The Art of Goose Bumps

Goose bumps:
Pimples on the skin brought on by cold or fear or by sudden excitement

Ask yourself: Are you in the goose bump business? Do you offer people the promise of sudden and unexpected excitement? Do you create special moments that really transcend people?

Maybe not. Maybe your product is very functional and people use it in very logical and predefined ways. Or maybe the whole category is stagnant and commoditized and people don't expect anything more than the functional benefit. Something like paper napkins, batteries, tooth paste or chewing gum. Or how about a search engine, or an online store. There is not much room for emotions and surprises here. Right? hmmm...maybe not.

Studies in neuroscience reveal that emotions guide decision making. As we've all learned by reading blink and other books on this topic, people can not make decisions without emotions, period. It's about how the human brain works: you touch fire when you are 3 years old and guess what happens:
So your brain attaches a "marker" there that says "danger". This marker creates a shortcut in your brain that helps you envision the outcome of an action, in this case, "don't touch the fire again because it won't be nice". Little by little, our brain creates markers for everything that surrounds us. So each time we make a decision we envision the outcome: if it feels good we do it. If not, we skip.
Hold on you say, how what can I create memorable experiences, when all I have is a functional, low involvement product? Think airlines for a minute: highly commoditized category, most people choose the lowest fare and the experience sucks. Watch this ad from Virgin:

The ad builds on the concept of memorable experiences. Even better, without creating any of those, it attempts to take credit for all of them, past and future, challenging you to live your life so you "got plenty to watch". Now watch this ad from "5" chewing gum (pump up the volume, you'll see what I mean)

Did you get goose bumps? I did. Yes, it's just a chewing gum, but the promise of the experience can knock your shocks off.

So what is the morale of the story? Dare to be different. Think in terms of goose bumps. Try to create unique promises even if you are a chewing gum. But then make sure that you deliver on them somehow. As they say, nothing can kill a product faster than great advertising (if the product sucks).