson and Loudon 1996; Wirth 2006): intensity, persistence, and duration. This post discusses Intensity.
Simon leans forward, rapt in the documentary on the Falklands conflict, where he served with the Guards. His engagement with the content is high. Beside him on the sofa, Ganesh browses the TV schedule on his Tablet, he doesn’t really know much about the Falklands; he still lived in India at the time. His engagement is low.
Intensity: the level of Engagement, usually expressed simply as High or Low.

In addition to Personal Relevance (discussed in earlier posts), there are at least three factors that increase or reduce intensity of engagement:
  • Expectancy Disconfirmation
  • Responsibility for Message Evaluation
  • Accountability

Expectancy Disconfirmation

Expectancy Disconfirmation is the extent to which a message fails to conform with expected information. For example, a person is more likely to think about a weather forecast for snow in the summer than in the winter.

Expectancy disconfirmation is why we experience bugs, breakdowns, failures, and other disappointments intensely. Positive expectancy is experienced as surprise, delight, or amusement. Examples of positive expectancy disconfirmation include pop-up shops and flash mob marketing; unusual (and pleasant or amusing) sounds confirming your SMS message has been sent; or an unexpected gift, perhaps a sticker, during the unboxing of a new product.

The Tesla Model S automobile's music volume controls go up to 11.

Responsibility for Message Evaluation

The presence of others who share the task of evaluating a message decreases any one person’s perceived responsibility for the task and, hence, that person’s motivation to think about the message. For example, a person may be more motivated to think about emergency exit instructions if they are the sole passenger in an airplane than if they are in a full airplane.

A common tactic to make a customer feel as if they are personally responsible for message evaluation is to address them by name. For example, an email with the subject, "Ludwig, have you checked the bottom of your shoes lately?" will be experienced with greater intensity than one without the personal name, by Ludwig.


Accountability is the extent to which a person believes they will be called upon to recall the message. For example, a weather reporter is more likely to think about the weather forecast than a bartender.

The first implication of the Accountability principle is that, for high engagement, you should design your proposition for the person accountable for the job it does. Often, however, there is no clear line of accountability. The bartender wants to know the weather forecast, even if he is not accountable.

Nike+ metrics raise intensity.
In cases where there is no clear accountability for the job your proposition does, it may still be possible to raise the intensity of engagement by designing for accountability. This means providing the tools or outputs of accountability, such as metrics, dashboards, logs, etc. For example, Nike+ increases the intensity of the running experience by adding metrics.

Bottom line

  • Look for moments to surprise, delight, intrigue or amuse your customer; but be mindful that intensity can be positive or negative, depending on the situation and customer.
  • Address your customer personally to heighten intensity.
  • Add performance metrics, and displays to foster a sense of accountability.

Do you recognize the title of this post? Prove it. Leave a comment below. Please engage.

This post is part of a series on Design for Customer Engagement.

If your interests extend to theory and philosophy, please check out my other blog.

Sep 10, 2013

Inside Outcomes

Outcome relevance

Successful outcome for Biff
Chip and Babs are pregnant. At 10 weeks, they will be preoccupied with prenatal health. At 40 weeks, they’ll be concerned about safe birth. Then they’ll be focussed on learning to wrangle diapers. Once the diaper routine is sorted out, their days will gradually come to revolve around the goal of sleep, theirs and the babies. As young Biff approaches three years old, the sleep issue will be resolved. Managing tantrums will be the main item on the family agenda. …and so it goes.

Knowing a customer’s goals gives you insight into what is relevant for them, namely anything that that moves them closer to, or further from, these goals. Issues that impact progress toward goals are outcome-relevant. For example, advice on infant sleep routines is outcome-relevant, and hence likely to be interesting and welcome to parents who want to get more sleep; A proposed interest-rate hike is outcome-relevant to a couple looking to buy their first home.

The goals of first-time parents are fairly predictable. Babycenter presents outcome-relevant information to its consumers by changing its content according to the age of the child, from conception to 9 years old.
Babycenter matches its content to parents concerns week by week. 

Outcome-relevance is related to “jobs-to-be-done” theory. As renowned marketing guru and ex Harvard Business Review editor Theodore Levitt famously observed, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!” (Christensen, Cook et al. 2005). In other words, outcomes are more relevant to your customer than products.

When thinking about the “jobs-to-be-done”, think beyond just the functional goals. Unless you are selling a pure commodity, your customer will also have important emotional and social goals. Chip might be happier with a drill that makes him feel like a competent handyman than one with precise speed control.

Dig down to the your customer’s most important motivations by asking why they would be interested in your proposition. Then ask why that motivation is important. Then ask why again. Follow the chain of motivations to the root cause. This method, known as The 5 Whys and used in Six Sigma, Lean Startup and IDEO methodologies, is useful to examine underlying reasons for customer behavior and attitudes. Understanding the root cause usually opens up new solution possibilities.

Bosch looks for relevance in the kitchen.

Bottom line

  • Connect your proposition to your customer’s goals.
  • The end (the outcome) is more important to your customer than the means (your product).
  • Ask why your customer would be interested in your proposition. Understanding the root cause opens up new solution possibilities.

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This post is part of a series on Design for Customer Engagement.

Sep 3, 2013

Image Manipulation

Impression Relevance

Teeth whitening: we care how others see us.
Leroy has strong opinions on gun control. He’s never personally held a gun, and has no particular desire to do so, but Leroy will tell anyone who cares to hear that he is categorically against gun control. You see, around where Leroy lives, folks just expect him to oppose gun control. He wouldn’t want anyone to think he felt otherwise.

Impression-relevant issues are those with regard to which your choices and actions have the potential to enhance or damage your image in the eyes of others. Impression-relevant issues are engaging because reputation is at stake.

The fashion industry is propelled by impression-relevance. Most of us dress to impress (although the nature of the impression we are trying for varies greatly). The luxury goods industry generally bases its propositions on enhancing the image of the consumer in the eyes of others. Functionally, a Chanel handbag is no different than any other. It commands a premium price because of its ability to impress friends and frighten rivals.

Brand name watches are expensive not because they are more accurate or durable, but because of their power to enhance your image in the eyes of others. For example, Rolex emphasizes the symbolism of their watches.

Rolex emphasizes the symbolic value.
Luxury goods rely on strong visual design in product and advertisements because images communicate impression-relevance directly. For example, Veuve Clicquot’s distinctive gold-yellow box communicates prestige to consumers and bystanders.

strong visual design

Bottom Line

Relevance is key to building Customer Lifetime Value because it drives recurring transactions. Propositions are relevant to your customer either because they align with personal interests, or because they carry value, impression, or outcome relevance. To engage with your customer's concern for the impression they make on others:
  • Highlight the power of your proposition to impress your friends and frighten your rivals.
  • Frighten your friends and impress your rivals -- sometimes also a good result.
  • Use strong visual design to communicate impression relevance.

I look good if this helps you look good. We'll all be impressed if you leave a comment below. Please engage.

This post is part of a series on Design for Customer Engagement.

If your interests extend to theory and philosophy, please check out my other blog.