Posted on 31-10-2010
Filed Under (BUSINESS) by Shombit

The Indian EXPRESS/ The Financial EXPRESS article

A repeatedly admired subject in society can be measured in the Emotional Surplus frame as I’d explained in last week’s article. That’s the high blend of 3 attributes: quality (non visible, rational factor), functionality (experience that is relevant) and the emotive factor (looks good).

Bringing a gift when invited to an evening party at home is a French social rituals I’ve experienced. Bouquets are common as elsewhere in the world, but Francis, a florist near the beautiful forest park of Vincenne in east Paris, presented me a small Ficus plant in a pot and explained how to nurture it. Francis plays the flute, and being a fan of his music, I’d often go to his pop concerts. When 30 years ago I’d invited him home, he wanted to give me a plant that would solidify our long-term friendship. Ten years on, visiting me at home again, he was delighted to see the plant’s growth. He hugged me saying, “Our friendship is solid now.” Although I’ve not met Francis in sometime now, the Ficus, just as our friendship, has taken strong root.

Landing in Hong Kong for a global conference in 1993, I lost my baggage with all the OHP slides of my presentation on Emotional Surplus. It was horrifying. How could I tell the organizers who invited me that I don’t have my material? That’s when Francis’ Ficus tree gift came to my rescue. I bought a bouquet of roses and a rose plant in a flower pot. I explained to the audience that if you gift a bouquet, it momentarily looks beautiful and evokes alluring emotion in your hosts, but the flowers will soon wither away. That is fragile emotion. But presenting a rose plant in a pot, the flower may wither in a couple of days, but new flowers will bloom again as the plant will grow. Even if the gifted plant has no flower, the host knows that flowers will come. I explained that as the bouquet flowers have been cut from the root, their stems have become dysfunctional. But the potted plant has the non visible foundation of roots that nurture the plant. This rational factor helps the stem circulate sap internally to bring alive the plant’s functionality. So the stem is the functional element. The sustaining link of root and stem together empower the cyclical blossoming of flowers. This repetitive flowering that’s sustainable is Emotional Surplus. It’s unlike the ephemeral emotive factor of the bouquet. Let me now narrate a few examples with this thinking of Emotional Surplus.

History as Emotional Surplus reference in the contemporary cricket world: A cricketer had a career Test batting average of 99.94, statistically the greatest achievement in any major sport. He used to practice alone with a golf ball and cricket stump against the wall to sharpen his batting quality, that’s the rational factor. Scoring with almost every ball is the functional factor where his performance responded to the immediacy of time. Being shy, he’d never show-off in glittering after game parties but be discreet, which made him rare and sincere. This was his emotive factor. He consistently sustained these 3 elements, scoring and drawing record spectators in 20 years of playing. After retirement he was an active writer, selector and administrator for 30 years. Today he’s acknowledged as the greatest batsman. This was Don Bradman. With just 20 years of active sportsmanship, his sustainability is proven as he’s repeated as the reference of cricket for all time.

A manufacturer’s self surrender of quality defects sustains Emotional Surplus: A car manufacturer recalled millions of sold cars when sudden failure or defects were detected in them. This high sensitivity to address the rational engineering factor that’s not visible to the buyer proves that the company is proactive and extremely conscious about quality. Competitors have predicted its downfall, but consumers have not walked out. They are confident of always being delivered the high balance of rational, functional and emotive attributes without complacency. When you are sincere to your consumer, your mistake is considered as learning. People have never forsaken Toyota.

If you consciously address the 3 attributes in higher ground, a sudden fall can also revive Emotional Surplus delivery: A thoughtful inventor went through turbulence, even quit from the company he created after a power struggle with his Board of Directors. He next founded NeXT, which his previous company bought in 1996. So he returned to become CEO again in the parent company. A few years ago this company’s balance sheet was in the red. Applying intensity in innovation, he injected very high quality, functionality beyond expectation, and outstandingly sober looks into their new generation products. Consumers held their breath, and this company became synonymous with how commoditized digital technology products can acquire value leading to high aspiration for all classes of people in the world. It even entered the arena of entertainment that Sony had dominated for 2 decades, until earlier this week when Sony declared it could no longer keep up with the digital market. You’ve guessed it, that’s Steve Jobs and his sinful Apple.

Dazzling advertising cannot sell high priced branded daily products that lack Emotional Surplus attributes: In my different interactions with consumers, they have often expressed that they don’t see any quality and efficacy difference between big brands and lower priced products. After watching TV advertising they may buy the branded product once or twice, but easily shift local or pirated products as they find them cheaper and with similar quality. When a big brand pays no attention to higher performance through product engineering in blind tests, either for quality or functionality, it falls into the trap growth and profit saturation. Glittery TV commercials with film stars cannot compensate product deficiency. That’s why such brands cannot enjoy repeat purchase in a sustaining way. A number of brands in India are suffering this trauma.

You may spend huge amount of money for market research to get some report. But if the managers don’t go to experience consumers from the bedroom to the toilet, kitchen to the living room, they will never be able to admire the real deficiency consumers feel. In India where brand piracy is common and low priced products proliferate in everyday usage products, it is extremely important to differentiate with a scientific high blend of the rational quality, perceivable functionality then adequate emotive factors.

That’s why Emotional Surplus has the very tedious, hard working job of bringing the high balance of quality, functionality and likeability.

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