Unordinary Thinking No. 17 – Turning the mundane into a miracle

In marketing, we are always challenging ourselves to improve upon our customer experience; to increase customer satisfaction, reduce costs, create competitor advantage etc. It’s a constant that never seems to drop from the marketing agenda. And if we are customer-centric, we typically frame the challenge as, ‘How can we make a user’s experience better?’ If the process behind the change is solid, we would hope to see improvement.

But some internal stakeholders might claim that repeating the same process of improvement will only lead to diminishing returns and eventually become counter productive. And at the risk of being presumptuous they are possibly right. This ‘tackle the problem head-on’ approach will probably not arrive at any business transforming outcomes or miracle consumer betterment either.

So what’s the alternative? Well you may not need to change the process which is the usual focus. Instead, be unordinary in your thinking and simply think more broadly about what customer improvement could mean. We typically focus on the sharp end. But we don’t always need to connect the improvement to sales. Improvement to brand perception or purpose of business can increase overall consideration which in turn increases the chances of customer preference.

Here’s an example from the unordinary thinkers at customer data authentication company CAPTCHA. When they looked at the improvement challenge side-on it enabled a much stronger and more significant ‘customer’ betterment to emerge.

An estimated 200,000 hours are spent by us every day typing in words to authentic ourselves as human users and not computer viruses on millions of websites across the world. The folks at CAPTCHA knew that whilst serving a beneficial service to us consumers, we saw it as a bit of a tedious chore.

Thinking about what could be done to improve the situation and pondering a more interesting way for individuals to verify who they are, the marketers at CAPTCHA concluded that what they’d created was still the best solution for customers, even if we didn’t get excited about it.

So they looked at the challenge from a different angle and framed it as as, ‘How can we make better use of the experience?’ This changed the direction of their thinking and attracted new attention. Google, now their parents, shared a project they were working on to digitise ancient books in order to ensure the scripts were captured and preserved electronically forever.

They were using “Optical Character Recognition” (OCR) which photographically scans the word, and then transforms it into text. However it often does not recognise words which it flags up, as the image below shows.

To get these missing words authenticated requires manual intervention. Which if paid for would be expensive and time consuming…enter reCAPTCHA. And with it those 200,000 hours of free consumer resource every day!

How the reCAPTHCA miracle works?

The image of the unknown text is sent in the form of a reCAPTHCA code to the website where you are authenticating you are who you say you are – added as a second word to a ‘known’ first word. And then when you authenticate your personal details you now type in two words. As the first is known, if you match that correctly, reCAPTCHA accepts your deciphering of the second word too. And when it has 15 consistent matches from different users, the word is created from the image and added to the page from which the OCR took it.

So every time you are deciphering wobbly letters to verify you are not a virus, look for the ReCAPTCHA logo. If it’s there you are participating in the world’s largest book digitisation programme ever.

And with over 250,000 Google books and old copies of the New York Times currently being updated, your authentication code is achieving more for society than just protecting your identity online. Future generations will now have access to old, rare and important fragments of history that may have perished without digitisation, thanks to ReCAPTCHA and you.

Posted by Christopher Brooks

Lexden is a marketing strategy agency which creates unordinary propositions to motivate customers and deliver commercial advantage for brands.

For more information on how we can help you, contact or, or call us on T: +44 (0)20 7490 9123.  And you can follow us on Twitter @consultingchris or @consultingajai.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s