Through the 1970s in Europe,I observed several new brands take birth and just as fast disappear into market oblivion. Advertising had poster girls and boys trying to mesmerise people in all-consuming products. Jumping at the opportunity to shift from my sweeping job outside Paris to becoming a paste up artist in 1977,I soon realised that I was a misfit in advertising. Advertising would conjure up big emotion in 30-second commercials. My discomfort was that consumers don’t buy ads,they buy a product or service that is composed of quality,functionality and the good-looking factor.
By the 1980s,when people were rejecting the superficial glamour of products,I was changing professions to gain expertise in branding,industrial design,retail design,strategy planning to hard core consulting. I started by quitting the drawing table and meeting rooms to visit peoples kitchens,living and dining rooms. I regularly went into unisex coiffeur saloons to hear captive people chat. Conversations were peppered with personal experiences and intimate details. The topics were starkly different in the public park benches where the aged congregate. Youll hear of health or social security not being good.
Since I didn’t have formal degrees in marketing and management,I proactively took the initiative to observe,understand and learn from people,and this grew to become a passion in me. I was certain that a thinktank strategy presented with an overhead projector and downloaded to the masses through advertising is not the way to go. The offer to the consumer must have some extra benefit thats perceptible in the product or service itself. From the moment of purchase,people should feel or experience that extra benefit the product promises. So instead of selling creativity,I was explaining to clients about the consumers way of life,how their daily life goes through high or low morale,daily routine,economic crisis,health problems,work tension,family stress,social pressure,general depression,monotonous life and what their moment of decision or purchase is. The European market started to reflect me as casseur de code,meaning the man who breaks the code. Another name I got was the outsider approach. But my clients were hypnotised.
Keeping the consumer at centrestage and making disruption the core principal,I started Shining Consulting in 1984 in Paris to deliver branding,industrial design,retail and corporate culture change solutions. Doubts were expressed about the sustainability of the disruptive work we had done. Was it fashion or hype? It seems our green branding and creating the pro-biotic Bio (later Activia) in 1986 broke the code of the white yoghurt market and created a culture shock in Europe. Among other examples,Activia has become one of the most profitable food brands in the world.
When in the 1990s,professionals were finding our disruptive work to deliver sustainability,global management institutes and professional bodies were inviting me to different countries to explain my adventure with disruption. Intrigued with my uncommon experience with consumers,small intellectual circles would pull me in to speak at their discussion sessions. They encouraged me to develop this platform that delivers extra benefit to my clients and their customers. In such a circle,the very insightful Bernard Gaud,managing director of Yoplait,the direct competitor of Danone,whom Ive been working for on a continuous basis,said I should dig out the scientific process of our work delivery as it was very sustainable,not just branding as people seemed to think. When working for Evian water,managing director Philippe Ramboud said,You do something beyond just thinking,strategy and design. You should find and capture what that is. As proof of success was already there,he said I should research our work with sociologists,psychologists and trend forecasters to define its real consulting substance.
When I researched our disruptive,sustaining value delivery,professionals scientifically explained three absorbing and consuming mind states with two satisfaction layers: receptivity to an immediate,dazzling aspect,and the subtle,sober absorption that grows in the mind with time. They said artificial bulldozing through media creates hype that slowly dies. But subtle and sober content is substantial and grows in peoples mind. According to them,this content is intangible,yet it reflects a perceptible tangibility in the users mind. This intangible aspect is quality,the source of any selling proposition. People cannot see this quality when they first interface the brand; it becomes perceptible on usage. The intangible part that slowly becomes tangible is the rational aspect thats interpreted as quality and leads to repurchase.
I started to demystify their explanation. I realised that our way of looking at the consumers daily lifecycle,lifestyle and livelihood was being conscious of the products quality,how this intangible quality gets magnified at the moment of purchase and becomes perceptible at the time of consuming. The functionality of the product is its physical experience,and its looks comprise its likeability,which is emotive.
From this understanding I crafted our delivered experience with three attributesintangible quality,functionality and likeability. In fact,if a product or service does not have this three-element high blend,that brand will not get repeat purchase. The three-attribute balance can create a surplus value,which is sustainable; the consumer will return to buy the brand as her attachment to it becomes timeless. I coined this as Surplus du Emotionnel,which in French was sounding very elevated. When I discussed with Anglophone people,surplus was something negative,an overdose they said. Then I figured that as emotion can be excessive,why not an overdose of emotion because of the added value of the three attributes? This is disruptive. Finally,at a conference in Hong Kong,it came out that Emotional Surplus is credible for its sustaining factor in business,and I officially established Emotional Surplus in 1993. Whatever the business you are in,if you are cautious,the high blend of these three factorsquality (non-visible,rational),functionality (experience that is relevant) and emotive factor (looks good),will ensure your consumer or B2B customer will always return for repeat purchase. This is Emotional Surplus.
Shombit Sengupta is an international creative business strategy consultant to top management. Reach him at http://www.shiningconsulting.com