New York Times bestselling authors Chip Heath and Dan Heath believe that, as human beings, we often have brief experiences that deeply affect us.
These moments, which the brothers call “peak moments,” are a huge opportunity for marketers who want to make a lasting impression.
Dan Heath, a senior fellow at Duke University’s CASE center, will be presenting at Adobe Summit to discuss the power of these peak moments. “Here’s the spoiler: [Great experiences] hinge on peak moments,” he told CMO.com. “We’ll talk about the four elements that make up peak moments and how marketers can use these four elements to create unforgettable experiences.”
CMO.com: “The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact” is your most recent book. Can you talk a little bit about its main idea?
Heath: The book is about experience and the question of how we make other people’s experience better, whether we’re talking about the customer experience, or the patient experience, or our own kid’s experience. We explore what makes experiences memorable and meaningful. It boils down to the presence of what we call “peak moments,” which are the most positive moments in a positive experience.
Think of what we might call the Disney paradox: If you were to attach some kind of sci-fi gizmo to your wrist that would monitor your happiness levels at every moment of the day you spent there, my guess is that for the majority of the time you would’ve been happier sitting on your couch at home. The reasons are simple: It’s not crowded in your living room; it’s not humid; there are no lines; it’s not expensive. And yet in memory we might consider the trip to Disney one of the highlights of the year.
The question is, why? What the research in psychology tells us is that when we look back on our experiences, a lot of what happened washes out, and we tend to remember the peak moments. That helps us make sense of the Disney paradox: Disney is really good at creating peak moments in a way that your couch simply isn’t. In your memory of Disney, all of the moment-by-moment sweatiness and irritability and discomfort disappears. But the peak moments don’t.
So the question for marketers is, are we being intentional about creating peak moments?
CMO.com: Do you think companies often overlook these moments?
Heath: I think what’s in the marrow of most businesses is efficiency, cost reduction, and scale. Oftentimes what businesses do is try to replicate what they did last year, but more of it. At a cheaper cost. There are perfectly sensible reasons why businesses focus on those things, but to some extent those priorities are at odds with the ability to deliver a peak moment, which often are spontaneous and tailored to an individual in a way that doesn’t lend itself to mass scale.
I’ll give you an example. There’s a hotel in Los Angeles called the Magic Castle Hotel. You could Google images of the hotel, and you’ll find it to be utterly unremarkable. It’s a two-story apartment complex built in the 1950s that was later converted to a hotel. You would never think by looking at it that it has mastered the art of moments. Yet you’ll find a phone by the pool with a sign above it that says “Popsicle Hotline.” If you pick up the phone, somebody answers, "Popsicle hotline, we’ll be right out." Then they bring you grape, cherry, and orange popsicles on a silver tray, delivered by someone wearing white gloves like an English butler, all for free.
Heath: They also have a snack menu where you can request free goodies: Cracker Jacks and Sour Patch Kids and cream soda. ... They’ll do your laundry if you drop it off in the morning, and return it to you washed and folded by the end of the day. So, as in the Disney example, here’s a case where to make experiences great for people, not every detail has to be perfect. The rooms are not luxurious, and the lobby is not festooned with the greatest modern art pieces. But there are a number of moments in a given stay that will be magical.
And what’s the proof that this is a smart business strategy? The Magic Castle Hotel is rated the No. 2 hotel in Los Angeles, according to thousands of reviews on TripAdvisor.
CMO.com: What are your recommendations for brands that are trying to create these moments?
Heath: One place to pay careful attention to is transitions. There’s a lot of research that says we tend to remember the transition points in life—beginnings and endings. One study found that when people looked back on their college experience, 40% of their memories came from the month of September because that’s the beginning. You’re living in a new place with new roommates, you’ve got new classes, new experiences. So I think the wise marketer pays attention to the transitions in its customers’ experiences.
One example that we could look at is retail banking, which is privy to so many different transitions in the lives of their customers. They know when customers are getting married, when customers take a new job or lose an old job, and they know when customers buy homes or other assets that require financing. These transitions are opportunities for peak moments.
I was doing a training session for a retail bank in Australia, and we were talking about the moment when you pay off your mortgage. It might reflect 30 years’ worth of diligent payments. When that happens, a branch manager should visit your home to congratulate you personally. She should bring you flowers and present you with the deed to your home—now yours, free and clear. And someone in the training session raised their hand and said, “Not only do we not do that, we actually charge people a deed transfer fee.” A deed transfer fee! A smart marketer would stamp out a “deed transfer fee” and replace it with a peak moment.