Value Exchange Dissonance, or, don’t hand me a flyer.

Whenever I walk somewhere, and someone hands me a flyer, it’s like they’re telling me, “Here, you go throw this away.”
-Mitch Hedberg

29 Indian Food!
Image by wilyumzzz via Flickr

If you’ve ever walked down a street in midtown Manhattan, you’ve most likely been in the uncomfortable position of being handed a flyer for a restaurant, club, event, whathaveyou.  It never struck me before, but this is a great example of Value Exchange Dissonance.

Value Exchange Dissonance is something I just made up.  It describes a situation in which one party takes an action that they believe provides enough value to prompt an action by another party, when the other party feels it is an imposition on them (negative value).

When a person hired by a restaurant hands you a flyer, here’s what their perception of the exchange is:

“Greetings, random person in the neighborhood! Here is a free menu with information on all the wonderful things you can eat at my establishment.  Now, come and have a meal at my restaurant. It’s the least you can do, after I provided you with this information!”

Taking our knee-jerk social marketer hats off for a moment, let’s now look at the experience from the point of view of the person receiving the flyer.

“Here I am just going about my day, on my way somewhere, and some random person thrusts a piece of paper at me, disrupting my personal space, my rhythm, distracting me from whatever I’ve been thinking about and pushing their message at me without regard for my interest or where my attention was.  If I was hungry, I’d go to a restaurant that didn’t need to disrupt my day.  I don’t even like Indian food!  Screw this place.”

Value Exchange Dissonance.  To the extreme.  And the end result is the opposite of what was intended.

There is a crucial point there.  A marketing engagement is valuable or not valuable based on the POV of the ‘receiver’ of the engagement.

In this case, if 0 is the baseline, handing someone a flyer may have a +3 perceived value for the restaurant, but if its a -6 to the recipient, it still nets out at -3.

This is why User Experience is so important.  There are lots of examples of otherwise well-meaning people and organizations who may genuinely not be paying attention to how the experience plays out for the other side.

Are you paying attention to how you may create or destroy value in an experience? Or are you another victim of Value Exchange Dissonance?