Transperia Group, Inc.
Transformational Experiences That Drive Business Results

Archive for August, 2008

Give Me Some Space (part 2)

Friday, August 29th, 2008

(Read “Part 1” here)

My wife and I love movies. When we were newly married, we would occasionally do what we’d call a “movie marathon”. We’d see three movies in one Saturday—all in different theatres.
• We’d start with a late-morning matinee
• Then see a new release in another theatre during the afternoon
• Followed by a second-run movie that evening in the local “discount” theatre.

In the car on the way home, we would talk about the three movies we’d seen that day and invariably could only name two of them in the moment. Only after racking our brains and digging through our short-term memory for a few minutes would we eventually unearth the title of the third movie. We’d already forgotten.

Like I said, we LOVE movies, yet after over saturating ourselves in that environment, our ability to retain what we experienced became clouded.

The same is true for the people who come to our events. They need a little bit of time and space to process what they are taking in. If they don’t get it, their retention will suffer. We need to give them:
• Ample breaks
• Conversation time and
• Uninterrupted Space to process what they’re taking in

And I’m not just talking about “dinner on your own”.

The moral of the story is this: “Don’t over program. Don’t over schedule.” If you do, your audience will be hard-pressed to remember which “movies” they’ve seen that day. Allow adequate amounts of “process space” and your experience will reap far better results.

My Fellow Americans…Vote for Me

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

Okay, I know this is going to come across a little narcissistic, but when I saw this, I couldn’t help but laugh.  I never thought I’d get into politics, but hey, you never know where the path of life might lead you.

–Your humble servant, Mark Bennardo.

Seriously, though, I think this is brilliant. And, you can try it yourself (it’s fun and it’s free–see below for link).

The real brilliance is in how the company PalTalk has apparently created this viral marketing tool to promote their instant message & video chat business. What a great way to create and use something that is fun, engaging and highly shareable to create some buzz for your product.

Also notice the subtle, almost subliminal product placement for PalTalk in the video.  Fantastic.

Well done, PalTalk!

PS: To try it out and throw your own hat in the ring, go here!

Give Me Some Space (part 1)

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

People need space. Taking in new ideas, concepts or information requires the brain to not only receive, but also to process. And process requires space.

When it comes to creating events or conferences, attendees need a little bit of time and (dare I say) quiet to be able to process what they are taking in.

Time after time, I encounter event sponsors who want to schedule every possible minute of every day of an event, in order to maximize the amount of information they can pass on to their attendees. Conventional Wisdom and the bean counters argue, “So much money has been spent on travel, lodging, registration, food, etc. We need to get our money’s worth out of this event. Let’s fill up the schedule with lots and lots and lots of sessions, breakouts, activities, seminars and meetings”. In so doing, they cut out any “free time” that may not appear to have value.

Granted, organizations spend a lot of money to train, educate and motivate their people. But quantity of information does not equal quality. In actuality, the opposite is true. The law of diminishing returns is in full play when we throw too much information or stimulation at people. After a while, the more we pour into their “learning” buckets, even more leaks out.

Which is more useful, for people to vaguely retain two out of ten watered-down points, or to fully embrace four out of four critical points?

Less is more.

(part 2 click here)

It’s all about “Me”

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

I’m just looking for a little bit of fun and relaxation when I go out. I don’t want to have to work at anything, or try hard or wonder where I fit. I just want to get what I came for and be treated with a little respect.

I especially enjoy my experience if I believe the people serving me (waiter, salesperson, conference presenter, whatever) make me feel like they are actually there for me (not the other way around).

That’s a small part of what creates a good experience for me. A sense that it’s about me. Now, I know that life is really not all about me, but sometimes, it should feel that way. Examples:

  • at a restaurant
  • at a conference
  • at the hospital
  • when I’m on vacation
  • at the airport

The list could go on and on. If it’s not “about me”, then I walk. Or, if I don’t walk right at that moment, you can bet I won’t choose to be back any time soon.

How many of our everyday interactions could become meaningful experiences if only a little focus and effort were applied? What would life be like if the person at the DMV actually smiled at you, treated you kindly, didn’t rush you and didn’t make you feel like a number? We wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves.

In the end, it’s all about our customers, our audience, our clients, our viewers. If we don’t make it about them, then we may not see them again. And can we really blame them?

Windows, Seinfeld & Image Control

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

Jerry SeinfeldMicrosoft has recently teamed with Jerry Seinfeld to create an ad campaign for Windows, reports Fox News.

While Microsoft owns the PC market in America (a reported 90%), it seems the popular, “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” adds have not only been effective at raising Apple’s market share (up 32% in the last year—and climbing), but have done even more to effectively damage Microsoft’s already stodgy image.

Microsoft is hoping to create a younger, “hipper” image with ads featuring the likes of Jerry Seinfeld (who, incidentally is 54 years old—so much for “young”) and others to the tune of $300 million.

It’s ironic that in the early days of the Seinfeld show, Jerry had a series of Macs on the desk in his apartment. I guess money talks—(his take in this deal is a reported $10 million)—“not that there’s anything wrong with that”.

Here’s the deal, though: Microsoft has a product that provides solid basics (arguably). The Mac, on the other hand, has always focused on creating an amazing user experience. Over the years, Apple’s customers have become cult-like and crazy-loyal because of the experience Apple has given them.

Clever advertising is helpful, but what Microsoft still doesn’t seem to understand is that their image is flawed, not because of their advertising, but because of their products.

My old friend, John Carlson, recently made the following comment, which I think bears repeating:

“Perhaps if Microsoft put $300 million into
• Better software engineers
• Better product development and
• Innovation, with the idea of actually making a better product,
they wouldn’t have to work so hard to compete with Apple.”

Well said, John.

The user’s experience is what ultimately makes the difference. Not the level of your celebrity.

Potbelly Steps Up!

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

Potbelly Sign

I have a new “Hero-CEO”. Bryant Keil, CEO of Potbelly Sandwich Works, has gone above and beyond in responding to my pickle saga (you can read my original post here). I thought it was only fair to tell the rest of the story.

A few days after I sent off my original letter to Mr. Keil, I received a personal voice mail from him telling me he’d received my letter. He apologized for the situation and asked if I’d call him back. He then left his direct number.

I called the next day and Mr. Keil immediately took my call and again apologized for the “pickle incident”. He said he appreciated that my letter was very constructive. He told me they work very hard to create the best experience for their customers, but because they are growing so fast, it’s sometimes hard to pass the culture along to everyone. I told him I completely understood.

He added that, like me, when he orders a pickle, he never gets it sliced.

He thanked me again for my letter and said, “It was important to me that I give you a call. This is what it’s all about.”

I was shocked and amazed. To think the CEO of a large company would take the time to make a personal phone call to a disappointed customer was simply mind-boggling to me. His kind gesture showed such great respect and more than made up for the original issue.

But that’s not all.

The next day I received a call from the General Manager of the Algonquin Potbelly store. She apologized for the situation and asked if she could bring dinner to my home for my entire family (unbelievable!). I thanked her, but said that wouldn’t be necessary. She then asked if I could describe the Manager who treated me disrespectfully. I mentioned that I didn’t really want to get anyone in trouble, but she assured me that she simply wanted to reinforce Potbelly’s excellent standards on the importance of the customer’s experience.

I thanked the Manager for her kind phone call and assured her that I would be back in their store some time soon.

But the story doesn’t even end there.

A few days later I received another call from the Potbelly District Manager. He apologized for the experience I had in the store and wanted to double check to make sure the store Manager had taken care of me. He also said that they had “addressed the issue internally”. I assured him that everyone had gone above and beyond to follow up with me and told him I would certainly be back in his store.

Again, amazing.

Culture starts at the top. It doesn’t always trickle all the way down, but a strong CEO knows the importance of carrying the culture and follows through to make sure everyone understands it and is owning it. That’s exactly what Bryant Keil did. He made sure (in multiple redundancies) that the Potbelly culture was carried out in my situation. That’s the sign of a great, “Hero-CEO”.

Experiential Element: Surprise

Saturday, August 16th, 2008

Surprise!Surprise is one of those things that can take an experience to a higher level. It’s the joke that catches you off guard, the unexpected guest on stage, the freebie that is generously provided, or an unexpectedly comfortable environment.

Surprise is the element that makes us say:
• “I never expected that”
• “I can’t believe they just did that”, or simply
• “Wow, I wonder what they’ll do next time?”

All these responses are almost guaranteed to bring a smile—and to make someone want to come back, purchase your product, or simply be open to the impact of your message.

It doesn’t necessarily take a lot to create a little surprise. My wife and I went out for an anniversary dinner the other night and our waiter took the time to explain to us how the dishes were prepared. He was knowledgeable, engaging, interesting and even humorous in how he described them. It was a nice little surprise that added to our experience (and the food was good, too).

Surprise creates a sense that someone (you) did something over and above the simple requirement to make them (your customer) a little happier. It communicates, “Hey, they’re thinking of me”. And it’s one element that raises the expected, status quo into an experience that people will remember.

What can we do to create an element of surprise in our offerings? What would it take to give a little surprise next time?

I’d love to hear about times you’ve experienced an unexpected surprise. What was it? How did it make you feel? Please join the fun and add your comments. Thanks.

Pickles, Potbellies & Respect

Friday, August 8th, 2008

All I wanted was a pickle.

Honest.

What I got was a lesson on one of the foundational elements that makes a great experience…or not.

For those living in the mid-west, you likely know about the joy that is Potbelly Sandwich Works—a fast-growing chain of over 200 restaurants that serves really, really good sandwiches. I love Potbelly, but not too long ago I had a disappointing experience there when I ordered, of all things, a pickle, with my meal.

Now, the reality is that it really wasn’t about the pickle, but rather the disrespectful way I was treated in the process of ordering it.

I was so disappointed that I wrote a letter to Potbelly’s CEO, Bryant Keil, to make him aware of my disappointment. Rather than tell the entire story in this post, you can read my letter here. It tells the whole story (and I think it was a pretty good letter, if I do say so myself).

As I mention in my letter, respect is one of those key elements that lay the critical foundation for a good experience. Without it, it doesn’t matter how good your product, conference, environment, church service, business meeting (or whatever) is. All bets are off.

Can I get a little “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”?

[UPDATE: To read Potbelly’s response, click here.]

Help Me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re My Only Hope.

Friday, August 1st, 2008

Ever since I saw Star Wars as a kid, I wanted to be a hologram. Or, I wanted to be projected as a hologram. Princess Leia’s desperate plea for help to Obi-Wan was too cool back in 1977.

Well, it looks like the wait just might be over. I came across this technology and thought it was absolutely amazing. It seems a company in the U.K. called Musion has been doing hologram projection and communication for a while now.

Not only that, but there can be two-way communication using this technology. It also appears the subject can be:
• Live
• Pre-recorded
• Graphic or
• Virtual

If you haven’t seen it yet, you’ve got to check out this video (click here) where they used holograms on-stage at a live event for Cisco. The live on-stage presenter actually had an interactive conversation with the “hologram guys”—live.

The implications for special events, virtual presentation, advertising and entertainment are staggering. The only limitations are the imaginations of the people using this technology.

Amazing.

There are several other clips of how Musion has used their technology on their site. I especially liked the clip from the FIFPro XI World Player Awards. Click around their site a bit and see if it doesn’t knock your socks off. I know it did mine.