I will be moving to San Francisco this coming weekend! Driving 25 hours with my 2 cats isn't exactly my idea of fun, but I'm looking forward to living and working in the Bay Area. My new contact info is included in my (recently redesigned) web site.
A friend of mine started a very cool fundraising site benefiting the Lance Armstrong Foundation. The site is called The Cancer Mosaic, which consists of 2,500 blank tiles that will be populated
with the faces of friends, family and colleagues who have dealt with cancer. A tile can be 'purchased' with a $20 donation. When completed, The Cancer Mosaic will raise $50,000 to help
people live through and beyond cancer. And since it’s easy for him to add more tiles to
the Mosaic, this could easily become an online memorial that honors hundreds of thousands (millions?) of people and makes a significant contribution for cancer survivors.
If you know someone who's battled cancer, please consider participating by either spreading the word or donating. Thanks!
We're almost to the end of the series on Maslow and Branding. I'll wrap up the last three needs in Maslow's hierarchy here, and then we'll look at how they all interact in social networks.
Cognitive: This is about learning and understanding the world around us. While many people still blindly accept the doctrines of traditional authority (church, state, corporations, media, etc.), others are taking control, asking questions and seeking answers. Brands that knock down barriers to knowledge and provide easy access are delivering on this need. These aren't just the obvious brands like Google; they're also brands that practice transparency and educate customers on the how's and why's of their products, services and business practices. Transparency and openness deliver on customers' desire to know. FedEx tracking is a great example (of both Cognitive and Control). And of course, blogs and forums fit into this category as well.
Self-actualization: Nike pioneered the focus on self-actualization with their famous "Just Do It" tag line. Home Depot followed suit with "You can do it. We can help." Brands that demonstrate a belief in their customers' abilities will win the hearts and minds of those who want to reach higher and accomplish more. But it needs to be more than just talk or a nice tag line. Microsoft's campaign, "Where do you want to go today?" appeals to this need, but I haven't found a lot of supporting evidence for the promise (of course, I haven't looked very hard.). How about creating more interactivity with customers, learning where they want to go, offering online education classes, or perhaps social networking tools that connect mentors with learners?
Transcendence. This need is about giving back, enriching others or championing a greater cause. The Body Shop was founded on core values like environmental protection; their web site reminds visitors, "Never doubt that a group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, that's the only thing that ever does." The Toyota Prius won Edmund's Consumer's Choice for Most Significant Vehicle in 2004. Cause-related brands have strong appeal to small but loyal customer segments.
So now we've looked at 8 core consumer needs: Security, Connection, Esteem,Control,Aesthetic, Cognitive, Self-Actualization and Transcendence. As someone pointed out in an earlier post, it's not such a clean, linear hierarchy in real life. How they interact will be the subject of the next post.
I say, "bring it on." But only if you follow Guy's rule #1: have a great product to sell.
I was recently sent a pair of shoes from Royal Elastics (actually, I was invited to pick a pair from their web site -- even better). The first pair was a bit too tight, so I received the next size up. Perfect. Here are my new shoes:
No ties, great for airport travel. And they're quite stylish for tennis shoes. I'll be wearing them a lot. And the best thing is, I wasn't asked to blog about the shoes; they were a no-expectation gift.
So this is the next evolution of BzzAgent, but infinitely more risky for companies. Blogging is all about authenticity. If a blogger doesn't like what you send them, watch out. The nice ones will simply say nothing on their web site. Others will be publicly honest. But if you've got a good product, you'll get oodles of free publicity.
Part of me doesn't like getting put on the spot. But another part of me loves the fact that companies are willing to put their reputations at stake by sending products to people who speak their mind to thousands -- if not millions -- of people.
I will say, though, I hate getting press releases. I received two from the same company that were just plain bad, and I really wanted to make a public example out of them. Lucky for them, my computer crashed and I lost the emails. If you're going to send me a press release, send it directly to my email address with a brief , intelligent comment on why I should care about this topic. It should demonstrate that the PR person has read my blog and has a pretty good idea whether or not I'd find it interesting. Sadly, few actually do this, and they all end up in my spam folder.
Bloggers, what do you like to receive? What do you hate to receive?
OK, back to the series on Maslow and Branding. So far I've written about Security & Connection, Esteem and Control; these four have the most relevance to the widest audience. I believe every company must make an effort to address each of these needs in the way they do business. Some may choose to focus their entire brand around one of these: Nordstrom's with Esteem, or IBM with Security.
Aesthetic is the next core need on the pyramid (actually, Cognitive is next but I think Aesthetic is more important). A couple years ago, Virginia Postrel wrote a book called The Substance of Style: How the Rise of Aesthetic Value is Remaking Commerce, Culture and Consciousness in which she argues that increasingly wealthy and sophisticated customers demand "an enticing, stimulating, diverse, and beautiful world." The income range that aligns with this need continues to go down along with prices; yet perhaps this need is not based on income but pure psychographics. It's the difference between customers of WalMart and Target, or 7-11 and Starbucks.
Aesthetic used to be a nice-to-have, but it's increasingly becoming foundational. Witness the explosive success of Apple and the iPod, or the gotta-have Razr phone. Target is bringing designer style (Isaac, Oldham) to the masses, along with InStyle magazine and "The Look for Less" show. Starbucks combined coffee with an aesthetic environment. Barnes & Noble did the same for books. There are now 250 bathroom faucets from which to choose.
Style is important because it's an external representation of our own self-image. What we wear, drive, carry... they're all badges to demonstrate who we are. It makes me wonder if Aesthetic really is the core need; perhaps it' something much more basic, like 'validation of self-existence.' Perhaps style is our subconscious way of defining who we are, or attracting a mate (like peacocks and bird plumage).
This is an interesting challenge for brands. It means you must have either a distinctive style that a subgroup is attracted to (meaning you can't be all things to all people)... OR you offer ways that your product or service can be customized to suit their diverse aesthetic preferences. And don't think this is just for 'consumer' goods. Business people are consumers too; they don't leave their aesthetic desires at home. For example, a good friend of mine who's a programmer and serial entrepreneur is obsessed with writing "elegant code."
Has your company considered the importance of aesthetics to your customers?