Share of Life

Nothing Normal About Getting Back to Normal

Written by
Sebastian Jespersen
Nothing Normal About Getting Back to Normal

All the talk about getting back to normal after living with the terrifying Covid-19 pandemic is based on an illusion. There is no normal to get back to. Before even hearing about the devastating corona virus, the economy was already reeling from the effects of the digital revolution.

People were already spending more than half their lives online. Retailers were struggling to survive the surge of e-commerce, newspapers were shutting down at an alarming rate and smart startups were upsetting industry after industry.

Are cars without drivers normal? Are machines developing common sense normal? Are drones dropping packages on doorsteps normal?

Spending more time at home, we are becoming more dependent on the Internet for our shopping, our entertainment, our news, and our social interactions.

What will the fallout be from all this new behavior? How do humans (and brands) deal with such an altered state of being?

Some useful insights emerged from a recent video chat I had with Morten Albaek, the philosopher and founder of Voluntās, and James McQuivey, VP and principal analyst at Forrester.

According to McQuivey, it may seem a contradiction to even talk about new and normal in the same context. However, there is a deep part of our brain called the amygdala that makes us comfortable with the normal while also constantly responding to what’s new. It does both jobs. Because the amygdala concerns emotions, we may be fearful of what’s different, but not necessarily. Actually, novelty and fear and opportunity exist together with one another.

Albaek tells us that what is challenging for brand managers right now is not entirely new. The need for meaningful change has been trending over the past decade. We have to ask ourselves if the projects and services we are providing truly enrich the lives of customers. The end-user must want to have the brand share in her or his new way of life.  

More than ever, what’s critical is how many minutes or hours a day the brand spends making life better for customers online life. The extent of a brand’s share in the life of a customer was vital before the Covid-19 crisis erupted and will be even more so when we get back to “normal”

During the pandemic people are learning how to exist 6 feet apart. In the aftermath of this catastrophe, brands will thrive by learning how to gain zero degrees of separation from their best customers.

Think of Share-of-Life™ as the depth of a brand’s online connection to believers. The challenge is to weave your brand into the fabric of your customer’s existence. An “entangled twosome” can do great things together.

How do you gain Share-of-Life™ with customers in an Internet-focused society?

One of the most effective ways is to apply the tenets of the Share-of-Life™ CREED. These are guidelines for making your brand an integral part of an individual’s life in the turbulent years ahead.

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Gaining Share-of-Life™ with the consumer or a business customer is a five-part process.  An innovative mindset is required every step of the way.

The tenets of the Share-of-Life™ CREED are:

  1. Secure Ongoing Commitment
  2. Provide Nonstop Reinforcement
  3. Create Digital Empowerment
  4. Renew Original Excitement
  5. Drive Major Development
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Securing Ongoing Commitments come in many forms and include both existing customers and prospects and can be categorized by type, such as intellectual commitments and opt-ins, financial and transactional commitments or strategic partnership commitments. After defining and mapping customer commitments, there is a need to plan how to create mutually beneficial relationships with strategically important commitments. Start by giving something back to customers and prospects who have shown a commitment. This will move relationships from a single commitment to an ongoing commitment. To accomplish this, the company needs to engage in meaningful, relevant communications and interactions that are based on data and insights.

“Buy and say good bye” was the operational model in the analog past. Digital tools make it easier than ever for brands to get consumers to “Buy and Stay” now. The strongest commitment you can get upfront is the signup for a subscription.

Amazon’s Prime membership program secures Ongoing Commitment from more than a hundred million U.S. subscribers. Netflix signs up members for unlimited entertainment, hopefully for life. Spotify does the same thing for the music you love and BarkBox keeps your four-legged friend happy with ongoing shipments of playful toys month after month.

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The second Share of Life credo is Nonstop Reinforcement. Consciously reinforce the strength of your customer's commitment to your brand. Bolster whatever first attracted the consumer  to your offering with a burst of beneficial surprises online. It's critical to make the customer feel special and to build trust by always listening.

Finding ways to provide non-stop reinforcement of the customer relationship never stops. In the depths of the COVID-19 disaster, Allstate gave their auto insurance policyholders a break. With customers not driving as much, there were fewer accidents. Allstate announced a 15% monthly premium giveback.  Sharing the savings with its customers reinforced feeling good about the brand at a difficult time.

After all, when is the last time your brand sent a meaningful thank you to your best customers?

How often do you reinforce the bond with your users? Without nonstop special treatment you may see your Share of Life with users slip away.

Ben Cotton, the paper’s Executive Director of Retention and Customer Experience talks about his winning strategy in an online NiemanLab interview. Cotton commented, “My team believes that by investing in the subscribers we have, and making their experience better and better, we’ll be able to help all parts of the business. By reinforcing that they’re getting things that no one else is getting we think we’ll be able to convince them to keep paying and to boost our subscription business.”
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The new digital life of customers provides the brand an opportunity to attain zero degrees of separation through data and insights and by doing so understand what’s important for the customer. Empower the internet-focused customer with rewarding and enlightening online experiences that leverage data and insights, so they can do more with the brand's product or services.

Creating Digital Empowerment for your customers is at the heart of boosting Share-of-Life™. Two Big Tech giants formed a rare partnership to empower about a third of the world’s population - 3 billion people - in the battle against the Covid-19 virus.

Apple and Google added a technology called contact-tracing to their smartphone platforms. The app tells users when they should get tested and/or isolate themselves after contact with an infected individual.

The technology could empower people to save lives around the globe.  Both Apple and Google will get a tremendous lift.

How might you empower the buyer of your product or service? Who might you partner with to tap into the most potent digital technology out there for inventing a never-seen-before experience?

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The Excitement that first surrounded a breakthrough product or service may be long gone. So, what do you do to keep your Share of Life with customers from drifting away due to the mind-boggling distractions of the Internet? Automated communication will not create the sufficient excitement to build a bond that keeps customers coming back. The answer is obvious. Tribalizing excitement.

Sophisticated technology and insights will help brands understand how they can authentically add value to what is deemed important in their customers’ lives.

DietBet is a startup that made renewing excitement part of its business model. As the name suggests, DietBet invites members to place bets on the person’s desired weight-loss. Each new game reignites the fun felt the first time a member placed a bet on herself. It’s like visiting a weight-loss casino.

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Last, but not least, of the creed precepts is the drive for Major Development. The disruption caused by the success of a new product or service inevitably leads to an onslaught of competitors. Staying ahead of the copycats by expanding what the pace-setting company has to offer is a constant challenge.

The ongoing shift in the customer’s behavior enforces a constant and ongoing development of communication programs as well as product innovation that leverages the continuing introduction of new technologies. Using new technology to enforce interactive storytelling, or introducing new services and products co-innovated with customers are examples of Development. Such development must be always-on and constantly be providing customers with compelling opportunities that allow them to do more in their lives.

Few handles development of the brand’s move into new categories better than Disney. The latest example comes from the brand Mickey Mouse made famous. The Disney+ entry into streaming video nabbed more than 50 million global subscribers in the wink of an eye. It’s yet one more major development from Disney.

Using this time to rethink

Putting to use the principles underlying the Share-of-Life™ doctrine is something new for most of the business world. Very few companies outside of the Fab5 (Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft) break new ground in more than one or two of the creed guidelines.

When making our business decisions, we do not know if the “new” is going to be dangerous to us or not, but we had best pay attention to it. What’s novel and innovative can be scary to brand managers comfortable with what seems normal.

The overwhelming extent of what is novel at this moment makes it fearful. For those who do the right thing, it can also be a time of opportunity.

There will be nothing normal about getting back to normal – but you can start with understanding how well your brand is mastering the Share of Life C:R:E:E:D.

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