Tag Archives: London 2012

Unordinary Thinking No. 37: Finding fun in failure (aka The Customer Games)

With the anniversary of the London 2012 Olympics upon us, I thought I’d look to see if there is any chance of replicating that sense of euphoria which engulfed us last year. ‘I decided to take on the role of the sporting gladiator and find some games out there that I can compete in’.

First I tried the ‘stop the pump on zero’ game where you attempt to stop filling up your car with petrol on exactly zero-zero on the pence indicator. But since the price of fuel has rocketed up so much, the dials move too quickly to get the petrol to stop at the right point any more. So I started looking further afield. I realised quite quickly I didn’t need to invent anything. There are already a host of consumer games underway which I can take part in. Here are three of my favourites.

The Which? games

Championed by Which? the latest craze in customer experience is ‘beat the call centre’. Customers are encouraged to try various tactics to get past the dreaded IVR and talk to a person. A host of tips to ‘break the system’ have been submitted. They include:

–          ‘call the sales number’ – no-one gets turned away when they are a prospect it seems

–          stay silent and you get rerouted to an operator

–          calling from abroad so the international code overrides the IVR coding

It’s interesting how a poor customer experience can lead to such customer engagement to combat it.

And we can look to pure fun for the inspiration behind weq4umy favourite consumer solution in this space. Whenever I’ve been to a theme park with my family we’ve valued the time we have there so have opted to use the virtual queuing system. We are not taking anyone’s place in the queue because an electronic tag is queuing for us and telling us when it’s our turn to go on the ride. This means we can maximise our time elsewhere getting more out of the day – perfect.

WeQ4U has taken that example into the world of call centre waiting to find a way of minimising a less enjoyable experience. WeQ4U is an app that will step in for you and queue so you don’t have to. Taking the painful part of the interaction with your telco or utility provider away from you, but like the theme park queue-bots, it informs you when you need to step back in line. I wonder what the difference in Customer Satisfaction scores is between those who actually queue and those who virtual queue?

Instabug games

instabugConsumers like ‘smart’ solutions which help them have their say, get their way but don’t reshape their day. Another great example of this is a new ‘de-bugging’ app from Instabug which activates when you to shake your phone in frustration when an app doesn’t work and informing the makers.

A pair of 22-year-old Cairo University graduates behind Instabug designed the app to create a bug notification system for the app developers which is triggered when the device is physically shaken. “It really enables greater collaboration between developers and users. Now it’s fun to report bugs.”

A very low level co-creation experience but again it highlights consumers openness to ‘play the game’ under the right circumstances.

E.ON games

A much grander example is the E.ON initiative from last year. If you want to really see how much of a sport you can make your business E.ON prove you can go some way. It’s no secret that getting consumers engaged with ‘The Green Deal’ is a tough ask. So E.ON created a Channel 4 series ‘Home of the Future’ and invited a customer family to equip their house with all the latest energy saving devices to highlight how the savings outweighed the cost and make their lives better.

eonThis idea led to the E.ON innovations hub where customers were invited to get inventing new energy efficiency solutions. The competition ran last year and resulted in this gem of a grand final winner.

Steve McNair “Eon Care Sense – Technology Helps the aged and vulnerable” 

Steve McNair saw a role for E.ON in helping us all care for ageing or vulnerable people in their own homes. Smart sensors could detect unusual patterns of energy use (only usually thought about as a way to save money or energy) that might suggest a problem for that vulnerable person in the home, and alert family members or care workers. Simple but a stunning piece of customer gaming using a benefit of the technology it wasn’t intended for.

Whilst most look studiously at fixing customer experience, it’s worth remembering that the most effective relationships are those where the customer experience can be described as enjoyable. A failure or broken experience could lead to something amazingly good. It might seem like a tall ask for some sectors but E.ON prove you can get customers to engage. Let the customer games begin.

Posted by Christopher Brooks.

Lexden is a Customer Strategy Agency. We put customers at the start and the heart of the business strategy.

We work with brands to attract and retain happy customers. We achieve this by helping them to understand what makes their customers tick, building memorable customer experience strategies and creating engaging customer value propositions.

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For more information on how we can help you, contact christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or call us on M: +44 (0) 7968 316548.  And you can follow us on LinkedIn Facebook and Twitter @consultingchris 

Customer Experience: The Ultimate Game Changer


I get to spend many of my working days facilitating ideation sessions for marketing clients. The focus is often on finding new ways to encourage consumers to emotionally engage with brands. This can be through value propositions which almost always leads to initiatives around customers experiencing the brand when they are at their best. If the brand gets the opportunity to make a deeper connection with the consumer it gets permission to possibly shift perceptions and encourage behavioural change too.

For these work shops I to use real brand case studies and popular culture examples to illustrate what great or poor  looks like. Borat has often appeared – poor. As has the Flow scene from The Hustler – great. I have a high regard for Dove and B&Q also as beacons of excellence to draw inspiration from. But from now on these example will be on the silver medal place. For I have found a new gold example – and it’s the London 2012 Olympics.

Here is a spectacle which only weeks ago the media frenzy was centered around the unforeseen problems. But over the last 2-3 weeks something quite beautiful has happened. The media has shifted column inches and opinion from a focus on failure to one of fulfillment. Given the way the story can be crafted to suit the journalists viewpoint or publications agenda, that’s no small feat. So what is different about this story which means many commentators are twisting 180 more swiftly than Beth Tweddle? In my opinion, it’s  back to the point I started with. When consumers experience the brand at it’s best, it creates a deeper memory connection than any naysayer can hope to achieve.

I attended the games so have seen how in this instance how the experience was delivered. As we arrived at the Olympic Park with great expectation and some concern about organisation (fed by the media I add), we expected some hiccups. But from the first, “Welcome to the games. This will be a great day in your life” comment from a chirpy (and they were all chirpy) game maker volunteer outside Stratford station, we knew as consumers, this experience would create such a positive impression that all other views held would melt away. In a digitised world, whether you have a retail presence or not, human interaction is key for brands – and here they got it so right. I met a volunteer on Wednesday back in his civvi outfit as a researcher. He was full of praise for the organisers and the training he received. He we also given a new pair of Adidas trainers and a Swatch watch. What a smart move – tipping the odds to ensure the volunteers felt proud and looked together creating an army of brand ambassadors.

So with the mood of the nation euphoric the media had to concede there wasn’t a negative story people would want to read and they had to change direction. These  consecutive issues of The Week illustrate perfectly how quickly media mood shifted. From a ‘can we pull it off?’ headline to a ‘the greatest show on earth?’ and finally to a ‘Britain’s Golden Games’ (note without a question mark).

Looking back why did we ever doubt it? Well because at the time we were being bombarded by messages of pessimism from all media corners. But as soon as we experienced it for ourselves and heard back from friends and family, we as consumers came to our senses and trusted our own judgement again.

The memories of the athletes achievements will linger for a lifetime. The legacy of the Olympics will spread through schools across the land and rejuvenate parts of East London. For me as a marketer, this example reaffirms the ‘power of positive customer experience’ and its ability to overpower other marketing messages. Looking back at the occasion the game makers and the venues were the embodiment of the Olympic brand. It all integrated effortlessly (because of the effort put in) to create a deeper connection than any brand prime time TV ads, gamification apps or PR stories typically deliver. 

As Lord Coe would have put i,t had he been a brand manager, “As a brand, when it came to making a deep emotional connection with the customer; we did it right”.

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 christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com  or call us on T: +44 (0)1279 902205 or M: +44 (0)7968 316548.  And you can follow us on Twitter @consultingchris.

Unordinary Thinking No. 26 – Doing it backwards

I don’t think I am being too controversial if I say that London 2012 has captured the imagination of the country.  Sure it helps that Team GB has done so outstandingly well (and not just in the ‘sitting down’ sports) but if you eavesdrop on the conversations going on in offices and bars, it is the way people are talking about sports which they previously had no interest in-the demure girl in my office explaining the intricacies of the boxing scoring system or my mother in law talking about triathlons.

My equivalent is the men’s high jump which I was captivated by last night.  I knew, with their slightly odd, bouncy run ups, that the bars they were clearing were pretty high. However it was only when the commentators explained that the heights these athletes were jumping over were the equivalent of an average house ceiling (take a look up) that it really struck me.

But it was not always this way.  Robert Grabarz, Team GB’s brilliant bronze medal winner, and his fellow competitors have a gangly, courageous, trailblazing American to thank for the heights they can now clear.

In the early sixties in Oregon, Dick Fosbury was a 16 year old high school athlete who was good, but certainly not outstanding at his chosen event of the high jump.  In those days, the status quo method of clearing the bar was known as the ‘straddle’, whereby the competitor cleared the bar by jumping facing forwards and downwards and where slightly shorter, more explosive athletes tended to have success.  With landing areas of sand or sawdust the jumper also needed to land on their feet in order to prevent injury.

Fosbury knew that if he wanted to fulfil his dreams and compete at the highest level he would have to do something different.  He could not effectively co-ordinate the movements needed for the straddle to clear the heights he needed to.  If he carried on doing the same thing everyone else was doing, he would fade into mediocrity.

So he began experimenting with his own technique.  Something which meant he decided to go over backwards when everyone else always went over forward.  Something which went totally against what his coaches had told him and which the leading athletes in the world were using at the time.  Something which leveraged his own skills, physique and attributes.  Something which invited ridicule from those around him, where he was labelled ‘the world’s laziest high jumper’ and like a ‘fish flopping into a boat’.  Something which leveraged the fact that American schools and colleges were starting to use rubber mats, enabling Fosbury to land on his back.  Something which became known as the Fosbury Flop and led to him setting an Olympic record, whilst winning the gold medal at the 1968 Olympics.

The Fosbury Flop is now the established and best technique for all high jump competitors.  But imagine going back to the early sixties where a young Fosbury was being told by established people that it was not possible and that he should keep practising harder on the way it had always been done.  Imagine his bravery, his hard work, his conviction, and the doubts he had to overcome.  It is something to be celebrated.  Just like the Fosbury Flop, many things in our daily lives that are taken for granted now, simply did not exist previously.  It took just one man with some unordinary thinking, using his own skills, and leveraging the latest technology to allow him to do something that was simply not possible before.  Imagine what such thinking could mean for us in our worlds.

I am off to the stadium tonight to watch the athletics.  Lucky me.  What chances that I will be able to say that I was there when Usain Bolt ran his 200m semi-final backwards?

Posted by Ajai Ranawat

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 christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or ajairanawat@lexdengroup.com, or call us on T: +44 (0)20 7490 9123.  And you can follow us on Twitter @consultingchris.

Unordinary Thinking No. 21– Gold Medal Thinking

Readers seem to like it when people fight back.  I wrote a blog a few weeks ago about a story of a small businessman taking on the might of P & G and winning by virtue of his audacity and unordinary thinking.  Thanks for your positive feedback.

More recently, I came across a similar anecdote (courtesy of ‘Have I Got News For You’) but with an even bigger discrepancy between the size of David and Goliath.

The Olympic Games, both as a spectacle and as a brand, long ago ceased to be about competitors simply being the best in their chosen field and participating in an event which is the pinnacle of their careers.  The Olympics are a commercial machine.  With London 2012 forecast to cost anywhere between £9 and £11 billion, private sector funding in the form of sponsors is a hugely important component of this.  And these sponsors, because they are paying very large sums of money for the exclusive right to associate their brand with the Games, want to make sure their investment is protected.  This means they do not want other brands muscling in and compromising their objectives.  This makes sense.

What it means is that, legally and officially, there are defined guidelines and rules about what a business can and cannot do with regard making any type of reference to the 2012 Olympics within their own marketing or business operations.  These guidelines are detailed, specific and enforced with the might of the IOC and Acts of Parliament and apply no matter whether you are a multi-national competitor to the lead sponsors or the lady with a small business on the corner near the site.  Whoever you are, you cannot use the Olympic rings, the number ‘2012’ alongside ‘London’, the mascot, the Latin motto: Citius Altius Fortius….the list goes on and on.

But this post is not about that they whys and wherefores of this.  It is not about whether the IOC has problems with corruption of whether the ‘Zil’ traffic lanes will cause chaos and confusion in the summer.  It’s not even about how many medals Team GB (another term which cannot be used) will win.

It is in fact about how a tiny established business has dealt with being impacted by the biggest travelling show in the world. It is a story of what the owner of Café Olympic in Stratford, on the doorstep of the Games, has done in response to the enforcement order they were served with by the authorities looking after the interests of the Olympics sponsors. This ordered the cafe to change the name of their establishment for the duration of the Games, since it infringed the rule which means the words Olympic’, ‘Olympiad’ or ‘Olympian’ cannot be used.  The owner estimated that it would cost £3000 to alter the name, signage and related material.  Or maybe more to refuse, which would then make a contribution towards the funds to cover the £9-11 billion.

So what does someone do when they are faced with something which would, in all likelihood, force the closure of the business and the loss of their livelihood?

Well it forces them to think differently. Which in turn enables them to create an unexpected solution.

This is what they have done:  they have covered up the ‘O’ on their sign so that the establishment is now called Café Lympic.  Given the location of the Games in the east end of London, the solution gets better if you imagine, in your mind’s voice, how the owner might say it.  Think someone like Bianca in Eastenders and you can see why it is the perfect victory.  Worthy of a Gold medal in fact.

Posted by Ajai Ranawat

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 christopherbrooks@lexdengroup.com or ajairanawat@lexdengroup.com, or call us on T: +44 (0)20 7490 9123.  And you can follow us on Twitter @consultingchris.