Posts tagged “messaging”

New Soap in No Bottles

During a recent hotel stay I came across this familiar tag, hanging in the bathroom.

As hotel guests, we’re empowered to make the decision about whether to reuse our towels or get fresh ones. They’ve framed this as an environmental issue, which it is, but it’s also about customers improving the bottom line for the hotel. So it’s a wisely-framed message; I suspect it works reasonably well (although I wonder about housekeeping staff in this equation; if they are seeking tips then perhaps that’s why I see fresh towels as often as I not).

In the shower itself, I found this dispenser.

Here’s the message in detail

A similar dynamic; if you give up a little something, you save the environment. However, in this case, you don’t have a choice, and more importantly, the packaging has a significant impact upon the experience. That dispenser connotes generic, low-quality shower goo, not the delightful little cleansing treats found in hotels.

This is a design/experience/messaging challenge that they just ceded. The goodness of environmental contribution could be better conveyed (even that blue tag is better looking and more enthusiastically written than the dispenser copy). The dispenser could reward you in the interaction. The quality of ingredients, normally messaged by the packaging, could be explicitly demonstrated (an interesting, if not entirely successful example is Method on Virgin America).

Related: The rooms in Seattle’s Edgewater Hotel have lovely big bottles of shampoo ($25 if you take them) but they lose some of the appeal when you see these bottles used by housekeeping to refill ’em.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from steve_portigal] Laptops Look like Race Cars — And Not in a Good Way [] – [Pogue on the ridiculous sticker-on-laptops package] As A.M.D. points out, it’s like buying a new, luxury car­ and discovering that it comes with non-removable bumper stickers that promote the motor oil, the floor mat maker, the windshield-fluid company and the pine tree air freshener you have no intention of ever using….A.M.D.’s research shows that consumers hate the stickers (duh). But they’re not going away, for one simple reason: There’s big money involved. I(Apple famously refuses to put Intel stickers on its computers, even though there’s Intel inside. In doing so, it leaves millions of dollars a year on the table.)…In 2011, A.M.D. will switch to new stickers that peel off easily, leaving no residue; after that, it’s considering eliminating the sticker program altogether. In the meanwhile, it’s going to make affixing its stickers optional. If a computer company chooses not to use the A.M.D. stickers, A.M.D. will still pay it the same marketing dollars to use in other ways.
  • [from steve_portigal] DROID DOES – [Of course this advertising copy is at least partly tongue-in-cheek but I really have to wonder why – even as a joke – this is the sort of thing that we supposedly want out of our devices. The radio ad goes even further, giving voice to the implicit message here by promising to turn you into a machine. Verizon's raison d'etre is to sell phones, I know, but ulp, people, ulp. As we grapple with where we're at with this digi-firehose, Droid is putting a mecha-stake in the ground for us] Turns your eyes into captivated apertures of ecstasy. Its web-busting speed turns your arms into blistering, churning pistons. It’s power, intelligence and intuition. It’s not a better phone. It’s a better you….Its power, ability, brains and skill turn you into a web-rocketing, message-crafting super-you…with web-browsing speed that shoots you from zero to sixty in nanoseconds. It has an intuitive QWERTY keyboard that turns your thumbs into twin, text turbines and steaming diesel email engines.
  • [from steve_portigal] Robert Krulwich on Wondering [Frank Chimero] – Noticing is tough, yet rewarding work, and it begs to be documented. We’ve more tools than ever to do so…Maybe if the noticing started to arrange into larger patterns or there got to be a lot of documentation, I could maybe even print up a book of all the things I had noticed. And wouldn’t that be a nice thing to have on the bookshelf? My Year of Noticing and Wondering — 2010. As a person constantly in a position to produce words or designs or ideas, or whatever it may be, it feels good to give myself permission to kick back and inquisitively absorb things as they come. Part of noticing isn’t seeking, it’s highly reliant on serendipity and unexpected relevancy.

Choose Your Own Adventure

While visiting Savannah, GA last week I walked past this display vehicle in front of the police station

This combination of a taxi and a police car has the license NO DUI.

Zooming in for the important details:

This is a powerful visualization between two alternatives: if you have been drinking you can either ride in a cab or ride in a cop car (when you will inevitably be pulled over). The emphasis is on the cost difference between those two choices, rather than (say) the moral obligation to protect others. The binary aspect of the car is a great reframe, suggesting the citizen has the power (via their choice), rather than the police who enforce/catch/punish.

I wonder if there are studies that determine the most effective persuasive messaging, and how choice (i.e., “Click It or Ticket”) works differently than fear or guilt. Intuitively, I would believe that the positive message is more effective, but I’d love to find out more about how these messaging strategies are determined and how the individual messages (such as this car) are created.



In response to Colin McKay’s comment on my last post, I felt impelled to put up this detail of the TRL shirt I was wearing at the PE shoot.

Being the ironic scamp that I am 😉 , I had altered the shirt when I first bought it. (In the original picture, it’s hard to see the alteration–a letter ‘L’ in red marker after the word ‘trivia,’ so no slight on Colin for not having noticed it!)

The interesting thing here is how strongly these kinds of details–T-shirts, logos, cultural touchpoints–broadcast messages, and how easily the messaging can get confused if all the details are not available.

The complexity of messaging and the importance of small details is something worth thinking about in the context of ethnographic research. In any given observation or interaction, are enough of the crucial details coming across? Is the context clear? Are there layers of meaning?

In order to parse what are actual data and what are our own ideas triggered by real world phenomena (which are an important but different kind of artifact), it’s so essential to surface, probe and challenge our interpretations and assumptions.

This probing and clarifying-the separation of observation, analysis, and synthesis–is a significant piece of what makes conducting ethnographic research different from simply going out and watching people.

Talk to the 5th guy

The 5th guy is a public health awareness campaign from the Florida Department of Health. It

illustrates a simple point – most people respect certain hygienic norms. They stay home when they are sick. They cover their cough with their arm or a tissue. And they wash their hands, especially after using the restroom. There is observational data on that: The American Society for Microbiology sent researchers into public rest rooms to watch what people do. They found that four out of five people wash their hands after using the restroom. Thus was born the campaign’s central character: the “Fifth Guy.” In the ads, this fifth guy – played by a wonderful comic actor named Ben Spring – keeps making the wrong choices and suffering the social consequences as a result. The take-away message is: Unless you are staying home when sick, covering your cough with an arm or a tissue, and washing your hands often, you’re a fifth guy, an outlier. That’s the motivation. No one wants to be a fifth guy – to be that one person everyone whispers about.

It’s interesting to think about the line between playing on social norms and shame-based advertising. Advertising is often about encouraging you to take some action, telling you that you should take action, telling you that everyone else is doing it are basic forms of persuasion.

Florida is trying to encourage what they claim is a dominant behavior, as opposed to trying to create a new behavior, so pointing to the majority makes sense.

Many years ago I worked on a project for Unilever. They were considering the challenge of “on-the-go cleansing” — people away from the place (the bathroom at home) where they normally use Unilever products. I think the timing was just before “germophobia” went mainstream. The people we observed and interviewed were experiencing a serious tension between the need to protect themselves from germs and the need to behave normally.

You were expected to shake hands with someone in a social setting, but you were also made aware of the fact that that person’s hands were covered in germs. You were expected to share food with colleagues and friends, but you may not know if someone else put their hands in the candy bowl without washing them. And you weren’t allowed to pay too much attention to your own cleanliness, lest you be seen as having a mental illness (i.e., OCD).

We identified several strategies for Unilever to use. One of them, like the 5th guy campaign, involved making things normal by making them common. The box of office tissue that everyone takes from, or the skin lotion pump that is used by colleagues at work are both examples. Everyone uses them, therefore it’s normal, therefore it’s okay.

Another strategy involved creating hidden usage opportunities, where new cleaning behaviors could take surreptitiously, in a pocket, or in the pages of a book.

And a strategy that lived between those two was to mask new behaviors as existing normal activities. For example, makers of insulin pens have begun to make their devices to look more like pens than syringes.

I hope there’s good data with this Florida initiative, but I suspect some of the biggest change has already taken place, within the organization itself. I remember that our clients at Unilever worked hard to grasp the depth of the struggles we shared with them; indeed, they kept referring to the “people with OCD” as we reiterated that most people had these very concerns over germs but did not want to be assumed to have OCD. Our clients were participants in the culture they were seeking to understand and getting to that new perspective took a lot of work on both sides. The (what I presume to be) new thinking exhibited by the Floridians is encouraging.

Don’t Ask Me

(click to enlarge, if you really want to)

Ask dropped Jeeves a long time ago. Over the past few weeks I’ve seen this really bizarre campaign (with odd billboards) and the thrust of it seems to be restating the fact that Jeeves is gone. Oh, and somehow talking about the algorithm ties to that. Algorithm? If you don’t have a background in computer science or as a programmer, is that a word you are comfortable with? At least the NYT put quotes around the word for their piece about Google’s secret sauce.

Today the press is carrying the same story but it all seems weird. The timing is out of sync and just seems way too late and the ads themselves are so absolutely unclear. Are we supposed to be curious and therefore more engaged with the brand? If I were marketing a search engine, I might want to associate the brand with clear communication and easy-to-understand information, rather than dense and obscure and smug.

But that’s just me, I guess.


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