"The average life takes about 17 hours to tell. Every life story I've ever collected has ended up taking up almost the exact amount of tape. It's odd, when you think about it, that in all those years, each of us has only collected less than a day of interesting material."
That’s the startling finding from the former New York Times music critic, Neil Straus after he switched over to interviewing people (including a porn star) to ghostwrite their books.
By the way, he may look familar to you as he played the part of the boring teacher in the movie, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." Stein is also an attorney, author, economist, actor, and was once a quiz show host and the host of Comedy Central's "Win Ben Stein's Money".
Following up on my posts, challenging hotels to storyboard their entire guests experience, my friend Bill Geist – the consumer trrends guru, noted, in his “Smelly Hotel” post that even some partial “innovations” can offend.
Read how one deep-pockets (read gambling-connected) developer thinks really big picture. He’s going to storyboard, not just a building but a whole mix of cross-promoted facilities. Read about Robert Soper’s grand (as in massive) plans around the Mohegan Sun.
Just as directors “storyboard” a movie, TV show, advertisement or photo op for their candidate, leverage your opportunity to optimize an experience by making every moment count. And, again like creating a memorable movie, manage the sequence of moments your guests or customers will experience, from the climactic opening scene, through the end.
In fact, he is literally banking on it as a fresh way to differentiate his chain from the competition. Last month he touted his company's hotel lobby of the future during a luncheon with travel journalists at the San Francisco Marriott.
By now most every major hotel chain is exploring ways to make their rooms, restaurants and public areas distinctive in ways that travelers value – and comfort, coddling and community seem to be key feelings they hope to evoke.
Marriott describes his "Great Room," as the new lobby for full-service. His main aim is for the business traveler-serving hotels to be experienced as a gathering place, with food service from snacks to full meals so that people will linger. Different areas within the lobby will designed to encourage people to interact with others at various levels of intensity, say one-on-one or in larger groups.
To make this grand change, Marriott worked with the legendary consulting firm IDEO, “whose experts literally followed business travelers as they went about their days and conducted interviews to gather information that typical survey research cannot reveal.” Yet, though they followed in the tracks of guests, they did not propose changes that reflected the step-by-step “paths” that guests often take. Thus they cannot maximize the value of the behavioral insights they gleaned from their anthropological work.
In short, here’s the missing piece of work to create, not just a Grand Room but a Grand Hotel Stay – as the guests experiences it. And I’ve seen several owner/managers of public spaces overlook – whether it is hotel, hospitals, churches or sports arenas. Rather than simply devising an overall look and feel and then arranging specific areas of activities, first storyboard the experience. Mr. Marriott: be even more successful by getting more specific. Consider not just the “zones” in your hotel but the moments.
Why? Because, just as one reacts to a movie or an advertisement as a consequence of the sequence of scenes so, too, a hotel guest reacts to the hotel, in part, by the sequence of moments they experience. For example, if one does not see an attractive architectural feature, say a beautiful entry door, and/or a door man (he is still usually a man just as the maids are still mostly women) who steps up to assist, then this “first impression” will dampen the effect of even a “great room.”
From the first smell to the tastes, the thickness of the carpet “islands” of comfort, flattering lighting and reflections where guests pause to the “looking back” scene they see upon departing, consider this. Are the sequence of emotional moments (and all are emotional in some way) are you building or diluting the sense of being welcomed and cared for? Have you multiplied the number of "feel good" moments? After all, the ultimate goal is that guests tarry and return to the great room, enjoy themselves, spend more and attain bragging rights to tell others about “my” hotel stay.
Yet even Joe Pine and Jim Gilmore, in their trailblazing book, The Experience Economy, while touting the importance of differentiating your consumer-serving place by creating a more exciting experience, neglected the crucial "last mile." That is explaining exactly how to create it, by storyboarding an experience that reinforces your brand personality. And they advocated generating more excitment which is great for casinos and sports arenas, yet not for other places, say hospitals, for example, where generating more excitement is not a plus.
Imagine if managers of consumer-serving venues took a more integrated approach, storyboarding not only scent but involving all of the senses. From the opening scene that pulls people in, makes them feel recognized and respected through the moments of calm, collective gathering, climatic “special” moments about which they could brag, to the closing scene as they stepped out of the door – with an unexpected “thank you” that came to them within 24 hours after leaving.
If you manage a hotel or other consumer-serving space here’s how to start. Take a video camera and two colleagues and start where you first have line of sight (and smell, sound and feel) of your place. Talk about what you see as you follow the main “path” that most people will take to enter your place. Will many drive in?
Our goal is to notice, on a continuum of positive to negative, what the sequence of moments may feel like to your prospective guests or customers. What’s confusing or otherwise irritating? What provides an unexpected delight? How many times do people feel recognized, coddled, offered the chance to comfortably engage with others?
After you’ve continued through the main paths that guests will take, from entry, to check-in to first entering the room and the room within the room (bathroom) keep talking about what you see, smell, can taste, touch and hear. Continue out to visit the great room, from example, then later to return to the room, visit the meeting rooms, check out, and leave.
Then gather together your team that helps you operate your venue and view and listen to the video together. Transcribe the sequence of moments. You’ll be gratified to see how many less-than-positive moments can be made better with small, inexpensive changes – and how many positive moments can be made much better.
In advocating this change in mindset I suggest that it is as obvious as it is radical.
Be among the first to do it in your kind of venue. Make the big change from innovating by zones, from guest room to Great Room, Mr. Marriott. Instead start storyboarding the total experience your guests (and staff) can most enjoy. It is as obivous as it is radical (to be the first) for retailers to stop selling products (lined up on shelves by product category) and start selling the situation. Stage the displays and provide photos of the actual situations for which customers are most motivated to buy your products.
Mr. Marriott, the first goal of a hotel is not necessarily to create a Great Room but for guests to feel they were treated as great people whilst they were there. That’s when they will return and brag about “my” great hotel.
I’ve worked with managers of sports arenas, hospitals, stores and yes, Mr. Marriott, I’d be honored to work with you on storyboarding the experience guests might have at your hotels. You do so much well in innovation and quality, it would be an honor to do my small part to make your good hotels feel great to your guests – so they do talk about “my” great hotel experience.
Do you operate a store, restaurant, hotel, hospital or other place? Alternatively would you like to make the places in which you work, live or play more comfortable? Here's some ideas about how multiple the number of positively memorable moments - and reduce the number of negative ones you and others might have in your spaces. I call this life-affirming coming back to our senses.
"Sounds good." "Feels right." "Leaves a bad taste in my mouth." Our language is flooded with sensory wording, yet we are mostly unaware of how our gut instinctual reactions "color" our likes and dislikes as we enter a place.
The multi-sensory cues we feel influence how we react to a place, person and products. People have millions of instantaneous, brief and sequential reactions to someone's home, hotel, office, store, or other site, yet they are consciously aware of only a few.
But they draw strong conclusions about what they think they experienced. You can put people off or put them at ease if you know how to influence those perceptions.
With increasing competition, not only from within your industry, but non-related businesses as well, managers are becoming more savvy and strategic about designing the experience they offer their customer. Restaurants and coffee shops sell quality clothes and giftware, hardware stores promote in-store seminars and workshops, printers offer one-stop secretarial services and sporting good retailers operate adventure tours.
Warm Up Your Customers, Guests and Visitors Here’s some ways to multiply the number of positive cues people experience at your place and reduce the negative moments. Evoke them to cultivate warmer relationships with the people who pass through your doors.
* A Larger-Than-Life Landmark An outstanding focus point that can be seen from first sight of your establishment until people are almost inside provides several positive effects on customers. It orients, and literally moves them, toward your building or event and emotionally prepares them for entering. A flagpole, for example, will not have as strong an emotional impact as a 30-foot turning mobile, illuminated by changing colors of light and visible a long distance away.
* Move to Motivate Motion increases the intensity of emotions. If the featured landmark moves or otherwise changes (color, shape, size, lighting), it increases the viewer's sense of involvement and anticipation. Their expectation that the ensuing event will be exciting often positively colors what they then think they experience inside. Every large and small motion heightens emotion. An employee's outstretched hand makes customers remember more of what was said and feel more strongly about that interaction than they will feel about other moments at your place when they are, for example, just seated and not moving.
* Create a Foot Oasis When people feel something soft underfoot immediately upon entering your business, they are more likely to be comfortable about the site and the people in it. Further, they will tend to pause where it is soft and take more notice of whatever they are looking at. Wherever people have to wait, such as in a refreshment or restroom line, you can mitigate their irritation and anxiety by placing cushioned surfaces where the waiting is most likely to occur.
* Purge Patterns In your staff's clothing avoid patterned garments, especially on the upper half of their bodies. Patterns break up the viewer's attention span so people are less likely to listen to instructions and take direction. Your staff will have to speak more slowly and repeat themselves more frequently to customers, who will also be more impatient. Patterned walls also make people less attentive and more anxious. In some cases, people even reduce their peripheral vision and tend to bump into each other more often.
* Soften Background Sounds People don't have "sound lids" to block out sound they'd prefer not to hear. Females and older people are especially sensitive to subtle ambient sounds from air conditioning and other mechanical systems, let alone crowd noise. Few are conscious of how deeply and adversely steady background noise influences their perceptions of others. Several studies have shown that such noise heightens listeners' views that the people near them are thoughtless. Such listeners are more likely to engage in hostile words and behavior.
* Make Them Passionate Fans Use quality mementos, such as lightly scented cards with action images of people related to an in-store display on one side and a quote from a related celebrity on the other. These cards are "keepers" that inspire bragging rights in the recipient.
People tend to keep these cards in a pocket or purse, show them to friends and colleagues, and refer to them frequently and for a longer time. That's great word-of-mouth reputation building for your business.
* Generate Good Will Early When people are offered some small, free memento up front- especially before they have given up anything such as money for a purchase-they have a more positive perception of the store, staff, and ensuing experience.
For example, a restaurant manager may offer a free glass of wine to customers waiting for a table, which not only placates the customers but also increases per-customer spending.
Similarly, a store manager could partner with another vendor who wants to access the type of customer visiting your store. You give a free sample of his or her product/service to each customer who enters your store. The positive effect created will be far beyond the actual value because it sets an early tone of generosity and openness that inspires reciprocity.
See, for example, how we evoked this “yes” trigger to spur more snack sales at movie theatres in an article their industry magazine dubbed the “Bon Bon Bombshell“ (http://www.sayitbetter.com/articles/sel_bonbon_bombshell.html).
* Keep Them Happy Longer Take the "free offering upfront" procedure a step further and intensify a feeling of good will and camaraderie by offer something that engages their attention and increases the chance they will talk with your staff and others attending your event or establishment.
Perceived waiting time is reduced, people are less restless, and their view of anyone with whom they speak goes up. Overall, they consider the people around them more thoughtful, more interesting, and even better looking than those who were not given freebies and thus engage in fewer discussions with others.
Deepen Loyalty and Inspire Bragging Rights With every action visitors take on behalf of the experience they have at your site, the more they will deepen their belief in the positive memory they had. You are creating passion-bond connections with customers. As they comment on their souvenirs, they are self-training themselves as your salespeople, using the positive selling points in which they most deeply believe to sell others.
With each action they take, they deepen the root of memory and are more likely to want to participate in a future sale or other event at your business.
… and get introduced to a much wider audience in the days and weeks to come.
How? The New Yorker is partnering with Ringtales to animate the New Yorker’s cartoons. To view them you’ll have to see an inserted ad.
For those of us avid readers who love the cartoons I anticipate the reaction to this news may be split among the already ruffled “never change’ traditionalists, the captivated and the simply curious. Yet I believe that this approach will introduce a vast new audience to the addictive cartoons some of us have commented on, cut out and shared for years.
Imagine the New Yorker's huge library of 100,000 cartoons to be offered for free (I’ll tolerate a short ad to see them again in this new fashion) and “syndicated across the internet” according to Jim Cox, CEO of RingTales, as reported by MarketingVox via ClickZ.
Soon you’ll be able to get them at the magazine or at iTunes.
See some right now.
Cartoonists may gain more fame and income with this technology and owners of web sites may want to offer relevant animated cartoons on their site. Perhaps as The New Yorker hosts on the last page of the magazine, online social networks and other web site owners might host a contest for the best cartoon captions.
Here's a potent example of photo as cultural and political commentary.
As The Guardian notes, "this winning photo was taken on the first day of a ceasefire between Israel and Hizbullah."
I love VSL's description, "The picture, by American photographer Spencer Platt, is captioned 'Young Lebanese drive through devastated neighborhood of South Beirut, 15 August.' The 'Young Lebanese' happen to be a sports car full of women who have clearly devoted a lot of energy to trying to look sexy in a global-celebutard sort of way. It’s like they were hoping to be hounded by paparazzi, but ended up instead in a war photographer’s viewfinder."
A photographer can't help but be a commentator when it comes to covering emotional moments, as the 2004 winning photo proves. Reuters' Arko Datta's picture is "of an Indian woman mourning a relative killed in the Asian tsunami." In 2003, the winning photo was a poignant image of a hooded Iraqi war prisoner, holding his 4-year-old son at a U.S. detention camp, taken by Associated Press photographer Jean-Marc Bouju.
The others photos are worth your time to view too. Oh and see some of the other very short "stories" that VSL shares with subscribers such as "the best recent indie film you missed" or "a wonderfully sardonic whodunit."
The Amgen Tour of California second annual pro cycling race started here in my little village of Sausalito on Monday, with several parties on Sunday. Yet the fun thing for avid fans is that you can stay connected with the bike teams through GPS-enabled Tour Tracker,. See an interactive map. It shows a live feed during each day's stage and a “dashboard” provided by Three Minds.
This dashboard also features timely news feeds supplied by Velonews (even mobile play action), a photostream by Flickr, and a statistical chart about the race and the racers. You can even add your comments. Jim Bachalo points us to this part of Tour Tracker.
Imagine how your could adapt this mix of interactive media to keep your members, customers or other constituents involved in your auction, program launch and cascade of announcements and offers or other event.
For those of us who have always been absentminded, the forgetfulness that worries many as they get older is not as strong a fear. Yet, the recent research on the plasticity of the brain is gratifying in that we can flex and stretch with the right exercise. Good news to learn that we can practice keeping mentally fit, eh? .
Ready for more? In The Biggest Ideas blog, James Thornton reports on research that "we each have, not one but, three brains nested within our skulls – a lizard brain, a dog brain, and a human brain.
It gets more weird. "The brains don't have much to do with each other."
According to Thornton: “This neo-cortex is functionally semi-independent from the lizard and dog brains. That is why our experience is so odd.
Consider this: language lies in the human brain, but emotions lie within the separate dog and lizard brains. So the emotions are in a different world from language entirely.
Not only that, reason too lives in the new human brain while emotions live in the older brains. The lizard and dog brains are running their emotion programs while the human brain is running its thinking programs. They don’t have too much to do with each other. “