Tag Archives: drm

Align Your Intents: Removing Friction in Brand Experiences By Showing Interest In End-Users

TMobile Coffee Shop, Old City, Jerusalemhe infrastructure for global communication has hit a tipping point in the last few years.  New technologies give each of us an exponentially louder voice with which to share stories of exceptional experiences with companies (both positive and negative).  In order to survive, companies must take a look at existing conflicts between end-users intents and their own, in a way that may initially seem quite counter-intuitive. The points where the brands intent and ours are most in conflict lead to the most negatively memorable experiences, which carry a lot of power.  Let me explain.

When interacting with a company, our intent as end-users is rarely, if ever, based on figuring out how to give them money.  Mostly, our interactions are based on getting a need or a want addressed as efficiently as possible.  This is, more often than not, in direct conflict with the implicit (if not explicit) intentions of the companies we are interacting with.  This conflict of intents, historically ‘part of the cost of doing business,’ has become much more of an active topic of conversation online and offline, which is having an ever-increasing impact on our overall perception of companies and our willingness to engage with them (e.g. spend our money with them)

An obvious example of a decision made in conflict is DRM.   The intent of the business (protecting their self-perceived ‘most important assets’ from their customers) was in direct conflict to the customers intent (purchasing music in a manner that gives them ownership of their copy).  Instead of being interested in interacting with their consumers, the entertainment industry defaulted to treating each and every one of us like potential criminals, and attempts to engage were ignored or met with legal action.  Choosing instead for your businesses intent to involve an active and genuine interest in people, communities and behavior, asking questions, and generally being interested leads to much longer term gains and sustainability (something companies that have embraced DRM are struggling with right now).

My friend Amber Naslund recounts a story about how the Jurys Boston Hotel picked up on something she said on Twitter about her experience there and took the time to email to thank her for her mention and (something Amber glossed over a bit but I think is so important) took an interest in her as a person via email, followed up with her to learn more, and set her up to have an awesome experience the next time.  This resulted in the creation of a new and powerful customer evangelist.  In Amber’s words, posted to a block with :

I have a hotel in Boston that feels very much “mine”. Why would I stay somewhere else when I know the people, and feel like they’re genuinely happy when I come back again?

If Jury’s Boston had simply stuck to the ‘be a hotel where people give us money to have somewhere to sleep’ intent, she most likely would have had a perfectly fine time and probably not given it the thought to dedicate the home page of her site to the experience.  By taking the time to listen, learn and reorient their intentions to match (and exceed) hers,  Jury’s Boston created an experience for her that earned both her loyalty, trust and her voice to others.  For this interaction, the intent of the company was to create a great experience for Amber, and to fufill her needs.   Jury’s is, of course, a business, and would have been happy to take her money and move on.  They decided, for this interaction at least, that their intent was to make the interaction more personal.  Total cost to them: One phone call.  Total return:  A fan for life, with incentive to share the experience with her friends, followers, everyone who reads her blog, each of whom now have a hotel in mind to stay at when they’re in Boston.

Companies may look at this concept and respond with trepidation.  “The whole purpose of a company is to increase its own bottom line, otherwise it wouldn’t exist!” is a popular response.  While this underlying statement may be true, the intent of how one reaches profitability is something that is much more flexible than most companies think.  The challenge lies when they have been set up in a way that leaves no room for taking an interest when providing a service or bringing a product to market.  It is not a question of willingness, but actually deciding to take the time and effort to address a lack of room in the workflow for genuine human interest and curiosity.

So, take a look (and, more importantly, a listen) around where you work.  During the course of the day, how much time is spent in your company being interested in customers?  Pay attention to how interactions with end users are phrased.  Are people interested in connecting, or are they more interested in “identifying target audiences” and “demographics and psychographics” to the exclusion of other things.  I think you’ll find the vocabulary very telling.

What bit of information would you like to share with companies that could make for a more compelling engagement with you? Are they giving you a place to tell them?  Are they interested?

What do you mean, I actually have to do my job?: Why the media industries need to STFU and GBTW.

This post is inspired by the MediaHacks podcast, where Hugh McGuire relayed the story/opinion that Encyclopaedia companies were up in arms over Wikipedia, by claiming that Wikipedia was going to kill the business for Britannica, etc.  Hugh, rightly so, called them out on this being a load of crap.  What it DOES do, however, is force Britannica to up their game and really put some thought into what their core value is (is it books? is it making people look smart to their friends by having encyclopaedia in their house?  Is it as an heirloom? is it actually the information) and adjust their business model accordingly.

Media companies by and large have become complacent and lazy, believing their own hype, and (most importantly) believing that they are the only ones who can affect the market for what they’re selling and how.

This particular combination of traits, combined with a healthy disinterest and sometimes even contempt for their customer base (“look what we made them buy AGAIN”) has lead to panic and frequent legal action when the paradigm has shifted via external means.  For example (and this will be the only time I pick on the music industry specifically):

Home taping is killing music
Home taping is killing music

Similarly, when the VCR was starting to become widely available, then head of the MPAA Jack Valenti gave this testimony before Congress ((via Mark Reeder and Slashdot))

“‘I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone.’ Jack Valenti said this in 1982 in testimony to the House of Representatives on why the VCR should be illegal. He also called the VCR an “avalanche” and a “tidal wave”, and said it would make the film industry “bleed and bleed and hemorrhage”.

..and of course by 1999, the $16 billion home video industry represented 55% of studios’ domestic revenues, while box office revenues were 22% ((via Video Software Dealers Association via allbusiness.com))

What we’ve seen time and time again is that every time there’s a disruption, media companies first response is to scream bloody murder, try to “unring the bell” of whatever new disruption has caught them off guard (whether it’s Napster, the Kindle, Twitter, BitTorrent, Bloggers covering political events), send lawyers after them and basically do everything an autistic child does when confronted with change they don’t like..

I’m here to say here and now:  Shut the %^#& up and Get Back To Work.

Each of the examples mentioned above were opportunities for each industry to take a close look at themselves and see what their core value was, identify and address consumer needs, and use 21st (and late 20th) century tools to work both harder AND smarter.   Each sector could’ve reinvented itself in the mold of JetBlue, who defines itself repeatedly as “a customer-service company that happens to fly airplanes” ((via WSJ Classroom)).  Instead what has happened in the last 10 years is basically “We know best.  Trust us.” and a lot of head-in-the-sand nonsense.

What’s sad is that companies lack of willingness to take ideas from outside themselves, inability to adjust in a meaningful way to the flattening of the information/access/publishing/sharing curve, and continued hubris in the face of ever-declining revenues has failed to register at the upper echelons of these companies in any meaningful way, and instead has lead to arguments like the one posed by The Authors Guild in opposition to Kindle 2’s new text-to-speech renderer, which allows Kindle owners to hear a mechanized voice ‘reading’ Kindle-purchased books.

“Bundling e-books and audio books has been discussed for a long time in the industry. It’s a good idea, but it shouldn’t be accomplished by fiat by an e-book distributor,”. “They don’t have the right to read a book out loud,” said Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild. “That’s an audio right, which is derivative under copyright law.” ((via WSJ and eweek.com))

…as if the market for Patrick Stewart reading Dickens would suddenly shrivel and die because a speech algorithm could also pronounce ‘Bob Cratchit’.  As if the publishing industry has done anything to futher the audiobook side of things (free podcasts of the first chapters of classic works and upcoming titles? no.  Including download cards in hardcover editions? no.).  In fact, the only thing book publishers have done in the audio space is to give control over and license all their content to…guess what, a third-party distributor, audible.com!

This all goes back to my original point about companies being LAZY (note that I do not mean that the people within them do not work hard).  The same tired interruption-based campaigns that used to work due to lack of alternate options are retreaded over and over for the same tired variations on products, with encouragement to “think outside the box” …but not too far outside, not if it conflicts with the business model.  Metrics are hard-won and not truly analyzed.  Scapegoating abounds.

Discovering, encouraging and empowering an audience is hard work.  The tools for doing this are just beginning to realize themselves.  Now is the time for bold experimentation, not for complaining when the old ways of gaining an audience cease to be effective.  Seth Godin priced the eBook for his “Tribes” book at 99 cents, and now it’s the most downloaded eBook in the history of eBooks.  This isn’t rocket science.

It’s unfortunate that so many skilled, forward-thinking people have been laid off due to the inability of industries to change course.

So, I say unto thee:  Shut The F$%^ Up and Get Back To Work .  Hire a person, heck hire a team of people who can implement a system to figure out what the scary people out there (you know, the people that pay your salaries with their disposable income) expect from you, what they want, what would make them happy.  Listen to the results.  Change the course of your industry’s future.  Your whole reason for existing is to make customers happy.  Your whole reason for existing is to make customers happy. And it’s really not that hard!  If you have lots of VPs who sit around in meetings, fire some of them.  Take the money from their salaries and hire smart people who know how to mine the internet world for actionable information.  Start from the very beginning, see what pisses people off about your company, and fix it.  See what people like about what you do, expand upon it. Time is running out.

You say people are stealing your content, that new technologies will ruin your business, that they must be stopped or DRMed or lobbied against or sued or region-locked or put in jail (seriously?).  I say “figure out a way to listen and get relevant again” or, more succinctly… STFU and GBTW.