Hartman Event on content management and Kano’s model

Here’s  a summary of the Hartman Event on content management I recently visited.

Although seemingly quite IT oriented, the Hartman Event on content management turned out to be very consumer focused instead. This was also due to the attention for social media.

This event was made possible by suppliers of content management systems and services. However, as opposed to other events I have seen, the participants really had something useful to contribute and did not explicitly use the opportunity to sell their product. Next year the event will put user experience central, so this promises to be very interesting.

One of the interesting lectures explained the success of a new website created by the speaker’s company. He explained how the Kano model was used to manage the different kinds of needs. In line with the model, needs were divided into three categories:

  • Basic needs: needs that need to be satisfied. When not fulfilled, the user will be dissatisfied, but beyond a certain degree of fulfillment they do not contribute to higher satisfaction. For example: the presence of a steering wheel in a car, or the availability of a website.
  • Performance needs: the higher degree of fulfillment, the higher the satisfaction. For example: the number of horse powers of the engine of the car, or the speed of a website.
  • Experience needs: when not fulfilled the user will not be dissatisfied, but once fulfilled they contribute strongly to a higher satisfaction. For example: an extra audio plug in the back of the car for connecting an MP3 player or functionality to extract a product catalog from a website for offline use.

This model can be applied to many cases in which diverse consumer needs need to be identified or prioritized.

Recipe for flatulence marketing

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Get rid of air strategy

Get rid of air strategy as presented in the 'Radar' show (Dutch)

The Dutch consumer interests television show Radar recently presented a very interesting story about symptom marketing. In the Netherlands it is forbidden to advertise subscription medicine. Companies try to circumvent the regulations by not promoting the medicine, but by promoting the symptom it cures. Symptom marketing aims to have people realize they have a symptom, have them think it is a decease that requires treatment and have them go to a doctor to ask for a treatment. The Radar team demonstrated how this works using the symptom of flatulence (the presence of excessive gas in the digestive tract which generally causes farting). » Read more…

Small seats for tall people

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Well equiped train in Taiwan

Taiwan train with large comfortable seats

Last week I enjoyed a perfect holiday in Taiwan. We encountered nice weather, nice people, and nice landscapes. For a two day trip to a national park we took a train. Expecting a typical Asian train as you (used to?) see them in the movies, so prepared for the worse, Taiwan again brought me a very good experience. Used to the Dutch trains with uncomfortable chairs with very limited leg space, if there is actually a seat available, I considered that the fact that Taiwanese people on average are less tall than Dutch people would not benefit me. I was pleasantly surprised » Read more…

Warm welcome to The Netherlands

This morning I returned from a one week holiday trip to Taiwan. After a relatively short and comfortable flight serviced by KLM, seated at the emergency exit, I exited Customs after little less than 12 hours. Considering about 1 hour and 15 minutes for taxiing, walking across the airport, standing in line at passport control and waiting at the baggage belt, this is an all-time record. The next 130km to get to Eindhoven took me 4 and a half hour, 3 hours more than normal.

One of the reasons for this huge delay caused by the Dutch railway company NS is that I arrived at the train station too early. Train service only started about half an hour later. For tourists arriving at night at an international airport like Schiphol (10th in size world wide) this is of course an immediate big disappointment. The fact that all the shops in the station hall were closed at this hour and the disgusting hygiene level of the platforms does not help prevent tourists wonder ‘What hell hole did I arrive in now?’. The train I caught to Amsterdam Central station after waiting for over half an hour, only strengthened the impression. For some reason we pick up our tourists in the most terrible trains available, even considering the fact that all Dutch train designs in general lack consideration for some basic consumer insights.

After this first experience the rest of the trip was hardly any worse. At Amsterdam I had to wait 20 minutes for the train to Utrecht. There I had to wait 30 minutes for the bus to Den Bosch. Normally there would be a train but due to scheduled train track maintenance passengers were transported by bus. Unfortunately the first bus was scheduled to depart at 7.30h, not considering any passengers arriving earlier from other stations. The bus arrived at Den Bosch at 8.12, just 5 minutes too late to catch the train to Eindhoven. After waiting a bit longer and a last 20 minute train ride I arrived at Eindhoven at 9.00h after which I took the city bus home, arriving there only 4 and a half  hours after I left the airport.

(Micro-)blogging is here to stay?

Old and new tools to tell people what you think or feel

Technologies that will soon all be forgotten

After some deliberation on whether to start a blog or not, I finally started one (this one) a month or so ago. This week I read in the local newspaper that blogging was old fasioned (sooo 2008) and being completely replaced by micro-blogging. Fortunately I recently started to use twitter as well, so I’m not completely worried about my digital affinity. On the other hand, until now I still try to find out what’s the advantage of Twitter over MSN, ICQ (a technology from the mid 90’s) or even an ordinary IRC channel (early 90’s). To me until now it doesn’t seem more than a slow group chat. It actually looks a lot like a big newsgroup discussion (first introduced on digital bulletin boards in the 80’s).

If I am to believe the numerous articles on Twitter, “this technology is here to stay”. It’s gonna change the way we spread news, it’s gonna change the way we use the internet, it’s going to change our lives. Surprisingly, this is exactly what I read about traditional blogging a few years ago. Did it really change our world? No, not really. Not surprisingly, it’s especially the companies that have interests in these technologies that spread these words first. And they are frequently copied by the early adopters.

I have decided to stop believing this kind of statements. Nearly no new technology is here to stay. (No reason not to enjoy them of course.) There might be exceptions, like perhaps the wheel, but even there I’m not sure yet. In practice it’s naive to think that any new technology will not be succeeded and eventually replaced by a newer technology sooner or later. And newer technologies rather sooner than later. In the mean time, I’ll just keep blogging.

Two evenings for the price of one

Hamster weeks plastic bag from Albert Heijn

Hamster weeks plastic bag from Albert Heijn

Today I bought two evenings for the price of one. Tonight’s evening consisted of a microwave steamable meal, applepie yoghurt for desert and a tube of pringles on the couch, watching TV. The supermarket where I do my daily groceries, Albert Heijn has some special promotions of two for the price of one during what they call the ‘hoard’ weeks. They visualize this with some cartoons of hamsters who encourage to hoard carefully. Hamsters are known for hoarding. Accidentally the word ‘hamsteren’ means to hoard in Dutch. (And apparently the name of the creature is based on the similar German word “hamstern”.)

As a result of the great deal I made today, I payed only 10 euros for what otherwise would have cost me 20. In times of crisis this kind of huge savings are the welcome ones.  On the other hand, the microwave steamable meal was actually too small, requiring me to empty the Pringles tube in one go. And cooking my own dinner with fresh ingredients, would have been cheaper and might have resulted in a healthier meal with better taste. I might have saved even more money buying at the Lidl or any other supermarket than Albert Heijn of course, but then I would not have had such a great deal, and the satisfaction of achieving it! And I should not forget: tomorrow’s evening is already paid for…

Was playing with Twitter bad for Habitat?

In June this year, Habitat caused quite some fuzz when an intern misused Twitter by using keywords related to the Iranian political situation to promote posts about special offers. This was generally seen as wrong decision which has damaged their brand. However, I’m not sure this is the case.

Habitat generated quite some attention for its Twitter channel, its brand and its website. One might argue that this attention was negatively focused. And that is mostly true. On the other hand, as many others at the time of the incident, I was not a Twitter user and I heard about this in a less detailed way. I was told that this English furniture brand Habitat (which I knew from some nice shops here in The Netherlands) had accidentally messed up some online campaign. My association was not of a negative nature. Actually I thought it’s funny that a typical offline brand like Habitat (with it’s nice shops) makes mistakes in it’s online activities.

Most people probably don’t associate Habitat with ‘online’. In general people tend to try to put things in their context. The default context of Habitat is furniture, which is a relatively traditional kind of product, usually not bought online. (I for one would first want to experience the sitting comfort of any sofa I’d buy.) The Twitter incident does not relate to the most likely context of the brand. It does not say anything about the quality of its products. Also the overall ethics of the company are not really in question either.

Therefore it seems unlikely that the mistakes Habitat made with Twitter have damaged the company or its brand. They might even have benefited it. Most people might not have associated Habitat with ‘online’ before, but maybe some more people might now. And probably not even in a negative way. They might even visit the website.

Does Albert Heijn promote negative thoughts?

Packaging of black berry smoothie

Packaging of Albert Heijn's black berry smoothie

The Dutch super market chain Albert Heijn actively follows the “health” trend by selling healthy snacks. I recently bought a bag of Parisian carrots and a black berry smoothie in the AH to Go at a Dutch train station. The following train ride gave me some time and opportunity to have a look at the packaging of the smoothie. Although I would expect the healthy product to radiate optimism and good feeling, I was surprised to see the image on the right.

The image shows a description of what kinds of fruit are in the smoothie and next to it some very unhappy fruits! One seems to be drowning, shouting “help!!!”. The other is coughing (“uche uche!”). Not really what I would like to accociate with the food I consume… This could be an attempt to make the packaging less boring or even funny, but I fail to see how exactly. The rest of the packaging does not communicate anything funny and is indeed boring. I would like to know the impact of these cartoons on the overall image of the product. Do people find it funny? Do they feel happy about consuming fruit that was ‘sacrificed’ for their smoothie? (Is that the reason the fruits are screaming?) Do consumers accociate the product with (un)healthiness? And more in general: is it wise to associate products with negative expressions?

Ask Why? questions!

What’s the most valuable questing one can ask? Yes, it’s not this question. It might very well be the ‘Why?’ question. Why? Because seeking its answer will provide true insight. And insight makes us grow and brings us further (in our professional domain, in life, in our existence, …). One might argue that answers to the ‘How?’ question, which is the current dominant scientific question, provides some kind of insight as well. And this is true.

How does it work? How do things relate? How do I feel?

However, answers to ‘How?’ questions only lets us look at the present and basically lets us stand still. Questions like ‘How can we improve this?’ can only be answered by considering ‘Why do we need to improve this?’ first. The answers to ‘Why?’ questions make us reconsider the present and drive us to consider change and improvement. In business they will define the business case for your projects.

Why must it work this way? Why do things relate this way? Why do I feel this way?

Children of any generation go through a natural phase in which they bombard the world arround them and especially their parents with ‘Why?’ questions. At first parents are pleased by the sudden interest of their child in the world arround them and try to answer the questions, soon finding out that every answer to a Why? question is followed by a new Why? question. In the end many parents either ignore the questions or kill the initiative with the ‘Because this is how it is’ or any other lousy answer. Basically they teach their children not to ask these Why? questions. And yes, with age children and grownups tend to be more reluctant to ask Why? questions and questions in general.

Management guru Eliyahu M. Goldratt wrote an interestion article about empowerment within organizations and related to that, the importance of the Why? question (http://www.goldratt.com/empower.htm). One of the two basic principles for empowerment in organizations (next to matching perceived authority to responsibility) according to Goldratt is that managers should sufficiently explain the Why behind their requests to the people they manage. This will enable them to understand the reasoning behind the request and to contribute beyond purely carrying it out (for example by suggestion an alternative). Of course this does not only apply to the ones we manage, but also to any other people we need to get things done. Goldratt also argues that explaining Why? will shorten learning curves. Often we only ask ourselves why we did things when they went wrong. If we know why we do things before we do them, we can learn from them without making a mistake first.

We might wonder why managers need to remind themselves to explain us why we need to do things? The answer is very simple: Because apparently we do not ask the question ourselves! Now that we understand the importance of the Why? Question, we can of course easily fix this…

Rewarding strategies

Children have a natural talent of seeing the obvious differences between right and wrong. Killing is bad, caring is good. However, in real life it is often more difficult and that’s why already on an early age parents teach their children the more difficult right vs. wrong subtleties. Parents have a natural talent by themselves to use excellent rewarding and punishing systems.

The financial crisis that the world is suffering from at the moment causes new ways of looking at things. Monday the papers reported a new insight on the banking leadership intricacies, and especially the rewarding systems that intended to promote good above bad behavior. And how this system had obviously failed. According to the (Dutch) newspaper article, the bonus system for the banking management was based on growth and in a world market growing to it’s limits, this promoted taking excessive risks. In the end the risks were not containable and in a way the bonus system has contributed to the current crisis.

What is the problem with this bonus system? On it’s own it sounds quite good to promote growth. The issue is that this kind of goals (like growth, or profit, or margin) are very short term goals, focused on high visibility and immediate measurability. It’s very weird that the long term strategies taught to us by our parents, like “what goes around comes around”, are not considered by the financial top management of our world.

Unfortunately it is not just the top management that is measured by short term goals with no stimuli to consider long term consequences. The top management communicates the strategy (or rather short term policy) down to the lower management, which is confronted with one year goals, even if it would like to focus on the future of the company instead.

There is hope however. In a commercial world largely driven by shareholders, especially the shareholders will see that the short term results of a company are not relevant if the long term results are not satisfactory. They will reflect this to the higher management and put an end to short term rewarding systems. That’s why in some modern companies the yearly bonus systems are already being replaced by new systems that take long term strategies and visions into account. Financial institutions and other more traditional companies will shortly follow. Management, but also other employees for example will be given half year goals, two year goals and five year goals, which will secure rapid improvements combined with mid term strategies and long term vision. Companies that do not adjust, will just not make it.

Addition 23-11-2008:
Proffessor Piet Keizer from the Utrecht University suspects a strong correlation between the emerging financial crisis and the fact that the financial world is ruled by mostly men. “Men among each other often show macho behavior, top executives tend to narcissism; the bigger, the better.” [translated from Dutch]. Risky behavior is perceived to lead to prestige, especially in the United States, according to the proffessor who specializes in the relation between economics and social sciences. (Volkskrant, November 2008)