Friday, 27 September 2013

Gift giving and other crazy ideas that most bosses will never get

laughing boss at the factish

We have all gone through two equally annoying experiences.

The first, having our gifts inspected and evaluated by someone with the hope of somehow assessing their value. We become aware of this through almost invisible—I said almost not entirely—social cues which allow us to assert with little chance of error that our gift was being valued and even compared with other gifts.

The second one is receiving a gift that we had not asked for, but could to a certain extent expect given the context of the situation (a birthday party, a graduation, etc). Upon receiving and opening the gift we realize it’s a decoration or clothing article which seems almost purposefully meant to clash with our own taste. What we witness is one both cases the same queer event: the unnatural, yet recurrent exchange of items between strangers in our contemporary society. The strangeness of such events has motivated economist to add to the confusion by labelling as suboptimal allocation of resources—we would be better off by getting the money rather than the gift.

You may probably be asking yourself: Is this guy disparaging against giving gifts? Not in the very least! My intention is the entire opposite. If anything I would encourage you to give perhaps even more, than you do now, but to do so without half the dissatisfaction or obligation that most of our current gifts carry along with them.
Have you ever wondered why the nature of gift giving is so badly explained by the word ‘exchange’? The reason is that an exchange implies that we can always compare what is being exchanged and that the goal is to reach an outcome of mutual benefit. Suppose I go to a store like the H&M to buy a t-shirt—there is an exchange between my money for the t-shirt. The mutual expectations and benefits are clear. I do not expect to get some extra shoes as well, nor is the cashier going to ask me to work a couple of hours in addition to the money I just handed him.

We have become so accustomed to understanding exchange in purely economic terms that too many times we transform authentic occasions for gift giving with an economic transfer of sorts: from the buy one take two offers, to the office gift exchange where everyone is always asked to contribute a fixed amount of money. In a word, every time we feel dissatisfied with a gift and we ask ourselves things like ‘I wonder how much she spent on that?’ or, ‘is that all he cares about me?’, we have fallen prey of the confusion between gifts and exchanges. This is not to say that exchanges are bad and gifts are good, but rather that we are missing out on the unique opportunities that come along with gifts.

The nature of gift giving is to encourage bonding and to nurture new or existing relationships. Gift giving, when authentic, will allow you to reach out, to enable trust, sympathy and consideration—both individuals and companies should reflect on this!

If you want your company to create solid customer relationships, stop thinking about special offers, deceiving Calls to Action, or interrupting SEO techniques. Touch your customers with the surprise of a gift—with no strings attached. I can bet you the competition has failed to do just that!

If you are looking for work and you are tired of applying blindly, why not send a gift of your work to those places you like—a sample of your design work, an article, or an interesting insight.

Wonderful sources on the nature of The Gift are Lewis Hyde’s The Gift as well as the highly recognized work of Levi Strauss, from which The Elementary Structure of Kinship provides a rich source of ideas on kinship and exchange. Stay up to date with the factish to discover the nuts and bolts of authenticity and gift giving.

Written by Daniel Vargas Gómez

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The story of how experiential marketing became a blue ocean for philosophers

1.      Wrong idea about a philosopher:
Bookworm sitting in the corner of a dusty old library reading an even dustier book.
Philosophers like most things in life come in different shapes and sizes. Contemporary philosophers, however, occupy themselves with a broad scope of current issues, from ecological thought and movements, to the European crisis, the flaws of the prison systems, sustainability, quantum physics, art, and, yes experiential marketing. Surely not everything happens inside the same head and at the same time. The point is that philosophy is a discipline deeply rooted by its interest in contemporary life.
So, why would philosophers have anything worthwhile to say about marketing?
The answer is simple: philosophers are expert communicators with a highly structured mind. Being an expert communicator means truly knowing how to persuade, how and when to use arguments and when emotional messages, and how to create structural profiles based on qualitative or incomplete information. If these skills are not enough to give them an advantage over most marketers I know, keep in mind that they have also the uncanny ability to see problems from a myriad of different angles, which can be of great help when managing teams and clients. If you ever had a client asking for something that seems entirely at odds with his own goals, no one better than a philosopher to explain why a different course of action should be taken. This ability to transform problems into reasonable silutions is fundamental, because it would allow you to, in this particular case, approach the client from his own point of view making the at times impossible task of changing someone’s mind a feasible possibility.
‘Hmm this surely doesn’t sound so bad, but you said something about ‘experiential marketing’…
 Yes! I refer to experiential marketing for one important reason. The creation of consumer experiences, whether at the level of the offering or of the marketing efforts requires for a complex network to be created with a sole aim in mind—effectiveness! The hard truth is that most people learn by doing or by trial and error, which can be extremely costly for a company and which can leave a stain on a marketing manager’s reputation.
Philosophers are not only able to envision this network, without losing track of its complexities, but they are also able to provide an additional and incredibly valuable insight on human experience itself. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is not some abstract or perhaps even mystical story about the human spirit—although you may get that when you go for after work drinks. Their insight is valuable because it provides you, on the contrary, with a perspective on experience based on precisely those material means at your disposal.
A philosopher will be able to provide you with clear answer to questions such as: How do both reflection and emotion work jointly in the consumer’s mind? How can I make the messaging more persuasive without being pushy? How can I expect my customers in Latin America to react to my European campaign? Is it really worthwhile to make culture specific ads?
There are many grasping and interesting figures that will help you discover the great potential of philosophers. A few of my favorites on human experience are Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari,the later works of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Henri Bergson and Maurice Merleau Ponty. When it comes to understanding networks, few are as illustrative and acute as Bruno Latour is.  

Written by Daniel Vargas Gómez