Saturday, November 30, 2013

Devise a Denouement for Departed Brands

The denouement of a story draws together the threads of the plots, ending the tale with a degree of resolution which satisfies the story’s consumers. Some people enjoy having a little uncertainty left, allowing the audience to create their own versions of the ending. Still, for the most part, consumers hate having lots of loose ends.
     Researchers at American University and University of Arizona used this reasoning to explain how viewers reacted when a favorite television series was discontinued. These intrepid scientists devoted more than ten years tracking consumer reactions after shows like “All My Children” and “The Sopranos” showed the last episode.
     The researchers saw and heard consumers grieving. Yet, as the researchers dug deeper, they concluded the grieving was for more than the loss of the routine in watching the program or loss of the enjoyment from the story lines. A substantial component of the mourning was for the loss of opportunities to discuss those story lines with others. The television series had become a vehicle for a special sort of socializing in what’s called a “consumer tribe.”
     When a group of your customers share not only an allegiance to your store, but also a passion for shopping with you, and when those customers share their passion with each other, you have a consumer tribe.
     Consumer tribes have been studied for decades, and retailers have been advised to welcome consumer tribes as a way to build business at their stores. A downside of consumer tribes has been that they resist changes in your business which are useful for full profitability. In many cases, the tribe members structure significant parts of their lifestyles around the store’s characteristics, so when the retailer executes changes, the effects on the tribe are more than trivial.
     Fans of “All My Children” and “The Sopranos” were consumer tribes that had structured parts of their lives around a treasured brand.
     So what does this have to with denouements? The answer is that the researchers found the grieving to be significantly less when the last episode of the show drew together the threads of plots well. The grieving was worse when lots of loose ends were left unresolved.
     The researchers suggest that when a brand is no longer available in your store, you go out of your way to explain why. This helps the shoppers who loved that brand to put the loss behind them.

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Try Being a Tribe Without Reservations

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