Monday, May 31, 2010

Canadian Marketing Blog - Canadian Marketing Association: A Little Friction Ain’t So Bad

That's the message from Terry O'Reilly who addressed CMA's National Convention last week in Toronto. O’Reilly provided a fascinating and unique perspective on how to effectively market to a target audience.

“Sometimes people want and sometimes people need friction in the process before they buy a product or idea,” O’Reilly said.

This approach represents a paradigm shift away from the marketers’ traditional practice of helping their clients find the most efficient and speed bump free pathway to a sale.

O’Reilly used both historical and contemporary examples to show the dramatic impact friction can have on sales.

During the late 1950’s, a major food company developed an instant cake mix. The product was initially very popular, but was soon being ignored by its target consumer - housewives. After undertaking extensive research, the food manufacturer determined the cake mix was making women feel uninvolved in the cooking process. The food manufacturer decided to remove the egg from the mix so women could add it themselves. The result was a significant spike in sales. Women became instantly more attracted to the product with the added friction of having to mix in the egg themselves.

Another relevant example is pharmaceutical giant Johnson and Johnson’s development of an antiseptic cream to promote the healing of cuts and bruises. The companies’ scientists designed the ‘perfect’ product that was both effective and painless. Initially, sales were quite impressive but surprisingly, there were few repeat purchases of the cream. After the company engaged in a significant amount of product research using focus groups, they made an important determination about human nature – people tend to see pain as a positive indicator of a healing product’s effectiveness. Johnson and Johnson subsequently added a small amount of alcohol to the product to give it a sting – and sales increased dramatically. As O’Reilly explained, the friction of pain convinced consumers that the product actually worked – and left the company’s scientists in a state of utter confusion about where they went wrong.

A more recent illustration of the impact of friction involves a Google analytics professional. He was hired by an E-commerce site to replace its current five-step cart checkout process with a much simpler model. The business considered its current five-step process to be overly time consuming - so they requested the development of a single step process. To the company’s surprise, the new model failed miserably. The friction of the five-step process had given purchasers an added sense of security, which dissipated once the five-step process was reduced to one simple step.

There will always be a tendency for marketers to provide their clients with strategies that emphasize efficiency and convenience to sell a product.

O’Reilly summed up the idea of friction as a persuasion tool:
“If you ever need to make people believe, if you’re ever struggling to get people to a certain place, if you need to get noticed, if you’re ever looking for the leverage point to move a mountain - maybe what you need is a little friction.”

Canadian Marketing Blog - Canadian Marketing Association by Jordan Sandler at CMA

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