Every night from June to August, we watched as town
hall meetings erupted into screaming matches. On September 9, South Carolina
Republican Rep. Joe Wilson yelled “You lie!” at President Obama during his
speech to a joint session of Congress. And just the other night, throngs
of opera aficionados booed loudly at The Metropolitan Opera’s opening night
performance of “Tosca”.
Booing at the Opera? Really? Decorum seems to have
left the building, and I keep wondering what will be the next victim of this
As consumers, we boo all the time. When we make
choices, when we pick one product over another, we are in a sense booing
against the competitor. So which side of the booing will your product be on? To
make sure your offering won’t be the next casualty of this surging consumer
rage, you want to understand where this fury comes from.
Luckily there are answers. In the past we have
covered principles that shed light on the mechanics of boos and cheers. By
understanding these you may be able to manipulate them to your advantage.
Essentially, boos emerge as a three step process:
- A consumer sees you or your product and initially they like it –
they relate to it. As neurologist and neuroscientist Marco Iacoboni explained
blog a few weeks ago, consumers are wired to initially be empathetic
and find common ground with you or your product.
- Then the consumer categorizes you. They call you republican or
democrat, traditional or modern, like me or not like me. Buddhists and
Carl Jung would call these “re-cognizing” you. Iacoboni says it’s these
categories or “labels” that actually divide us.
- Then they like or dislike you, based not on who you are but on what
category you hold.
The key then is to skillfully manage step two. Play
with categories to make sure you end up in the cheering section.
Apple does this well. Apple‘s marketing strategy
essentially creates two sides – Apple and PC – and tries to convince people to
boo from the Apple side. They have defined what it is to be a “Mac” person, and
have created a consumer identity with a loud cheering section.
Credit card companies and banks do this poorly.
They are booed millions of times per day on “corporate hate” Web sites.
Picking the right category can be worth millions. Creating
a whole new category can be revolutionary. TiVo is a good example of this: it transformed
the US TV Industry by creating a new category, the DVR. By doing this, TiVo avoided boos (no one hated
DVRs) and built an enthusiastic cheering session. Gatorade did the same thing with
drinks. By preempting Coca-Cola and other competitors, Gatorade disrupted the existing
drink market and created a whole new category – sports drinks.
Turn boos into your advantage. Ask yourself these questions:
- What new product or service can you develop
that creates a new space or category?
- How can you market this new product or service
to build a cheering section?
- What do you want this product or service to
say about its users?
- How can you convince people to want to be a
part of your brand?
- How can you discourage booing by being good to