This week I had two separate close encounters with a couple of brands, both of which I already have a good opinion on. Though both happenings, in their own ways, concluded in positive experiences, the intentions behind each was very different. One of the brands had specifically sought me out as a suitable user upon which to bestow this positive experience, whereas the other I had sought out myself – the positive experience was mostly incidental to a task that I was carrying out.
Introducing Bombay Sapphire (the London Dry Gin)
A few weeks ago I was invited to a ‘Gintelligensia’ event for ‘Notable London Bloggers’ (one of which I’m not, but that’s beside the point). The event was to be held at Dusk Bar in Sommerset House; the venue was an outdoor pop-up bar designed by Tom Dixon (who apparently makes a living out of creating these temporary bars). It began at 7, and was hosted by Bombay Sapphire’s ‘brand ambassador’, the very gentlemanly Sam Carter, who spent the best part of 3 hours entertaining us (myself and 3 others) with tales of Gin’s rich a long history.
We were treated to several cocktails, a couple of which we made ourselves, and also a trip around the world (virtually, of course), tasting each of the 10 raw botanicals that are used to infuse the gin with flavour. It was a genuinely fascinating evening, though unfortunately not all the bloggers maintained quite the same degree of decorum as the genuinely stand-up Sam Carter. At the end of the evening we were quizzed to see how much we’d learnt, with the winner receiving a bottle of gin, and were sent on our way each with our own goodie bag (also containing a bottle of gin) that was filled with some fantastic, and high quality, cocktail making equipment.
It was a genuinely good experience, and successfully played upon the vanity that bloggers are partial to when someone plucks them out of obscurity and shows a little love. Not unlike ‘followfriday’ on twitter, I now feel obliged to speak on their behalf and in turn recommend them to my friends. As it is, I’m quite the gin drinker anyway, (my favourite being Hendrick’s, with a cucumber julienne) but there’s no doubt that I will now pay more attention to Bombay Sapphire, and perhaps specify it by name over the standard ‘Gordons’. Perhaps I’ll take advantage of the goodie bag , which contained, quite cleverly, all the ingredients needed to create the first cocktail that Sam Carter made for us, lemons and all. I’m having a few friends over tomorrow, so perhaps I’ll tell them all about how nice Bombay Sapphire was to me, and have some fun making a Gin Collins (on the house)… or perhaps the bottle will end up in the drinks cupboard only to be consumed at 3am one drunken Saturday night when there’s nothing left to drink. Who knows… but it got me thinking about intentional positive experiences, and how much power they really have, when everyone in the room knows exactly what the deal is. When I place a monetary value of about £60/70 on the cost of the entire evenings entertainment (including the gift bag), how does its potency compare to say, the below.
Introducing Apple, or rather, the Apple Store in the Westfield shopping centre.
Now, I like Apple – always have, despite their equipment constantly crapping out on me – it’s O.K because I know that I can tab open the Apple website and quickly book a genius bar appointment for lunchtime the following day. They’ve swapped over several iPhones for free (even though I’ve been honest with them and mentioned the possibility of it having maybe slightly fallen gently onto a concrete paving slab – though I can’t really remember because it was 3am, and dark, wink wink), and they’ve always been there for me in a lost data crisis, or battered laptop situations. I feel unsurprisingly rather chuffed, but ever so slightly guilty, that I’ve only once had to pay for an apple repair in 7 years of beating their tools into hard manual labour. An architecture student, with a few years as a photographer, and a strong dislike for those god awful looking Crumpler laptop bags, has meant my laptops have become ‘old friends’ very, very quickly.
It’s not surprising then, that my latest MacBook’s battery died. It’s almost 3 years old, and though I now work behind a desk in an office, for a long time it was my web-designing, on-set tethered up photography gizmo numero uno. What did unsettle me though, was that it was almost 6 weeks before I finally managed to nab an appointment at the Genius Bar due to an apparent severe shortage of Genius. I ended up with a 9:20am appointment in a distant Apple Store on a Saturday morning (urgh, I hear you say), yeah.
So far, not so good, but I’m an Apple hard-nut, so I’m not easily fazed. Unfortunately, on the morning in question, I was scootering all the way from Stoke Newington (the deepest darkest NE London), and also got hopelessly lost in Westfield’s cavernous interior. I was 20 mins late to the Genius bar, and the rather unforgiving ‘concierge’ said they’d cancelled my appointment, no smile, no apologetic look, just a sorry, no. Whatever. I managed to catch eyes with a nice chap behind the bar and explained that it was just the battery – a simple swap in, swap out job – and so he complied. Unfortunately, with some testing it turned out the battery had been used far beyond its usual duties (no surprise there), and so wouldn’t qualify for a free replacement. It was only £70 to buy a new one though, and by that point my hangover was really starting to kick in, so I too complied.
We chatted away, as usual, whilst he filled in the paper-work, and I made some friendly glances over towards the Genius dude who’d been too busy to see me earlier. Nothing unusual, just general friendly Saturday morning Shepherd’s Bush related banter. The battery turned up, but when we got to the till to run my card through, the machine wouldn’t boot properly. With quite a few customers vying for the nice chap’s attention he called on the assistance of the Genius dude, who strolled over with a genuine air of calm and kindness about him, and told me that I may as well just have the battery for free. Free! Jemima bags a free Apple repair once again, score! I showed my gratitude, and headed off to enjoy the rest of my Saturday morning (now rather glad of the early wake-up call).
So, what makes this positive experience special? Because as a customer who had sought out the services of the Apple employee, and had had to work quite hard to secure it, I felt that I owned this positive experince. I’d had to work for it, it wasn’t laid on with nibbles in a posh bar, there was no script or golden globe shaped bar on wheels; it was accidental, the convenient offshoot of a series of negative experiences on the way to the completion of an errand. This positive ending far outweighed the unforgiving concierge, or the overworked and unavailable Genius’, and most of all, it wasn’t forced or planned.
An experience like this, which had a monetary value exactly the same as that provided by Bombay Sapphire, gives me a much longer lasting positive feeling about the brand involved. While Bombay Sapphire impressed and complimented me, I felt at all times like I was under pressure to be wowed by their charade (I was being sold to), whereas Apple’s employees had come down my level, seen things from my side, and just made my Saturday a little more positive.
Marketing campaigns are fine – but in my opinion, good old fashioned honesty, kindness, and transparency have a much longer shelf-life than pop-up bars on London terraces.
Which experince would have been more powerful for you?