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Don’t Let Your Product Get Booed

Every night from June to August, we watched as townhall meetings erupted into screaming matches. On September 9, South CarolinaRepublican Rep. Joe Wilson yelled “You lie!” at President Obama during hisspeech to a joint session of Congress.And just the other night, throngsof opera aficionados booed loudly at The Metropolitan Opera’s opening nightperformance of “Tosca”.

Every night from June to August, we watched as townhall meetings erupted into screaming matches. On September 9, South CarolinaRepublican Rep. Joe Wilson yelled “You lie!” at President Obama during hisspeech to a joint session of Congress.And just the other night, throngsof opera aficionados booed loudly at The Metropolitan Opera‘s opening nightperformance of “Tosca”.

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Booing at the Opera? Really? Decorum seems to haveleft the building, and I keep wondering what will be the next victim of thisanger.

As consumers, we boo all the time. When we makechoices, when we pick one product over another, we are in a sense booingagainst the competitor. So which side of the booing will your product be on? Tomake sure your offering won’t be the next casualty of this surging consumerrage, you want to understand where this fury comes from.

Luckily there are answers. In the past we havecovered principles that shed light on the mechanics of boos and cheers. Byunderstanding these you may be able to manipulate them to your advantage.Essentially, boos emerge as a three step process:

  1. A consumer sees you or your product and initially they like it – they relate to it. As neurologist and neuroscientist Marco Iacoboni explained in my blog a few weeks ago, consumers are wired to initially be empathetic and find common ground with you or your product.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. Playwith categories to make sure you end up in the cheering section.

Apple does this well. Apple‘s marketing strategyessentially creates two sides – Apple and PC – and tries to convince people toboo from the Apple side. They have defined what it is to be a “Mac” person, andhave 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.

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Picking the right category can be worth millions. Creatinga whole new category can be revolutionary. TiVo is a good example of this: it transformedthe US TV Industry by creating a new category, the DVR. By doing this, TiVo avoided boos (no one hatedDVRs) and built an enthusiastic cheering session. Gatorade did the same thing withdrinks. By preempting Coca-Cola and other competitors, Gatorade disrupted the existingdrink market and created a whole new category – sports drinks.

Turn boos into your advantage. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. What new product or service can you develop that creates a new space or category?
  2. How can you market this new product or service to build a cheering section?
  3. What do you want this product or service to say about its users?
  4. How can you convince people to want to be a part of your brand?
  5. How can you discourage booing by being good to everyone?
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About the author

Author of Outthink the Competition business strategy keynote speaker and CEO of Outthinker, a strategic innovation firm, Kaihan Krippendorff teaches executives, managers and business owners how to seize opportunities others ignore, unlock innovation, and build strategic thinking skills. Companies such as Microsoft, Citigroup, and Johnson & Johnson have successfully implemented Kaihan’s approach because their executive leadership sees the value of his innovative technique. Kaihan has delivered business strategy keynote speeches for organizations such as Motorola, Schering‐Plough, Colgate‐Palmolive, Fortune Magazine, Harvard Business Review, the Society of Human Resource Managers, the Entrepreneurs Organization, and The Asia Society

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