Archive | User RSS for this section

Behavior Change as Value Proposition

 

by chris risdon 0 Comments

 

There’s a lot of academic research around the areas of persuasive technology and design for behavior change. It’s getting more exposure as technology has allowed products and services to have an increasingly pervasive role in people’s lives.

But where does persuasion live? How do we recognize these products in the wild? And what has caused the tipping point for the growth of these products and services?

Data, Feedback, and Smart Products

The primary characteristic of our new, pervasively connected world is the ability to collect data passively (think Runkeeper or Mint.com) or with minimal effort required (Foursquare). And not just collect the data, but present it back—via feedback loops and visualizations—in a meaningful way to the user. These are smart products that have personalized intelligence about our behavior.

We can see lots of examples of products that don’t utilize data that are designed to influence behavior. These are “dumb products.” Which doesn’t mean that they’re dumb in the derisive sense, but products that contain no intelligence about the person who uses them. Take for example the oft-cited bitter nail polish that’s designed to keep people from biting their nails. It’s a good example of persuasive design. But it contains one single universal feedback loop for every person who uses it—the bitterness you taste when you bite your nails.
But now we have an explosion of smart products, which passively collect data about you and your specific behavior, and tell you a story which is designed to directly influence you. This is a byproduct of our Internet of Things progress—now even our toothbrushes and dog leashes can be outfitted with sensors to collect data about our personal behavior. Now that sensors are available at the consumer level—GPS, accelerometers, RFID—anything can become a data-collecting smart product.
I refer to this wave of products and services as “Behavior Change as Value Proposition.” These are products that have an explicit or implicit value proposition based on influencing your behavior. They’ve been around for a long time: smoking cessation and weight lose programs just to name a couple. But these highly personal solutions are exponentially enabled thanks to sensor technology.

Telling Stories with Data

We’ve been telling stories and layering in context with data forever. One of the more famous examples, championed by Edward Tufte, shows Charles Minard’s map of Napoleon’s 1812 march into Russia. It layers geographic data, chronological data, quantity (of soldiers), temperature over time, and more. The data tells a rich visual story, which of course could influence behavior. But the feedback loop is, of course, after the fact, and the data collection was likely rigorous and time-consuming. (you can imagine now how this information is collected in real-time and influences military campaigns in real-time)

Where Persuasion Lives

Where do these new products and services map on our landscape of products and services?
Let’s look at a spectrum, where on one end you have utility: something designed to offer the user useful tools, typically to manage information. On the other end is “persuasion” the idea that what is designed is intended to influence the behavior, perception or attitude of the user. Clearly it’s not binary. It’s plotting on the spectrum is based on the intent of the designer and the value to the consumer.
You can imagine the traditional utility application. (quadrant #1) Gmail helps you manage your email. iTunes lets you manage your music files. Flickr your images. Basecamp for project management. They’re designed—to various extents—to enable you to manage information, or “digital objects,” with a certain amount  of flexibility. Sort how you want, list how you want, tag how you want, equalize how you want, group how you want, share how you want, etc.
At their core, they’re value propositions as utilities designed to make your life easier. Some more configurable, others more constrained, but utilities nonetheless.
But what about this new wave of products? (quadrant #2) Products not designed around your digital “things” but around your behaviors? Products that are designed to influence. We see products like Mint.com, Nike+ and Runkeeper; Weight Watchers and NutriSystem; Nest for energy consumption. This is just a small sampling of products where the value proposition is directly related to your behavior. They have high “awareness of intent” because of their declared value propositions relating to influencing your behavior. The intent is key. They balance persuasion in the interest of the customer.
(Regarding quadrant #3, persuasion of someone strictly in your own benefit or self-interest is manipulation. Not declaring your intent, and particularly concealing it, is deception. Clearly when a service seeks to hide it’s intent, and/or persuade strictly for it’s own self-interest, you are in the ethical muck.)
All these are based on collecting data and providing feedback loops. They turn data into information, which tells a story, which in turn, influences how you make decisions and act on the knowledge.
Imagine how you got feedback on your finances 20+ years ago. You had to manually enter your transactions into your check register (in research terms, it required you to self report your purchases). This was unreliable, and your feedback loop was a (less than accurate) balance, and a scannable list of your transactions. It’s hard to tell a story with any meaning, beyond simply how much you had in your account.
Then came spreadsheets, which made some of the work easier, doing the adding and subtracting and allowing you to more easily scan these transactions over time. But it was still manual reporting and didn’t present a story which had a lot of meaning or richness.
In the 90s we got Microsoft Money and Intuit’s Quicken, they initially still required manual entry—self reporting—but now they did the heavy lifting with the feedback loops, allowing you to visualize your data in a number of ways over time, telling a rich story from your raw data. This made it more effective in influencing behaviors around your finances, saving and spending.
Now we have applications like Mint.com, which—once you hand over your log-in credentials—collects your financial behavior data completely passively and accurately, telling a rich story about your finances over time through visualizations, as well as other feedback loops such as alerts and product recommendations. We’ve gone from utilities that had a relatively neutral intent to manage your information to an application that wanted to make that information more actionable, influencing your future behavior based on visualized feedback.

Scaling Self-determination, Pushing Persuasion

Services like Mint.com are still at the surface a utility (manage your financial data), with an implicit intent to influence your behavior around your finances (set goals, spend smarter). You still have a lot of self-determination with regards to how you harness your information to influence your behavior.
But more and more products are having an explicit influence, with a more prescriptive way to use them. They require you to increasingly relinquish self-determination as a prerequisite for use. Consider Ready for Zero, a service that helps you reduce your debt and curb your spending. While someone who uses the service opts in to use it, the service is basically a “tunnel” or wizard (guided persuasion), with limited options to what’s prescribed by the system. This makes the product more niche than a service like Mint.com, but it will have a more direct, measurable impact on your behavior, which many people are seeking.
It will be interesting to see how far these products and services go. There’s an increasing demand for services that further constrain choices and self-determination in order to see tangible results. And how businesses balance applying behavior design principles in a way that provides them sustainable business models while maintaining explicit consumer value will be a critical challenge. Even services that use incentives, at their core, require intrinsic motivation to engage with them (the internal motivation to use them, in contrast to an external incentive like a financial reward).
Most people know that the Amazon One-Click feature is designed to influence you to purchase more, even if it also has consumer value in making your purchase easier. While there is an awareness that we are being influenced with these products, actually asking for this influence in our lives, as we become familiar with the principles, patterns and heuristics, will these techniques continue to be effective? At some point the customer will know exactly what terms such as “social proof” mean. The question is, when that happens, will it still be persuasive? Like many things that seem mysterious in the beginning, consumers eventually end up paying attention to the man behind the curtain.

 

This entry was posted on Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 3:34 pm.

There’s a further extreme, in helping manage destructive behaviours using proven scientific techniques for encouraging behaviour change, such as CBT. A relatively new web app for solving sleep problems called Sleepio.com launched this year, using many of the digital and modern techniques seen in apps like Mint, or leveraging community/peer support, to cure health issues. Tools like Sleepio have been published in medical journals, so I can only assume its a matter of time before health practitioners start using persuasive apps as a matter of course for a range of issues: insomnia, smoking, weight loss, anxiety, violent behaviour.

 

Infographic: East coast vs west coast designers


  • east coast vs west coast designers infographic

    Ever wondered what the difference between east coast designers and west coast designers?

    How designers in New York or D.C. differ from their counterparts in LA or Seattle?

    After all, we know all about the differences between east coast and west coast rap (and the rivalry that runs along with it).

    But who knew there was the same kind of divide among designers?

    This infographic, prepared exclusively for MightyDeals, compares the two camps side by side. Get insight into differences by interest, style, concentration, education, pay scale, and more.

Design’s Next Frontier: Nudging Consumers Into Making Better Life Choices

WRITTEN BY: 

DESIGNERS ARE BEGINNING TO UNDERSTAND HOW IRRATIONAL THINKING PLAYS INTO THE DECISIONS PEOPLE MAKE. THAT KNOWLEDGE CAN BE USED TO OPENLY INFLUENCE CONSUMERS TO MAKE RESPONSIBLE CHOICES.

The following is adapted from an Artefact white paper. The full version may be downloaded here.

Recent advances in neuroscience and behavioral economics, cognitive psychology and anthropology are helping us better understand how our brains work and how decision-making takes place. A core finding of this work is that we are not primarily the products of our conscious thinking; we are instead the products of thinking that happens below the level of awareness. Reason, it turns out, is highly dependent on emotional value judgments and therefore is highly susceptible to bias.

This is a departure from the conventional wisdom of 20th-century economists and policy makers who tended to think of people as rational creatures who would weigh their options and make rational decisions. Successful advertising, branding, industrial and furniture designers seemed to understand instinctively that fundamentally emotion played a much bigger role in decision making, but there was no shared view about how, and as a result, design was sometimes regarded as an opaque process–clearly impactful but hard to reproduce, systematize, and control.

Organ-donor rates are mostly a function of whether programs are opt-in or opt-out.

Now we are starting to amass a body of evidence built from hundreds of scientific studies documenting dozens of human cognitive biases. (For more on that, you can read Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler’s book,Nudge.) These biases are the result of mental shortcuts that lead us all to make less than rational (and in fact highly emotional) decisions, not just in the process of design but also more importantly as consumers.

Designers have been influencing behavior for a long time. Graphic design, for example, has generally been concerned with either the visual communication of information (implying static transfer of knowledge but not behavioral change) or the creation of attractive, eye-catching, coherent brand stories (attempting to encourage consumer purchasing and loyalty). This design concerned itself with changing or shaping attitudes and emotions toward brands and engaging their rational sensibilities. However, consciously “changing” the behavior of the users is something we argue is a relatively new role.

Shaping and informing opinions is still incredibly important. However, one of the clearest findings in the emerging area of “persuasive design” is that you can give people all the facts, create the most informative and attractive communications materials, and still not to get them to change their behavior.

While this recent knowledge of how our brains work is a significant step forward, we are still at the very beginning of learning how to do persuasive design effectively. In this century, we’re going to learn a lot more about our irrational behavior and decision-making abilities, and that knowledge is going to impact several design disciplines dramatically.

A good example of irrational behavior is the simple fact that many countries across Europe have dramatically different levels of organ donation. It turns out that the countries with participation rates below 20% designed the donation form so that drivers must opt into the organ donation program, whereas the countries with more than 95% participation have forms that make drivers opt out. This is something called the default bias. The principle of default choices has the same tremendous effect on retirement plans, software installation options, and others. In fact, it is so effective that it is commonly used in software installation option dialogs as an easy way to increase adoption.

Let us consider a design scenario that shows the default bias at work. Imagine you are a school administrator who discovers that in a school cafeteria the order you place the food items on display has a strong impact on what foods students end up consuming. You make inquiries, and there happens to be no particular logical order in which the food is placed in the display. You happen to know that According to the CDC (2011): “Childhood obesity in the USA has more than tripled in the past 30 years.” Armed with this knowledge, what do you do?

  1. Leave the order of the foods as is–with the understanding that you are still, albeit arbitrarily, shaping behavior.
  2. Change the order of the food so that more healthy options are presented first to the students.
  3. Change the order so as to favor more profitable options (irrespective of the healthiness of the food).

So option 1 means you just embrace whatever random order the food was in to begin with. This is a false choice, because you are in fact ignoring what you know. As for option 3, as hard up for money as our schools may be, ignoring the health interests of the school children is simply an immoral choice. The only responsible outcome presented is to change the order of the food to promote healthier choices (choice 2).

Changing the foods people see changes their eating habits.

We think the second option is plain common sense. It puts the interests of the constituents in line with the interests of the institution, i.e., the general well-being of the student population. We also believe that an analysis of the intangible implications of choice number 2 would benefit the institution by resulting in fewer sick days and a healthier student body, which in turn, tends to perform better academically.

Some have called persuasive design “benevolent paternalism” or “Big Brother,” but this characterization would only be accurate if we were limiting options, or forcing behavioral outcomes, say, by limiting the selection to only healthy options. While the scientific study for this example found that the food order did indeed dramatically affect choices, it was did not lead to an absolute change of behavior, as people retained the individual freedom to make different choices.

Perhaps more fundamentally, the knowledge we have about behavior in this scenario is a human bias in decision-making that can lead people to favor what is desired over what is actually needed and/or to bias a decision based on the order things are placed in rather than more rational criteria.

So as a designer in the 21st century are armed with powerful knowledge of our human bias and frailties, you have several choices:

  • Ignore what you know–and as a result potentially shape behavior in a completely arbitrary and unplanned way.
  • Participate openly with declared and responsible outcomes in mind.
  • Quietly manipulate behavior. We are using the term “manipulate” intentionally and very much in the sense of users being manipulated by unfair or insidious means to one’s own advantage, as in the case of option 3 above.

Why is it so important that designers learn to do this? Let’s examine the issue of global warming. A report from the Yale Project on Climate Change and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change communication examined people’s attitudes to global warming and bucketed them into six groups based on their attitudes, from “alarmed” to “dismissive.” If global warming predictions are accurate, then the behaviors of all of these groups need to shift–including those of the 18% who are alarmed. These are people who are extremely sure global warming is happening. They’re confident that negative effects have already started. They want an international treaty. They want government to regulate CO2. But, tragically, this 18% are no more likely to have energy-efficient homes or cars than people who think global warming is a hoax. To reiterate: One of the clearest findings in persuasive design is that you can give people all the facts, which may alter their attitude toward something but won’t necessarily change behavior.

Designers are now armed with a growing set of persuasive techniques for shaping behavior. But with great power comes great responsibility. We are not advocating that commercial interests be de-prioritized, or that profits need to be diminished in some way. No outcome I’m advocating involves undermining basic market capitalism. However, it is our firm belief that corporate interests that are aligned to preferable outcomes will be the only way to sustain profitability in the 21st century.

It’s also our belief that individuals and governments are only part of the solution to some of the 21st century’s most wicked problems. Corporate social responsibility, as defined here, is about aligning profits to a set of preferable outcomes for everyone and building the power to realize those outcomes into your products. We may disagree on what those positive effects are or on what a desirable future is, but we encourage everyone to formulate a public ethical framework.

Images: B CalkinsTinydevil, and Terrace Studio via Shutterstock

5 Reasons You Need to Meet in Person

My clients are just like yours: They want to Skype, email and text. But here’s why you still need face time.

When the daily avalanche of emails and voice messages gets overwhelming, it’s so tempting to retreat to my office and start typing replies and returning phone calls. That’s one of the biggest mistakes I can make.

No matter what industry we’re in, we’re all in the people business. We’ll only be successful if we really get to know our customers and colleagues. Many of my tech marketing clients are so busy that they now prefer texting to even emails or calls. Skype, WebEx and audio calls are convenient and create the illusion we’re actually having a meeting — but nothing beats the power of a truly personal, face-to-face connection.

What can you learn from an in-person meeting that you can’t from a virtual one?

1. You’re off the record.  In Silicon Valley and many other places, there are few private offices. Many of my clients work in cubes and can’t have private telephone conversations with me or anyone else. This means that when I talk to them on the phone, I might not get to hear the most important information they can share: the unique team dynamics or executive’s personality quirks that would make or break our ability to match an expert consultant. Over sushi or a latte or a walk around the block, my clients can let me know more — with more color — than they can over the telephone or in an email.

2. Make use of not-so-small talk.  Most business conversations are focused on solving a problem quickly and efficiently, while business relationships are built when people take the time to share and learn more about each other. That happens more naturally in person than over the phone or in an email. What cements a bond between people? Small talk about a favorite team, passion for pecan pie, parenting challenges, and the other bits and pieces that make us unique and interesting.

3. Make an impression. I bought a new handbag. It’s faux ostrich and it’s pink. Really pink. I’ve received compliments on it from every woman (and one man) I’ve met with in the past two weeks. I had worried it was perhaps not professional enough for business. But the style and color were bold, “spring-y” and made me smile. Who knew my $60 knock-off handbag would be such a great conversation starter and deliver such a strong personal statement? How do you do that over Skype?

4. Read the body language. Facial expressions often communicate so much more than words. We host consultant coffees and invite a handful of independent consultants to our office in order to better understand the nuances of each professional in a relaxed setting. We need to know what isn’t on the resume that makes each person unique. In their eyes and in their body language, we can see confidence, empathy, fear, friendliness or sincerity. That ability to “read” a candidate beyond their keywords is a huge competitive advantage for us.

5. Learn where the action is. I find out so much when I visit one of my clients in their office. Is the lobby bright and inviting with recent accolades proudly displayed? Do employees seem happy? Is there free juice and healthy snacks in the cafeteria? Brand new Herman Miller chairs in the conference room? Is everyone moving in slow motion or is there a palpable buzz? The environment speaks volumes and may factor into your business proposal or plan. By understanding company dynamics, we can communicate more effectively to meet their needs.

I love new technologies that allow me communicate with others more freely and quickly. But as a business owner, I try to remember customers want to work with someone they can relate to, not just buy from.

And I believe in walking the walk. Want to meet me in person? I’ll be at the Faz Restaurant lounge in Pleasanton, California on Wednesday, March 7 between five and seven. Meet my team and join us for a drink. RSVP to @renesiegel.

I’ll be the one with the really pink purse.

3 Myths of Customer Experience

Sharing awesome ex-class mates(Zack)’s presentation;
3 Myths of customer experience;
1. You can design experience
2. Experience strategy should be focused on creating something new.
3. Experience strategy consistently produces significant value.

3 Ways To Predict What Consumers Want Before They Know It

 

SCOTT ANTHONY, OF INNOSIGHT AND THE AUTHOR OF THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK OF INNOVATION: HOW IT WORKS, HOW TO DO IT, SHOWS HOW TO FIND HIDDEN OPPORTUNITIES FOR INNOVATION.

The insight that sparks innovation appears to occur randomly. After all, the iconic shorthand for innovation is a light bulb, implying that ideas come from sudden flashes of inspiration. While such flashes are surely good things, it is hard to depend on them, particularly if you are at a company that needs to introduce a steady stream of innovative ideas.

Steve Jobs once said, “It is not the customer’s job to know what they want.” That’s absolutely right. It is yours. And don’t think you don’t have a customer because you work in an internal support function or for a company that provides components or services. Everyone has a customer, whether it is a purchaser, user, or co-worker.

The quest to identify opportunities for innovation starts with pinpointing problems customers can’t adequately solve today. More than 50 years ago Peter Drucker wrote, “The customer rarely buys what the company thinks it sells him. One reason for this is, of course, that nobody pays for a ‘product.’ What is paid for is satisfaction.” Companies think they are selling products and services, but in reality people hire those products and services to get jobs done in their lives. As marketing guru Ted Levitt quipped to his students a generation ago, “People don’t want quarter-inch drills–they want quarter-inch holes.” A problem arises, and the customer looks around and chooses the solution that gets the job done better than competing alternatives.

To discover your quarter-inch holes, obsessively search for the job that is important but poorly satisfied (for more on the underlying theory of jobs to be done, see The Innovator’s Solution by Clayton M. Christensen and Michael Raynor). Innosight’s research and field work over the past decade suggests that following three specific activities can increase the odds of identifying innovation opportunities.

1. GET TO CONTEXT

In 2000, when A.G. Lafley became CEO of Procter & Gamble, he found a company that had lost its way. The stock had plunged almost 50% after a March 2000 warning that the company would miss earnings estimates. Lafley looked for simple ways to reenergize that company’s innovation energy. He came to the conclusion that P&G needed to fundamentally reorient itself. The company was world renowned for driving decisions based on deep customer understanding, but upon reflection, Lafley realized that the company had drifted away from that understanding.

Lafley is gifted at communicating complicated ideas in simple ways. He developed a simple mantra to refocus P&G: The consumer is boss. He would say something along these lines: “Fellow P&G-ers, I’d like you to meet your new boss. You may think that I, as your CEO, am boss. That’s not right. You might think that the board of directors to which I report is boss. That’s not right. You might think our shareholders are the bosses. That’s not right. You might think your line manager is boss. That’s not right. We have one and only one boss that matters. The consumer. The consumer is boss.”

Lafley urged P&G to understand their boss as never before. P&G had to hear what the consumer was saying and, much more importantly, tease out what the consumer wanted but couldn’t articulate.

To do this, Lafley worked to create a culture where everyone in P&G–from the chairman down–would spend time living with consumers, shopping with consumers, or working alongside consumers. He would describe invaluable insights he personally obtained in his career by spending time in the market. For example, while Lafley worked on Tide branded laundry detergent, P&G would regularly administer quantitative surveys to assess the quality of its product and packaging. Consumers reported that they loved Tide’s packaging (at the time, Tide was packaged in cardboard boxes). Yet, when Lafley was interacting with a consumer, he noticed that she almost always used a screwdriver or scissors to open the Tide box. Lafley realized that the woman didn’t want to risk breaking her nails opening the cardboard box. She said she loved the packaging because she didn’t know of any alternatives, but in reality, she had to find a creative way to open the box because of its design limitations.

Many P&G products trace their inspiration to these kinds of observations. For example, watching a woman grow frustrated when she spilled coffee grounds on her floor helped to inspire P&G’s Swiffer quick cleaning line, which today produces more than $1 billion in annual revenue.

One of the dirty little secrets of innovation is that even the most well-intentioned people lie. They say they will do things they won’t, and purport to have interest in things they don’t. Spend time in the market so that you can know the customer better than they know themselves.

How to get started: Detail the amount of time you spent with customers or key stakeholders in the last three months. Find a way to triple that time.

2. WATCH FOR WORKAROUNDS

Carefully studying current and potential customers often highlights workarounds that customers create to make up for the limitations of existing solutions. Drilling into these compensating behaviors can help to unearth innovation opportunities.

Consider jeans shopping. Research shows that women find it the second-most intimidating shopping experience, behind shopping for swimwear. In 2009, as part of an ambitious innovation program, VF Corporation, which makes Wranglers and Lee Jeans, began to spend more time with customers in order to understand specific points of frustration.

One trip to a local department store proved particularly illuminating. Executives watched as a prospective female customer shopped for a new pair of jeans. She wandered around the endless racks of clothes in the store, picking up pair of jeans after pair of jeans. The VF team was struck by two observations: First, the sheer volume of jeans the woman brought into the dressing room. Second, the fact that the woman had picked up multiple sizes of just about every pair she was trying on.

The executives assumed that she must have recently experienced a weight change, so she was unsure of her size. But in fact it turned out that her experience taught her that the sizes that appeared on the labels of jeans only loosely related to what would actually fit. Her workaround involved bringing in volumes of pairs of jeans in order to find one good fit.

 

 

These observations helped the company focus its innovation efforts on the jeans-buying process. VF changed the labeling on its jeans, developed innovative display mechanisms in retail stores, and launched an online campaign where noted style icon Stacey London helped women find jeans that would be most appropriate for their body type. In early 2011, VF reported that these and related innovation efforts had created $100 million in incremental revenue in its jeanswear division.

How to get started: Lead a round-table discussion to identify compensating behaviors that your company’s solution forces customers to follow.

3. FOCUS ON NONCONSUMERS

The natural tendency for would-be innovators is to study existing customers who participate in existing categories. By all means do that. But also look for people who face some kind of constraint that inhibits their ability to solve a pressing problem they are facing in their lives. Apple, Southwest, Ikea, Nintendo, and many more companies trace their success to unlocking demand that was pent up because existing solutions were too expensive or complicated. These companies found a market opportunity just sitting there, waiting for someone to develop a convenient, affordable solution.

Indian conglomerate called Godrej & Boyce used this approach when it developed its ChotuKool refrigerator, designed for 85% of the Indian population who didn’t purchase refrigerators. These consumers wanted some of the benefits of refrigeration, but needed something that was smaller, more portable, and less power hungry. The ChotuKool addressed these barriers to consumption. The size of a small cooler, it costs an affordable $70 and is battery powered, so it can run off the grid when electricity is down. The product exceeded sales expectations during a trial launch in 2010. In early 2011, Godrej won an award from the Indian prime minister for its efforts, with sales accelerating dramatically.

It takes some mental discipline to look to markets that don’t exist. But that discipline can pay off in the form of growth opportunities that are hidden in plain sight.

How to get started: Write down five things that a coworker or friend can only do by relying on an expert or going to a central location. Think about ideas that would let these people do it themselves.

* * *

Spending time with customers, watching for workarounds, and exploring nonconsumption helps to highlight exciting innovation opportunities. Of course, there’s more to innovation than the spark of an insight. Innovators have to translate that insight into an idea that gets the innovation job done and delivers against whatever metric matters (revenues, profits, process performance, employee satisfaction, and so on). But the right starting point makes the journey infinitely easily.

7 Lessons from Great Marketers of Apple, Nike, Starbucks, and Red Bull

Apple Inc CEO Steve Jobs gives the keynote add...Image by AFP/Getty Images via @daylife

Of all dreams marketers have, one stands out: Help products cross the tipping point, reaching a critical mass of consumers. For some marketers, the dream becomes reality—as has been the case withApple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Nike (NYSE:NKE), Starbucks(NASDAQ:SBUX), and Red Bull marketers.  For other marketers, it remains just a dream. The difference between dream and reality is in the following seven principles of WOM and Buzz Marketing:

1. Begin with the consumer

Provide a product or a service that satisfies a genuine consumer need.  Apple’s products, for instance, fill the consumer need for mobile communications, computing, music, and distinction. Nike offers consumers top quality shoes, apparel, and accessories. Starbucks offers consumers a “third place,” away from home where they can enjoy a cup of coffee and socialize. Red Bull offers drinks that give consumers with fast energy.

2. Be innovative

Develop products that seduce consumer fantasy and imagination by delivering better value than conventional products and address emerging trends. Make products simple and easy to use. Every single Apple product, for instance, offers a unique value to consumers, as it incorporates a number of distinct advantages over competitive products—simplicity, functionality, access to complementary products, etc.

3. Target the right group

Some consumer groups are more receptive to innovative products than others and should be the early targets of the marketing campaign.  Apple’s products usually target the two groups that are most sensitive to WOM and buzz campaigns, the ”pioneers,” the young, restless and curious, consumers enchanted with the new and the exotic; and the “early adopters,” consumers who are always on the lookout for products that will improve their personal and business lives—a larger group than the pioneers, the bridge to reach to an even larger group, the “early majority.”

4. Create the Message

The marketing campaign should have a message that conveys the product attributes to the target groups.  Make the message appealing, clear, credible, transparent, direct, and sticky using characters and stories familiar to consumers. These attributes help consumers memorize and recall the message the moment they make purchase decisions.  Adjust the message theme to appeal to different target groups, using the appropriate media.

5. Find the right social context

Marketing campaigns are sensitive to the context, the “conditions and circumstances,” the place and time the message is launched. The context is like a magnified glass that allows consumers to see and imagine things couldn’t see and imagine before. A message launched in a cosmopolitan city, in front of a landmark structure, a statue is more effective than a message launched in the middle of nowhere. Likewise, a message launched in the aftermath of a major event that has captured broad attention is more effective than a message launched at a usual time.

6. Spread the message

Enlist to your campaign the “agents of influence” i.e., consumers who are more effective in influencing others or be influenced, by others, and therefore spread the product message, tell their neighbors, their friends, their co-workers and fellow club-members.  Target, support and reinforce your campaign with viral marketing.

7. Turn WOM into Buzz

Add emotion and hype to the campaign to speed up the spread and the diffusion of the message to a critical mass of consumers.  Stir up interest and desire in the product that fuel hype and contagion.  Turn hype and contagion to a herd-like consumer behavior that helps products cross the “chasms”, especially the chasm between early adopters and early majority.

The bottom line: Effective WOM and Buzz marketing campaigns involve the entire corporate organization, from R&D to production, to sales and marketing. They include a unique and innovative product offering; a message targeting the right consumer group in the right context; and a legion of “agents of influence” to spread and diffuse the message to consumer masses.