Google makes a compelling case for what they call the “Micro Moments” that influence clicks and transactions. The idea, as Brian Solis and other social conversationalists point out, is to engage customers in as many of these micro moments as possible. Solis writes in Forbes: “Marketers must outline and invest in a series of contextual micro journeys that meet customers in their domain when, where and how they unfold.”
Google and Solis are onto something. Traditional framings of the customer/brand experience belong to another era. Hyper-connectedness shatters the windows of 30- and 60-second spots, double-trucks and quarter pages. It moves or erases boundaries between channels, between content and context, between the virtual and physical worlds. As a result, we are seeing tree-like attributes of old brand strategies--rooted in a single place, branching from the same source–morph into the rhizome-like attributes of new networks–a latticework of roots and shoots that does not rely on any single source for sustenance.
Let’s add the bigSTORY perspective to this conversation. Here are some observations that any brand investing in micro-moments will be wise to consider:
– Literalness is a commodity. In other words, if you are in the blender business, and Brian Solis is looking for a blender, you are going to be bidding against every other blender seller to get Brian’s attention. You’re all working with the same algorithmic sauce. When you are literal, you have no edge on the competition, high bidder wins most of the time. In the examples shown on Google’s video, Nike wins the shoe battle, and the Kardashians win the hair dryer battle. It is never cost effective to be obvious. Necessary perhaps. But it doesn’t give you an edge. The opportunity exists in the “between” spaces of themes, analogies, adjacencies, times, and yes, stories. To use the rhizome analogy, the roots of one story send out shoots to create a new story. That’s the opportunity. That’s the space where you, and not Google, can affect outcomes.
– Playing is more productive than fighting. The headline in Google’s video claims that micro-moments are “the new battleground for brands.” Of course it’s useful for Google to have marketers see the world of micro-moments as a battleground. They want bidders battling. We think the world of micro-moments is more like a playground. Here’s why: There are infinitely many of them, and networks, like play itself, are infinitely expansive. Stories are expansive in ways that keywords are not, because stories are the outcomes of play, and keywords are, well, just words. Information. As a keyword, a blender is a product. Period. Just another entry line in the ol’ algo. In a story, a blender can be a social animal, a deejay, a mixologist, an app, a gift, a dance, a nickname, a band, a theme, a MacGuffin, a red herring, a clue, evidence, a prop, or the name of the main character’s pet chameleon. Which do you think can connect to more micro-moments?
– Don’t ignore other kinds of time. Micro-moments seem like a very chronological ordering of time. Fine. That’s one way of experiencing time. As a fleeting instant. A sudden occurrence lasting micro-seconds. As we know, and have known from the dawn of quantum physics, time is relative. It speeds up or slows down in relation to whatever is in “coherent superposition” to it. So a micro-moment can only be micro in relation to something else. In this instance, that something else is Search. But that is not how people experience the world, or, more accurately, how the world comes to them. In our approach to storytelling for business, we take five types of time into account: Chronological (clock/calendar/historical) time, is one of them. The others are kairotic (opportunity) time, biological (birth-death-rebirth) time, epochal (geologic) time, and tempo (the intensity of time). The work of connecting with micro-moments is, at least partly, the work of understanding the contexts in which those moments happen, and one of those contexts is the relativity of time.
– Understand and honor the difference between objectives and outcomes. Solis makes the mistake in his Forbes article of blurring the two meanings. He defines buying a new blender as an outcome, when buying a new blender is actually his objective. An objective is a single pre-defined outcome that is a point of focus for a process. The reason we make the distinction is that there are infinite possible positive outcomes from any process, and one’s objective is just one of them. Analogy: The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors both have the objective of winning the NBA championship this year. That is their point of focus. It is the only thing the coaches want their teams pointing toward. Yet it is only one positive outcome out of nearly infinite possible positive outcomes that can come from playing in the NBA Finals. Play with it. List the possible outcomes for yourself. Here are a few: LeBron wins the MVP, Steph wins the MVP, Draymont Green wins the MVP, the City of Cleveland rallies, Vegas makes money, J.R. Smith gets new endorsement deals, ABC pulls ratings, Kevin Love makes a dramatic comeback, children imitate their heroes, more three point shots are taken next season than ever before, UnderArmor sells more shoes, etc. etc. etc. etc. Where’s the economic energy, the opportunities for the growth of the team and individual brands? In achieving a sole objective, or in generating many outcomes of value?
Our belief is that most of the opportunities for brands to engage with customers exist in the realm of story, and that micro-moments are but one framing of a customer’s story. No doubt about it, Google has that micro-moment thing in its pocket. All the other moments, include all those that lead to the micro-moment, can be yours to define.