Wednesday, November 19, 2014

You’re Touring Hogwarts: The Psychology of Illusions (Part 2)

This is the second of two posts on the psychology of illusions. Read the first post here.

I hate waiting. I'll bet you do, too. My vision of hell involves waiting in a long line that never ends.

Smart marketers know people hate to wait, so they create illusions to trick us into thinking that we're not waiting. Theme parks have gotten really good at this.

These days, every major new ride created at a theme park includes things to see and do right in the line.

Example: Touring Hogwarts
When Universal Studios Islands of Adventure opened its Wizarding World of Harry Potter park in 2010, my wife, sister, and I were among the first to visit. We happily waited in line for nearly two hours to ride the main attraction: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Why were we happy to wait in line? Because it took us on an awesome tour through Hogwarts.

In each room we waited, magical things happened to us. The Sorting Hat sang us a song. Harry, Hermione, and Ron cast spells in a classroom — one of which caused snow to fall from the ceiling. Portraits on the wall talked to each other and to us. It was fantastic. We even stayed in one of the rooms longer than we had to just so we could see everything.

We were waiting in line the whole time, but it was an illusion: we were being entertained.

The "You Are Not Waiting" Illusion
This illusion is meant to distract us. Brilliant theme park employees have created lines that are sometimes just as good as the ride. They're entertaining us and it doesn't even feel like we're waiting.

Add This To Your To-Do List
Sometimes we can't prevent our customers from having to wait. But we can entertain them in the process. We need to get creative about it. Uber shows customers exactly how far away their ride is after ordering it. And it's kind of entertaining to watch our ride navigate the streets around us as it makes its way to pick us up. If we have to wait, we might as well follow along.

Take a page from theme parks and Uber: When it comes to handling a waiting customer, distract her, entertain her, and set reasonable expectations. She just might find a little joy.

There's never a lack of ideas.

Photo: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Credit: Me.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Poop in the Pool: The Psychology of Illusions (Part 1)

Illusions are everywhere in marketing.

I'm not talking about the kind of illusions David Copperfield performs nightly. I'm talking about the things organizations do to make customers think something is true when it's not.

Because my wife and I are going to see Penn and Teller perform in Las Vegas soon, I thought I'd expose some of the most popular illusions in marketing and then identify what we can learn from them. Let's go...

Example: Poop in the Pool
A friend of mine recently told me this story from his time as a lifeguard at his neighborhood pool:
Whenever someone pooped in the pool, we cleared the area and then fished it out of the water. Then, we were trained to grab an empty two liter bottle we had on hand, go into the bathroom, fill it with water, and dump it in the area in which the poop was found. We'd wait a few minutes, and then open the pool back up.
Yikes! My friend went on to say that the pool was already treated heavily with chemicals and if they if they actually dumped more into the water, it would destroy the PH balance, causing bigger problems. They were trained to pretend like they were dumping chemicals into the water because that's what people expected them to do in order to feel like the situation had been resolved (or, perhaps... dissolved?). Boom.
The "We're Doing Something About This Problem" Illusion 
This illusion stems from the fact that when things go wrong, we expect them to be fixed. "Somebody needs to do something about this!" We want answers and we want action. We can quickly move on from problems if we feel like there has been an adequate response. 
Add This To Your To-Do List 
Problems always arise. It's our response that matters most. I'm not advocating for fake responses like dumping pretend chemicals into a pool. I'm advocating for genuine responses to making things right when they go wrong.

Often times, it's our response to bad situations that define us. The best we can do is respond quickly, honestly, and in the best interest of customers. We don't need illusions to do that.
There's never a lack of ideas. 

PS Special thanks to Kyle Welter for inspiring this post. 

Image: Caddyshack pool scene