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A recent humorous article about “killing the email signoff” filled me with a sense of relief as I came to the realization that I am not alone in my agonizing deliberation about email signoffs. I have spent way too much time, and thought way too deeply, about the appropriateness of signoffs and what meaning the signoff I was using conveyed. Using the signoffs “best,” “regards,” or “sincerely” often left me feeling empty and entirely insincere and signoffs such as “cheers,” or my all-time least favorite “ciao,” left me feeling fake, cheesy or unnecessarily pompous. Working in the context of the military makes the whole process much easier as everybody simply signs off V/R (surprise an acronym!), Very Respectfully, even if you have absolutely no respect for the person that you are emailing.

So I often just revert to “thanks,” but then am left wondering what I am thanking the person for. More often than not I just go with nothing and wonder if the person on the other end thinks I’m being rude.

As the article states, siImagegnoffs are a relic of actual letter writing (yes those pieces of paper that you put a stamp on and mailed) which was much more infrequently done and thus carried much more value and meaning than the multiple emails we send and receive daily. So if you receive an email without a signoff, don’t take it personal, it’s just part of a long overdue cultural shift.

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As if brands didn’t need enough of a reason to build emotional connections with consumers in their 20s, an interesting article titled The Mysteriously Memorable 20s: Why do we remember more from young adulthood than from any other time of our lives?, reminds us of the importance that this meaningful stage of life plays in the construction of our identities and the way that we formulate our personal narratives.

ImageBuilding brand relationships during this crucial stage of identity formation by having even a small role in one of those integral memories of self-actualization can create extremely meaningful lifelong associations and loyalty. And if the ultimate mark of a successful brand is the ability to become so entwined in a consumer’s life that the brand has become a part of that consumer’s identity, then there is no time better than the 20s to be there with consumers as they define their self-image.

Another interesting issue that this article raises, especially for those that are in or entering their 20s, is that this period of life is not a time to be spent wondering “what if?” Memories, as the foundational aspect of our self-identification, are our most valuable possessions and the 20s are clearly an essential time for creating new and unique memories by exploring and experiencing life to its fullest.

So what are some of your most cherished memories from this formational period of life and are there any brands you associate with those memories? Do those brands play a role in your identity today and do you still have an affinity for those brands?

Here at W5 we recently completed a research project for a company testing a change in the way customers order one of their core products. To accurately gauge reaction to this change we interviewed people at locations where they purchase this product. The discovery process of diving down the rabbit hole of such unique and varied consumer interactions is one of the most fascinating parts of conducting consumer insights research in diverse industries. I mean, who knew that the way consumers think about and buy socks could be layered with so many levels of complexity?!

However, the real challenge I enjoy in conducting research is to frame the research question in a greater social and cultural context.  Decisions are not made, nor actions taken, in a vacuum. So while this research was very esoteric in focusing on the product itself and the ways in which customers think about how they purchase that product, the deeper issue this research raised was people’s resistance to change.

When companies decide to make big changes, for whatever reason, those decisions are not entered into lightly. The benefits of introducing change must be measured against the potential blowback that will occur as a result of those changes to any well established brand, product or process.  The classic example of such blowback being of course the New Coke debacle, which was more accurately speaking a blowback against the elimination of original Coke.

In more recent times we have seen negative reaction to change every time Facebook introduces changes to their user interface. The pattern is predictable with Facebook announcing the changes, Facebook users denouncing the changes and threatening to cancel their accounts, the changes being implemented and eventually frustration to the change dying down.

In purely rational terms it should be clear that fear of and resistance to change is irrational. Why must something that is new and different inherently be worse? I suppose that whatever the new thing is must be judged in comparison to whatever it is replacing. As the saying goes – don’t fix what ain’t broke. But on the flip side of that coin is belief that there is always room for improvement.

Change is the only constant

According to research (discussed here) that questioned the human aversion to that which is newer, or more accurately, a preference for that which is older, there is an inherent belief among humans that things that are older are better. Study participants who were told that a piece of European chocolate was first sold 73 years ago rated it as better tasting than those participants who were told it was first sold 3 years ago. Similarly, participants who were told that a painting was painted in 1905 found it more appealing than those who were told the painting was painted in 2005.

But why? What is it deep within the collective human psyche that drives us to believe that which is older is better and that change is threatening? This is a question that I don’t have the answer for, although it is something that I will continue to ponder and hopefully gain insight into through future conversations and observations.

As we well know, the only constant in life is change. The attempt to understand the unknown variable (the reaction to change) and encouraging people to embrace that change, is the real challenge.