In Praise of Sloth
By Jonathan Salem Baskin

What If We Looked At Brand Engagement As Unconscious Routine?

I've just gone through a very lengthy and painful technology transfer, and I think my takeaway is this: instead of making life easier for customers, maybe a viable brand loyalty strategy is to make it harder for them?

I know it sounds counterintuitive but what if marketers chose to deliver brand "engagement" as habit, routine, and as something so extensively embedded in customers' lives that it wouldn't be worth it -- or even consciously imaginable -- to ever change?

This approach has been a fact of life in the technology space for years, whether avowed or not.

My latest tale of woe is no different than one of yours, I'm sure. I endured years of active abuse by Comcast, upon whom I'd relied for my cable TV and Internet connections:

Yet I never bothered to change service providers, primarily because:

What eventually pushed me into taking action is immaterial. But what if all those miserable qualities of my customer experience weren't the byproducts of an uncaring, inept business and instead turned into positive that it did on purpose in order to lull me into complacency?

In my particular circumstance I can think of three things Comcast could have done to keep my business forever (and none of them involve looking for complaints on Twitter):

Had it done these things I wouldn't have been a "happy" customer, per se, as much as an unconscious, automatic one. There'd have been absolutely no reason for me to ever think about changing my routine.

I wonder what this approach might look like for a non-technology brand? Are there ways McDonald's could make the prospect of visiting another fast food joint a non-starter for its customers? What about a deodorant brand or retail chain?

Finding those answers would require asking different questions about marketing, starting with this one: do we want our customers actively engaged in our branding, or should our brand be an active part of their lives? Maybe a smart brand strategy would be to help consumers be slothful?

Added: 1st July 2010