8 - The Product as Souvenir

Reflecting to the player interview from the previous chapter, she does not have the immediate sense that she is being paid for her time - she watches an advertisement and gets "free Farmville cash," not recognizing that spending the time to watch the ad is the equivalent of spending money to do so. It's likely because the activity doesn't feel like labor, the time would not have been spent earning money, and there never is an option to get paid in real money rather than game cash.

A similar anecdote shows how myopic people can be about money: a man who decided not to buy a sweater because he thought it was overpriced and extravagant was delighted to accept it as a birthday gift from his wife, and doesn't consider that they have a joint bank account. Essentially, he purchased the same item at the same price with the same money - which suggests not only that he doesn't consider the bigger picture, but also that he may have other motivations (he feels good because he exerted self-control in the store, and financial concerns were incidental).

Especially given the economic downturn, customers seem more inclined to give their "spare" tine to companies to receive a discount or gift. From 2008 to 2012, there is a reported 16% increase in shopper participating in "points" programs, and most experts agree this will linger even after the economy regains its footing. Labor-for-scrip programs are also popular among people who have difficulty earning in the "regular" labor market - who cannot hold a regular job and devote regular hours, but can participate infrequently.

Because labor isn't cash, the scrip feels like found money, which is often added to (rather than deducted from) the shopper's regular budget. The money they save is not redirected, but used for treats, extras, and impulse purchases.

The author mentions the curious "save the change" program run by credit card firms, where all prices are rounded up to an even dollar amount and "pays" the customer a bonus with their own money.

There is a brief sidebar on S&H Green Stamps, which the author seemed to pointedly ignore in aprevious chapter - instituted in 1896, it was one of the first loyalty programs in the US market. Green stamps were earned by purchasing from participating merchants, collected in books that could be redeemed for merchandise from a store, catalog, or redemption center. There was a great deal of excitement about housewives over the program, as it gave them the ability to "earn" purchasing power to contribute to the household, or get things for themselves without seeking their husband's approval.

There is a brief sidebar on S&H Green Stamps, which the author seemed to pointedly ignore in aprevious chapter

The Fun of Winning

While the perceived value of having the rewards is motivational, another attraction to participating is that the effort feels like fun. The entire notion of gaming involves performing activities to earn rewards, or simply to "win" - and participations models play into this notion, even if they are not intentionally designed to do so. Consider that users "played" foursquare before there were any rewards for doing so, other than the fun of participating and the challenge of becoming "mayor" of a location or earning badges.

Requiring too much effort to earn a reward is as discouraging for participation programs as it is for games, but by far the biggest hurdle to participation is privacy concerns. Some refuse to participate at all, feeling that giving away their location is a risk to their personal safety. Others are willing to participate in a service but are distrustful of companies' use and resale of their information. Still others are not so discerning. The patterns are the same both in the US market and internationally.

The degree to which people are sensitive to privacy concerns tends to wax and wane. About 61% of respondents did not express any concerns about providing personal information online, though another 38% have taken steps to limit the amount of information they share online. To gain as wide an audience as possible, online participation programs should cater to these concerns.

Where is the Brand?

A well-conceived participation campaign doesn't merely get your name out there and generate a vague sense of positive emotion, but also communicates qualities of your brand.

One clever example is the Capital One statue that could be added to a Farmville property, which increased players' crop yields in nearby fields. The message implied by the metaphor is one of income growth, which dovetailed with their advertising campaign for high-yield savings accounts.

There's an extended description of a magazine promotion at an industry conference in which a music industry magazine enabled attendees to earn badges by checking in from selected events, which could be used of free admission to more popular acts, plus an added bonus to win VIP passes when creating a foursquare group. The brand message was that subscribing to the magazine was like getting special access to industry insiders.

The author also mentions Charmin, which provided free public toilets in Times Square during the holiday shopping season - though this is an odd fit because it did not involve an unusual event or any sort of reward, but it does provide a positive exposure to the brand in a direct and relevant way to the intended use of its product.

Experience Design

(EN: Dropping this section. The author speaks about the emerging field of experience design - and quite badly. I'd likely spend more effort contradicting than annotating, so I'm dropping the notes instead. Suffice to say she has a sense it's important, though she's not clear on what it is.)

Do we Need a CXO?

The author lists a number of firms that have created a position for a chief experience officer (EN: One of which I am immediately aware does not have any such position, so beware her generalizations in this regard, if not in general.)

It's noted that customer satisfaction and customer service have long been touted in business, under the notion that it was "everyone's job," but no-one was actually doing it. The appointment of an executive whose primary responsibility is to consider the customer experience ostensibly means that someone at a high level is nominally responsible for ensuring it gets done.

Unfortunately, such positions are filled with straw men and paper tigers, and insiders generally regard the creation of the position as an empty gesture, or at best a "first step" that will later be empowered to actually achieve results.

By way of an oblique example, the author suggests that the role of a CXO would be that of a restraint against interactions that have no value for the customer - or in a positive sense, to ensure that there is sufficient value for the customer in any proposed interaction, as well as making sure any such activities are well aligned to the brand.

Interview with Ken Nisch

The author presents some QA content from an interview with a professional in "retail design," a precursor to experience design that largely considered the way in which customers interacted with brands in the brick-and-mortar environment.