My hobby is screenplay writing and my favorite book on the subject is Karl Igleses’ “Emotional Impact.” In it, he describes the techniques for keeping an audience on the end of the seats while using standard writing techniques to create emotional impact. Feel free to run out and buy it, but be warned, once you read this book, the magic of Hollywood will be lost forever for you.
The bottom line is that these techniques keep audiences coming back for more. And the proof is that Hollywood has successfully used these techniques to sell movies for the last century.
I like to map these “Emotional Impact” techniques over to the business world.
I fly a lot, and I can’t say I particularly enjoy the process: taking my shoes and belt off for security like I’m being incarcerated, squeezing in a small seat, getting bumped around by turbulence for a few hours in the air, yea, not really fun stuff. I’m not knocking the airline industry, that’s just the environment that they have to deal with.
A short while ago I took a flight from Baltimore to Chicago. It was a standard regional jet and as usual, we were getting bumped around by turbulence. The flight attendant passed out the free beverage. I asked if he also had peanuts and he replied, “We sell them for $2/bag.” I’m cheap so I calmly said, “Oh, that’s Ok, I’ll survive without it.”
The flight got bumpier and my stomach felt nauseous. Just then, on his way to the back of the plane, the attendant dropped a bag of peanuts in my lap. I ate them and they helped my stomach. But more importantly, the random act of kindness made me happy. It was the fact that someone did something for me that they didn’t have to do. If giving out free peanuts were standard procedure on the flight and I got the same as everyone else, it wouldn’t have had the same effect. The action appealed to my sense of security and acceptance. Here is a stranger going out of his way to help me. I had been having a bad week, but that little act of kindness made my day, and even though it was a very bumpy flight (no fault of American Airlines), it was one of my favorite flights: it had Emotional Impact.
The Japanese have a term for this. They call it, “Sabisu,” which stands for “Special Service.” It’s an ‘extra’ service design to make the customer feel like he/she has gotten something extra. It’s a popular technique used often in Japan because it works. Think about it. You on a big date and having a nice dinner. All of a sudden the waiter stops by with two glasses of Champagne and remarks, “…enjoy, complements of the owner.” It could be some really cheap Champagne, but the fact that you got it for free, just for being you makes you feel great. And it makes your date feel great. That restaurant is now your favorite.
Tony Hsiah also talks about this in his book, Delivering Happiness. He sites the example of sending Zappos customers flowers for no particular reason. This is by far the most effective marketing a company can do. I’m sure AA spends millions of $$ on marketing each year, no doubt much of it on TV and other ads. Personally, I despise commercials (because they are so over used) and often shy way from company who blasts commercials out to the masses, forcing us to watch the same one over and over and over…
But because of a bag of peanuts, I will often pay an extra $50 to $100 to get an AA ticket over another airline. No, I don’t expect a free bag of peanuts every time, I just like the idea of “personal” customer service and attendants that are human. Remember, I’m cheap, so that’s a lot of $$ to me! Just think if every flight for every passenger had the same emotional impact as the free peanuts flight. It would truly be the start of the world’s greatest company.