The images above are from the Lascaux cave in France and are estimated to be about 16,000 years old. I've been playing around with some new images for business cards and thought of images like this when I began my search. To me, they represent two of the most basic things that I talk about:
- They're one of the first examples of storytelling. And if you've ever heard me speak, you know that above all, I believe that a great story is they key to success. It's not about how you use tactics, we've all seen movies laden with special effects and cool technologies that were just crappy movies. If you have children, think about the stories you tell them. We still share Aesops fables, Grimms fairy tales and variations of those stories and they're hundreds of years old. Remember, people want to hear a great story, people want to share a great story and people want to participate in a great story. Without a great story, you might get some attention, but you'll never get engagement.
- They also represent one of the first times that people used place to help tell the story. During a recent panel at Social Media Week about Social Retail, it struck me that retail has always been social. The early markets in the town square were a place for the community to gather, share and enjoy each other. It was a social experience. When Ray Oldenburg talked about the third place, he believes they are important for civil society, democracy, civic engagement, and establishing feelings of a sense of place (source: Wikipedia). While we gathered during Social Media Week to discuss the online tools that allow us to connect with one another, more then one person observed just how many cocktail parties there here to allow us to connect in the real world too.
Think of how much money brands spend on space -- rent, utilities, staffing, overhead, etc. -- and then think of how little effort most retailers put into their space. They invite us to become fans of their Facebook page, but they don't invite us to become a fan of their physical space.
For example, Best But usually high marks for their online experience. They have a good web site, for me at least, where it's easy to find information, get reviews, etc. They've been aggressive in using Twitter as a customer service and information tool. It seems to all work online. But, as much credit as Best Buy gets for creating a really good online experience, I really don't know anyone who likes shopping at Best Buy. You can't get information, there's no connection to all of the data available online and for the most part, it's just hard to shop there. When I'm shopping there, I usually end up using one of their computers to get online, log into my Consumer Reports account and then doing research on the products I'm looking at. Why isn't that information available right at the product? And why do I have to use my Consumer Reports account? Surely Best Buy could cut a deal to make that information available to its customers.
If you're not going to provide a compelling, authentic and relevant brand experience, you're going to end up competing on price alone. Thanks to tools like Google Goggles and cell-phone based bar code readers, stores that don't provide the right experience will simply become very expensive windows for online retailers like Amazon and Zappos.