You might have heard that 800,000 people recently watched live video of two Buzzfeed staffers placing rubber bands around a watermelon until it exploded: We Blew Up A Watermelon And Everyone Lost Their Freaking Minds.

The New York Times commented on the watermelon video, drawing this conclusion:

Big changes are coming fast in the way major news institutions present their journalism, what that journalism includes, and how decisions are made about what to include. The goal: to draw big, addicted audiences.

Recently it seems that the goal of customer experience work has shifted to just that: drawing “big, addicted audiences.” And there’s a precedent for how to do it. Just watch Natasha Dow Schull’s Gel video, describing how slot machines use UX to addict their users. And while it works in the short term, I can’t see much long-term value in building new types of slot machines. Why not instead find out what would benefit users, and create that?

There’s an alternative to the addiction model, and I’d describe it as creating a good, authentic experience for users that takes into account their long-term best interests. But that requires aligning leadership around long-term benefits, rather than short-term hits; and making decisions while including customers in the process, rather than relegating them to tactical usability validation. (Read my book Customers Included for much more on this topic.)

Is this an old-fashioned way of seeing the world? Out of step in an attention-driven economy? Maybe. But long-term value – created by a genuinely good experience – will always, eventually, win. (Meantime, we can look forward to seeing more watermelon videos along the way.)

Last Few Days To Sign Up For Gel 2016

If you create or manage a customer experience, you should be at my Gel conference in three weeks, where we’ll explore “good, authentic experience.”

Here’s all Gel 2016 info (May 11-13, 2016 in New York City – sign up here).

Gel 2016 includes…

• 2 days of ideas, inspiration, and experiences showing you how to create better experiences

• Full theater day in the TimesCenter, the outstanding event space in the New York Times building

• Uniquely innovative speakers and sessions covering “experience” from a wide spectrum of disciplines

• Many opportunities to meet Gel attendees in a variety of industries and roles

• Practical approaches and exercises to learn skills of experience design and management

Who’s coming to Gel 2016: Amazon, American Association of Ad Agencies, Amway, Aon, B-Unique, BabyCenter, Breadcrumb Point of Sale, Capital One, Care.com, CarMax, Cisco, CITI, Constant Contact, Consumer Reports, Creative Good, Critical Mass, CustomInk, DesignAShirt.com, Dow Jones, Dropbox, Ecolane, Epocrates/athenahealth, Fidelity Investments, GVSU, Groupon, IAG, Infragistics, Launchlabs, Makewaves, Man Made Music, Mozilla, NASA, Netflix, Nickelodeon, OHSU, OTIC Corporation, Phonak, Room & Board, SapientNitro, SAS, Smarter Travel, State Farm, Steelcase, The Big Picture, The Tremendousness Collective, Thinslices, UncommonGoods, Viacom, Yodle, Zinio, ZS Associates, and more!

Register Now at creativegood.com/gel/sign-up – sign up soon! We begin printing badges in a few days.

I’m excited to announce these confirmed speakers for our upcoming Gel 2016 conference (May 11-13, 2016 in New York City).

As always, our goal at Gel is to explore “good experience in all its forms,” learning and interacting with people and projects across a spectrum of disciplines – with a thematic focus. The Gel theme this year is “journey.” With so much talk recently about the “user journey,” the “customer journey,” the “patient journey,” and so on – do we really understand what it means to create, or manage, a journey? Gel will show you who’s doing it right, and how, in diverse fields.

Sign up for Gel 2016 before the price jumps in a few days.

The main theater day – Thursday, May 12 – will feature these confirmed speakers (and likely a few more):


Above:
Dava Newman, Deputy Administrator, NASA, on planning humanity’s journey to Mars
Margarette Purvis, President and CEO, Food Bank for New York City, on the bringing food to an entire city
Eric Rodenbeck, Founder and CEO, Stamen, on creating a new atlas to map all human emotions


Above:
Sheila Marcelo, Founder and CEO, Care.com, on improving the journey for caregivers and families
Manoush Zomorodi, Host, WNYC’s Note To Self podcast, on empathizing with tech users today
Andrew Beccone, Founder of the Reanimation Library, on discovering new vistas – in forgotten books


Above:
Emily Fischer, Founder of Haptic Lab, on her tactile maps in quilts and kites
Mark Hurst, Founder and CEO, Creative Good (curating and hosting my 14th Gel event)


Gel 2016 includes…
• 2 days of ideas, inspiration, and experiences showing you how to create better experiences
• Full theater day in the TimesCenter, the outstanding event space in the New York Times building
• Uniquely innovative speakers and sessions covering “experience” from a wide spectrum of disciplines
• Many opportunities to meet Gel attendees in a variety of industries and roles
• Practical approaches and exercises to learn skills of experience design and management

Who’s coming to Gel 2016: Amazon, American Association of Ad Agencies, Amway, Aon, B-Unique, BabyCenter, Breadcrumb Point of Sale, Capital One, Care.com, CarMax, Cisco, CITI, Constant Contact, Consumer Reports, Creative Good, Critical Mass, CustomInk, DesignAShirt.com, Dow Jones, Dropbox, Ecolane, Epocrates/athenahealth, Fidelity Investments, GVSU, Groupon, IAG, Infragistics, Launchlabs, Makewaves, Man Made Music, Mozilla, NASA, Netflix, Nickelodeon, OHSU, OTIC Corporation, Phonak, Room & Board, SapientNitro, SAS, Smarter Travel, State Farm, Steelcase, The Big Picture, The Tremendousness Collective, Thinslices, UncommonGoods, Viacom, Yodle, Zinio, ZS Associates, and more!

Register Now at creativegood.com/gel/sign-up – sign up soon! The early-bird price lasts only a few more days.

$30 million. According to a news story I came across, that’s the amount one company is spending, just on an ad campaign, to attract online visitors to their poorly designed site. It’s pretty clear that the investment will be mostly wasted. The company’s customer experience is sorely lacking online, yet leadership has so far declined to make any significant investment to fix it. But $30 million for an ad campaign? No problem.

It reminds me of a conversation I had a few years ago. A potential client contacted Creative Good about improving her company’s online business. It seemed like a good fit: the company was an established, profitable company; and improving the customer experience would, without a doubt, create significant gains in metrics like revenue and customer acquisition. The site needed help, customers were frustrated, but with a bit of work the business could enjoy enormous returns.

The problem came when we talked about our consulting fee. Creative Good was too expensive, she said, because her boss (the CEO) only wanted to spend a few tens of thousands of dollars per year on anything dealing with the customer experience.

I told her that seemed a tad low for an annual budget to be spent improving the site for customers, especially given that the annual revenue of the company was around $50 million.

“Well,” she responded, “we already spend $25 million a year just on advertising, so there’s not much left over.”

Needless to say, the project never happened. The CEO decided to continue to “run a few surveys” with his $20,000-or-so budget; his $25 million campaign continued to bring users into an experience that frustrated them and turned them away.

Let’s review the numbers.

Amount……………For………..
$25,000,000……Driving people to the website
$20,000…………..Customer experience (what happens when they get there)

So a good chunk of every dollar the company earned went to sending potential customers to have a bad experience. A tiny percentage of those frustrated people might muddle through and become customers; the vast majority would click away, never to return.

Is this any way to run a business?

Believe it or not, it’s the normal, accepted way business is run today in many companies. I know because I’ve encountered it again and again throughout Creative Good’s 19-year history. $25 million for an ad campaign; $1 million to redesign the visual “branding” on the home page; a few thousand to “run a focus group” to assure the executives they’re doing the right thing. Business as usual.

The good news is that more and more companies are beginning to invest in improving what happens when customers actually arrive on the site. They’re not abandoning ads; they’re just investing in a more balanced fashion to include some attention to the customer experience.

Imagine what would happen if the potential client above had had these numbers:

Amount……………For………..
$12,000,000……Ad campaign
$12,000,000……Customer experience

Can you imagine a company investing in the customer experience as if it was this important? Imagine an experience changing from a slow, frustrating process into a quick, easy, informative, delightful experience that you wanted to return to – and might even tell your friends about. Imagine a team that is hired, trained, and organized around the core activity of including customers and designing for customer delight. Shouldn’t that be a way (THE way) to run a business?

The most effective companies today realize that they can’t succeed solely by trumpeting a tag line; the customer matters. Indeed, the customer experience requires a transformation of the company’s strategy, backed up by the organization, and fueled by a real budget. Executives that spend their entire budget on ads will eventually learn their lesson.

To build a better customer experience, drop Creative Good a line. We can help.