It’s been a long time since I read a hard cover book, the kind with pages you turn and need a book mark to keep your place. I have a sizable library of books on my phone, but a hard cover book? Not for me. However, I made an exception and picked up a copy of “Friction” by Jeff Rosenblum. I didn’t regret it.
It’s a great and easy read that focuses on creating “passion brands” through reducing “friction.” I did however find it ironic that the main point of the book, reducing friction, is hypocritically encountered by the inability to find the book available digitally (at least as of this writing).
The following are several points made in the book that I found particularly engaging. Most paragraphs are paraphrased, some are direct quotes.
Traditional advertising has been built on a reach and frequency model. The problem with frequency is that it is based on interruption. In no walk of life is an interruption considered a powerful tool for building relationships. The reach and frequency model needs to be replaced with reach and empathy. Rather than relying on interrupting people from what they would rather be doing in the hope that they care, empathy focuses on creating content and experiences that are so powerful, people go out of their way to participate in them and share them with others. The emphasis is on the relationship between the brand and the audience.
In a world where information is everywhere, the focus of advertising should be simply to build awareness and generate traffic. It needs to provide a gateway to immersive experiences. It no longer needs to tell the complete brand story. Advertising has an important role to play, but that role is not the same it was 20, 10, or even 5 years ago.
Transactional vs. Emotional
Transactional brands offer the right product at the right price at the right time. They capture the audience’s attention through an ad campaign. People pay a fair price, but they are not particularly loyal, the relationship is completely rational.
Emotional brands create irrational relationships—in a good way. They generate irrational enthusiasm and can charge irrational prices. They have customers who ignore the competition.
Jeff offers an example of Yeti coolers. Rather than 30-second interruptions, Yeti has a series of videos that extoll the virtues of outdoor adventures such as kayaking and fly fishing. The videos are not only entertaining, they are through-provoking and motivating. In the videos, the Yeti brand is almost invisible. At the end of one seven-minute video the Yeti brand name is clearly displayed on a hat, but that’s it. It’s noticeable, authentic, and completely frictionless. Yeti coolers sell for ten times as much as some competing products. They are really good, but not ten times as good. Yet people pay it, not just for the good cooler, but to be part of the Yeti brand.
While macro friction sits at the brand level, micro friction sits at the product level. It is anything that makes it hard to make the right purchase decision or get the most value out of the products already purchased. Micro friction is everywhere. It’s the plastic packaging that requires a machete to open. It’s the instruction manual that requires a Mensa genius to comprehend it. It’s the person behind the counter who doesn’t smile when asked a question. Removing macro friction without removing micro friction will make the brand seem inauthentic and there will be no genuine emotional connection.
We want balance. The obligation we feel to reciprocate, can turn customers into evangelists because we create more perceived value than what the customer is paying for. Want to create likes, positive reviews, and word of mouth? Give the customer more than they are expecting to get.
The Little Things
Every interaction a customer has, has an impact on their impression of a brand. In and experiment, participants were casually asked to hold a cup of coffee for a stranger while the rode an elevator together. For some the coffee was hot, for others it was cold. They were unaware that holding the cup of coffee was a critical component in the experiment. After the elevator ride they were presented a description of a hypothetical person and then asked to fill out a questionnaire about the person. Those who held the hot cup of coffee rated the stranger as more generous, social, happier, and better natured than did those who held a cold cup of coffee.
Stories are Emotional, Bullet Points are Rational
Storytelling, when done right, works. We encounter thousands of decisions every day. In order to process these decisions without getting overwhelmed, our limbic system reduces the cognitive load. Within the limbic system, the amygdala, hippocampus, and thalamus work together to filter and prioritize information. When first encountered, information is quickly processed to make sure it’s not a threat. It is then passed along, but only information that is engaging at an emotional level impacts the limbic system where we “feel” something. Rational ideas are passed on to the prefrontal cortex and never fully engage the listener and become forgotten.
Simplify to Amplify
Simplicity is the ultimate friction fighter. Everyone loves an experience that is simple, but not sophomoric.