Fairly articulate mammal

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Pursuit of WOW! Also: Beer

Not just yet, but I’ll be talking about beer a little later in this post, so stay with me.

Once upon a time, when I used to teach a business communication class at the University of Texas, I would assign my students a group project, where they had to generate several different products — an annotated bibliography, a pitch presentation framed as “why-you-should-learn-more-about-X,” and an informative summary brief. I’d give them a broad topic, and then some options within that. One semester it might be about communication technology trends. Another semester it might be a deep dive into intercultural communication. The favorite, though, for them and for me, was about what I called the Creativity Biz. Each group would pick an author, an idea, or a business practitioner, and would work together to understand and communicate a particular approach to creativity in a business context.

One of my favorite books at the time was The Pursuit of Wow! Written by business guru Tom Peters (best known for In Search of Excellence), it’s written in short idea-bursts, is a fun read, and it’s got loads of examples about how businesses can harness creativity to add details that delight customers. For example, when a bottle of juice has a “use by” date, it breaks character for the brand, becoming bossy instead of fun, giving us a command, and raising the issue of spoilage in an unpleasant way. It’s so much better, Peters notes, to say something like “we hope you’ll enjoy this delicious juice by such-and-such date, while it’s still at peak freshness!” That’s the WOW that he's talking about. My students quickly grasped, and were drawn to the idea of, how to add more “wow” in creating messaging. Some of the best projects I saw in my teaching career incorporated that idea. 

When I was at Ignite! Learning, we employed this notion for our copyright protection notices in some science DVDs we produced. Instead of, you know, “this copyright is SO protected and you’re scum and the FBI will get you if you copy this, got that, slimeball?” or whatever the standard language is, we made topic-specific notices. So, for the biology dvd, it said something like “Mitosis is how cells replicate their chromosomes, but this dvd is our own copyright-protected material, so you shouldn't do any unauthorized copying or replicating.”

But I promised I’d talk about beer, so …

Odell is a very good craft brewery in Colorado. The other evening, I was enjoying a Myrcenary IPA, a beer of theirs named for Myrcene, a component of the hop flower, which imparts a particular flavor and aroma as part of the hops’ essential oils. The logo art for the beer, see the top of this post, depicts a soldier fleeing, with bags of money, which adds an engaging visual to go with the branding pun on “mercenary.” 

Bringing it all together now, stay with me, folks: The description on the can tells me that the beer has “a tropical fruit-like flavor, a pungent floral aroma, and a clean getaway.”  I actually laughed out loud at that; it’s so good! It was a pursuit-of-WOW moment for me as a consumer. 

Because the phrasing riffs off beer-nerd language like “clean finish,” it is a wink, a slightly-ironic way to access “you’re-one-of-us” tribal membership. It also tied the descriptive text back to the image in a way that locked in the brand impression. It struck me as funny and cool. It added to my experience of the beer.

And, importantly for creativity purposes, it reminded me of those long-ago discussions about Tom Peters and The Pursuit of WOW! Also, for me and I hope for you, this little moment reminded me that it’s worth it to add the cool details, even if most people won’t notice. Why? Because they can delight the very customers you want.

And do I even need to say it? This same idea applies across categories. It's as true for your novel, your song, your poem, the way you relate to people, the very sense of a self that you’re building and rebuilding all the time. 

Have a little fun, y'all. Make it at least a little cool.

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