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Column

How to turn your business into a sensation

Companies must look back to move forward, writes Lee Naik. And he's not just talking about retro-tech.

TransUnion Africa CEO Lee Naik.

TransUnion Africa CEO Lee Naik.

Older generations often speak of our lack of appreciation for what we have, quipping about coming from a time when if something broke, you fixed it. Today, we don't even wait that long. The latest phone upgrade, tempting trade-in deals on our cars, and even fluctuating fashion trends – there are so many aspects of our lives that feed into a constant need to move on to the next big thing. But lately, businesses are realising grandma and grandpa may have been right all along.

The mining industry is one among many currently making a concerted effort to breathe life back into spent avenues. Enabled by the power of new technology, the sector is reviving numerous dwindling or long abandoned mines around Gauteng, where they can now drill down even deeper, to reach what they couldn't before; gold and diamond deposits worth millions.

This begs the question; if you look to the past with new eyes, could your business also be sitting on a gold mine?

Brands going back to the future

Nokia clearly thinks so with its throwback 3310 model hitting shelves around the world right now. However, whether it will join the ranks of super-successful throwback products like record players and Polaroid cameras, or end up like the quickly forgotten USB typewriter for your PC, remains to be seen. After all, it's not going to be entirely the same, is it?

When we think of the 3310, we think back to a very particular product that takes us back to our younger years: colourful, reliable, and sturdy enough to survive a nuclear apocalypse. This new version may have a camera and an updated version of Snake, but we look for very different things in our smartphones nowadays. If, by combining new functionality with a sense of nostalgia, it brings something new to the table, it has the possibility of doing really well. But I'm not sure it captures what made the Nokia 3310 so special in the first place.

Compare this to instant pocket printers like HP's Sprocket or Polaroid Snap Touch. It uses latest gen technology to capture a very specific feeling. Printed photographs and instant cameras have been practically obsolete for years thanks to digital camera technology, but we've seen a resurgence of these kinds of products precisely because they allow us to capture a familiar and gratifying feeling – waiting for a pinboard-ready photo to develop seconds after you snap it – with updated functionality.

Feeling your way forward

Why do people spend so much time restoring old cars? Do they run better? Are they faster? Safer? No, they're none of those things. People spend time tinkering on vintage cars to recapture that feeling of cruising down the highway in the cars of their youth.

How your staff feel about your business can have as much impact on its success as how consumers feel about it.

It's no secret that I'm an Apple fan and there's a huge emotional element to that. For me, there's just something about getting a new iPhone, Apple smartwatch, or a MacBook and opening the box to find something different, but at the same time familiar. It's not so much a feeling of nostalgia, but there is a subtle sense of being taken back, even if it's just two or three years.

Apple is careful to nurture that sense of excitement and anticipation with each product, and that continuity means consumers choose their products as much for the feelings as the features.

This explains why Gen Z is so caught up on tactility. For this generation, who grew up during a mass exodus of just about everything to an online space where it can be downloaded, streamed or shared, but never touched, it makes sense that the value of the sensory experience that comes with holding something in your hands is now elevated.

Evoking emotion from products vs services

So, how do you plug in to all this emotionally motivated brand love, especially if your business is built around a service rather than a beloved product? You need to look back, at what we loved in the past, at how we wanted products to make us feel, as well as how technology might be able to enhance or improve on that today.

Just look at the Spree online store's recent launch of an Image Search Feature for its app. Many shoppers have longed for a way to recreate fashion looks they see in movies, on runways, or on their friends and colleagues, and it turns out the technology to do that has been around since way back in 2001 when Google Image Search arrived on the scene. But it wasn't until now that Spree has combined the functionality of this technology with the emotive aspect of a Pinterest-like experience that anyone sat up and took notice. And it's not just consumers that want that kind of experience.

Taking your employees along for the ride

How your staff feel about your business can have as much impact on its success as how consumers feel about it. So, take a cue from the world's top employers, the majority of which are tech companies that know how to leverage analytics and tech to drill down into exactly how to make your employees love you.

Google is particularly famous for its analytics-enabled employee engagement approach, utilising a combination of qualitative surveys and tracked sales performance to find the perfect formula for creating effective teams in Project Aristotle. It even corrected the sense of adversity towards hierarchy that was developing in its ranks by combing through in-depth manager performance feedback. However, one of the most important lessons businesses can learn from Google's employee satisfaction model is that it is never finished and will continue to evolve as the company and its people do.

Why you do need to reinvent the wheel

One of man's most famous inventions, the wheel, has evolved, changed, and changed back in so many ways – and not always for functionality. If you doubt that, just look at the variety of mags adorning the cars around you in traffic today. Since feelings are subject to change, so should your products, services, systems and processes.

Do you agree? Is the secret to business success becoming more sensitive to the nuances of the sensations that motivate consumer decisions?


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