You Don’t Get to Call What You Do a WOW (The Vista Mistake)

Posted on by in Branding/Differentiation, Business, Communication, Customer Service, Leadership, Planning, Remarkability

One of the simple, but more difficult concepts to get across to a lot of business leaders is that they don’t get to determine if something is a WOW. They can plan for it.  They can brainstorm for it.  They can hold focus groups about it.  But, at the end of the day, companies, organizations and their leaders do not get to determine what is or isn’t a WOW. Then who does?  Answer: The market.

In fact, that’s why I define remarkability as, "doing something in such a way that the RECIPIENT of that action is POSITIVELY MOVED to REMARK to others about that experience (with you or your product/service)." Remarkability isn’t an idea.  It’s the result of an action.  It’s also not something we get to define.  The only way to know if something is remarkable (i.e. a WOW) is to find out if the recipients are remarking to others about their experience (with you or your product/service). Period.  In other words, if people aren’t inspired/moved to remark to other people (in a positive way) about your product or service, then it isn’t remarkable. There are no exceptions.

I bring this up because recently, when I opened up my Business Week magazine, I was greeted by a center of the magazine fold out marketing piece from Microsoft, announcing the final release of Windows Vista.  In big capital letters, the text of the ad says, "WOW." The next statement says, "It’s all about "Wow." Then the "WOW" gets deeper.  "There’s only one word for it: "Wow." Monitor your kids’ "Wow" time.  Find your "Wow" faster.  There’s even, "7.1 Surround Sound "Wow."" And finally, the brand promise, "The "WOW" starts now." Personally, I’ve always liked the word, "WOW," but by the end of the marketing piece, I was almost sick of it . My count: nine "Wows" in one marketing piece!

But, from my perspective, what made the "WOW" so "unWOW", was that Microsoft doesn’t have the right to tell us that their new operating system is a WOW.  Frankly, this is rather old school.  In fact, Seth Godin did us all a favor in his classic marketing book, Purple Cow, debunking the fallacy of the old school marketing strategy of trying to tell us, the recipients/end users/customers., what we should think or feel about a product.  Pumping millions of dollars to tell us that something is a WOW is a waste of money.

If a product or service is a WOW, word of mouth takes over and "the word" spreads like wild-fire. No company, especially a company like Microsoft which (except for the Tablet PC) has never been known as a WOW company, should put WOW in their advertising.  If it’s a WOW, then let the people who are the recipients of that action tell the story of WOW. But a company (or organization or church or 501(c)3 organization) telling us that they’re providing a WOW is ridiculous.  In fact, doing so, backfires. It creates an UnWOW.

So, what does that mean for you and me?  It means that we’ve got to stop thinking that we know what WOW is (and clearly we should never tell someone that what we’re doing is a WOW).  Instead, we’ve got to continually monitor what people are saying about us (and their experience with us).  If they’re not moved to remark to someone else about what they’ve experienced with us, then we need to keep changing and adjusting what we do until we get that response.

That said, what are people saying about their experience with you (Note: This could also be about internal customers or employees)? Are they positively remarking to others about you?  Are you exceeding their expectations?  Are you surprising them?  Are you taking their breath away? Are they moved to be your advocates apart from you asking them? In other words, is the service or product you offer a real WOW?  If it is, the good news is, "Great." The bad news is, "It won’t be for long."  And if it isn’t, the question you want to wrestle with is, "What can we begin to change in order to increase the probability of creating a real WOW (not a told WOW) for our target market? If you do that, you’ll be on your way to creating a more remarkable company or organization!

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