WOM in-depth: Choose your own adventure

August 26, 2011

In-depth, Influence

Remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books? Man, those were the days! (Image credit: Blommit.com)


I’ve been feeling left out lately. Kind of like a 35-year-old who just heard about snap bracelets for the first time. Everyone’s been blogging about Peter Shankman-this and Morton’s Steakgate-that. And I’m just now getting a chance to cut into the issue — obligatory steak joke required. So here goes nothing.

I think I’ll approach this a different way than I’ve seen others take a crack at it. Remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books we had when we were kids? Whoever invented those books should get a gold star in life. They were amazing. No matter how bad or uninteresting the story was, you stuck with it because you wanted to choose what happened at the end. Only you weren’t really choosing because someone had already written the possible endings. So I guess you were sort of choosing. Anyway, that’s what I call marketing.

Choose Your Own Adventure has little to do with the Morton’s story, except for the fact that I’m going to share two stories here — one being my interpretation of Steakgate — and then ask you which story you’d prefer be told about your brand. Ready? Ok!

Story 1

So let’s start with Shankman and Morton’s. Your company is monitoring social media — listening and talking to people, which a lot of brands say they do but they actually don’t. You see a tweet from a social media celebrity who says he’s had a long day and would love a steak delivered and waiting for him when he lands at the Newark airport. This guy also happens to be a fan of your brand and a regular customer. Your company decides to make it happen. And its flexible enough to do it. When he lands at Newark and gets to his car, one of your employees is waiting there in a tuxedo with the steak dinner he requested.

The social media celebrity blogs about it and shares the story with his hundreds of thousands of followers. People start talking. Blogs start lighting up like Vegas slot machines. The Today Show picks up the story. Some people like it. Some people call it a stunt. Some people say that’s ok. Some people hate it. But they’re all talking about your brand.

Story 2

You’re company operates thousands of flights a day out of a numbers of different cities. Your on-time record is usually pretty good, but on this day there are issues with one particular flight. First it’s delayed an hour. Then you have to delay it again. Two-hour delays are a nightmare for an airline because they’re a nightmare for its customers, but you can’t do a whole lot about it. The cause of the delay is out of your control.

In the gate area, a man who is supposed to be on the delayed flight is getting rattled. He’s frustrated, he’s impatient, he wants to get home. And can you blame him? He sits down next to a woman and begins talking out loud — sort of to her, but sort of to no one in particular — about how awful the situation is. You listen in to hear how the woman replies: “Well, I fly this airline all the time and they are never delayed. So if they are two hours behind, something must be really wrong,” she assures the man. Later as the plane finally boards and you walk through the rows to make sure all the seats are taken, you hear other passengers making comments similar in nature to what you heard the lady say at the gate.

Ok, now Choose Your Own Adventure. You can be either company. You can manage either brand. Which one would you choose and why?

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