Do you want to play another mindless video game, trying to get some puffed up superhero to save the world – or do you actually want to save the world? Game designer Jane McGonigal argues that “reality is broken” and that we need to make it work more like a game. World of Warcraft and others like it teach the “habits of heroes,” and facilitate breakthrough thinking. She positions gaming as a possible solution to our broken reality.
Which could all be a big load of B.S. The point is, though, she’s reframing something we think we know and giving it a twist, making us think about it in a different way. Is it time you did the same thing for your brand?
Rethinking Your Brand: You are What You Sell
What are you selling? Products? I’ve got enough. Services? Someone else can do it cheaper. What are you really selling? Maybe it’s confidence. Maybe it’s peace of mind. Maybe it’s a healthy lifestyle. Lug Life does this perfectly: founder Ami Richter loves to design travel bags, but that’s not what she’s selling. She offers her customers adventure, opportunity, and a chance to live life in colour – with a great bag.
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Not only do her customers feel this, I’d venture that her employees do as well. Helping someone have an adventure is exponentially more motivating and rewarding than hawking totes. This concept applies to any job, any brand. Imagine something as mundane as stuffing envelopes. How can you motivate employees to do that with enthusiasm and even passion? You reframe it.
Reframing: An Employee Motivation Tool
At Atlantis, we’d have interns come to help with mass mailings. Other companies might say, “Here’s 5000 envelopes. Stuff them, and don’t mess it up.” Instead, I told them that they were helping with a letter to, say, a pharmaceutical sales force, announcing the launch of an incentive program. This was a letter they were all looking forward to receiving; it was essential that it be done professionally and accurately. Now, when an intern went home to tell her family about her day, she didn’t have to say, “I stuffed 5000 envelopes. There’s 8 hours I’m never going to get back.” She could tell them, “I was involved in the launch of an incentive program for a major pharmaceutical company, and it was important that I did it well.”
Same job, completely different perspective. How accurately do you think that intern did her job? How rewarding was it? She wasn’t stuffing envelopes, not really. She was helping with the launch. It’s all about reframing. Employee motivation isn’t a mystery: people want to feel like they’re contributing to something greater. They want to know how important their role is.
Setting the Stage for Increased Engagement
Imagine sitting in the front row for a production of the Lion King or Les Mis. While you’re enjoying the show, dozens of people work feverishly behind the scenes. A stage manager cues them at precise moments to adjust lighting, bring up the audio, and position the props or backgrounds. Most people take it for granted. They tend to think of all of this as equipment, as lights, audio, video projectors, staging sets, and a bunch of guys who come and operate it. So, what if you’re the staging company? How can you reposition your offerings so you’re more than a commodity to prospective clients?
A New View
How about this? You tell the CEO to imagine 500 people looking at him. “The lights are low; you run a short video that sets up your message. The lights on the podium come up, and you begin to speak. The microphone works flawlessly, and your audience can hear and see you perfectly. Is that the experience you want? “Or do you want to plunge the room into darkness before the lights abruptly come on? Do you want to tap the mic: ‘Can you hear me out there?’” If he wants to make a presentation that will impact his audience, he needs a staging company that is more than just some equipment and a bunch of guys.
What you’re selling is business theater as opposed to staging equipment. You’re selling peace of mind that the microphone, the lights, the video, will be ready so all the client has to focus on is the message. Everything else will work magically around him. This positions you apart from the competition; you’re not just a staging company. You provide trust and confidence.
Not only does this appeal to the client, it appeals to the “bunch of guys” that were previously thought of as commodities. Now, they’re integral players in the show. They’re contributing to its success. Even if their job is to open the drapes, they know they have to do it at just the right time and speed so they impact the presentation. When you identify how important their role is in the big picture, you boost employee motivation and engagement.
Video games, travel bags, setting the stage for corporate presentations – no matter what you do, find a way to jolt people out of what they think they know. Engage the employee who believes her job is simply to stuff envelopes; convince the CEO who views you as just a commodity. If your reality is feeling a little broken lately, reframing your brand can help you position yourself both internally and externally for greater success and growth.