Think about your product, or your place of work, for that matter. How would you describe it?
Feel free to ask other people you know the same question. The odds are that the vast majority of answers will not contain this one important word: fun.
Many years ago, before I went to college, I worked as a bartender at this private party.
At one point, the “boss” came over to me, furious: “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
“Working, serving drinks, what else?” I was trying to understand what was wrong.
“But you’re talking to the guests, joking with them!” he exclaimed.
“So?” I still wasn’t getting it.
“You’re here to work, you’re not supposed to have fun!” he screamed at me.
Work is not supposed to be fun. That was my lesson for the day.
Most people think that work should be efficient, rather than fun.
Efficiency entails removing game mechanics from the design of labor.
You’re an emotionless robot while you work, that’s what the expectation seems to be.
You don’t do it as often. You don’t care for it very much. You do it only when you really have to.
In an age where the cost of customer acquisition and retention is steadily growing out of proportion, what you need are Raving Fans: people who fall in love with your product or service, who can’t do without it, and who talk about it with their friends every chance they get. They create viral growth and organic engagement. But why are they so elusive?
The problem is that Raving Fans don’t go for efficient products. The emotional part of their brain doesn’t connect. And if you didn’t have an equity stake in your product, your brain wouldn’t either.
Maybe we should explore further. What’s the difference between your product and a game?
So, where’s the difference?
Games have challenges and are filled with novelty and stimulation: a new badge, new enemy, new level, etc. And part of every challenge is…
Yup, most gamers fail most of the time.
And that’s something that advocates of efficiency simply cannot stand.
YOU CANNOT FAIL. Products are supposed to be stable and predictable, not to disappoint us.
And with zero tolerance for failure comes zero emotions.
The common “fix-all” is gamification.
But adding some badges, points, and competitive elements isn’t truly gamification, and it doesn’t touch the main issue: you need to make the core of your product fun and emotional, and that means that users can’t win every time. You must make “failure” part of your product.
Why would anyone want a product that fails? They wouldn’t, and you wouldn’t either. It’s all about defining what failure means.
Think about it: when you log into your social media account and see that there are few or no likes on your Facebook or Instagram photo, how does it feel? Maybe it feels a little like failure. Hundreds, maybe thousands of people aren’t thinking about you and don’t really care about you. Poor you. (My apologies for the sarcasm.)
So, what do you do about this failure? 30 minutes later you get back to it again. Maybe you upload a new photo. Or you “like” or comment on other people’s posts and photos in the hope that they’ll reciprocate.
In other words, when “failure” is built into the context of the product or service, it makes its usage more “emotional” and “fun”. Not everything can be or needs to be fun, but it should touch a deep emotional need. In other words, if you’re looking for a long-term value creation instead of a short-term quick fix, it’s better to have intrinsic motivations.
Ask yourself: does your product make users feel smart? Part of a winning team? Significant? Successful? Innovative?
Want your product to succeed? Make it emotional, by design.