The Putting People First blog by Experientia has pointed me toward the excellent essay "The Long Wow" by Adaptive Path's Brandon Schauer. Schauer outlines a vision of creating lasting customer loyalty and brand value that runs counter to the fixation on quick wins and instant gratification, which many companies, under the pressure of shorter product life cycles and CMO tenures, seem to pursue these days. He defines "The Long Wow" as "a means to achieving long-term customer loyalty through systematically impressing your customers again and again."
This goes far beyond adding new features for features' sake, implementing loyalty programs such as membership awards, or simply measuring loyalty in economic terms. He writes, "Like Christmas, customer loyalty can't be bought or bottled. It's not something you can capture in an ID card. Loyalty is a sense that grows within people based on the series of notable interactions they have with products, services, and companies." As he describes them, "Notably great experiences are punctuated by a moment of 'wow,' when the product or service delights, anticipates the needs of, or pleasantly surprises a customer. For Schauer, "OXO's Good Grips Angled Measuring Cup triggers such a moment of wow. A set of angled markings on the OXO cup lets you quickly measure liquids for recipes without having to stop cooking and bend over. Suddenly a little part of your life is easier, because OXO thought carefully about the way you cook. This delightful surprise resonates because it feels tailored to your needs."
It is interesting to assume a causal relationship between this kind of lasting value and the time it takes to create it. What if the immense pressure to innovate quickly or to rush to market comes at the expense of quality and sustainability? What if the "Long Wow" presupposes a long time-to-market or, in other words, "slow innovation?" Innovation and creativity expert Derek Cheshire has answers to these questions and--obviously inspired by the Slow Food movement--suggests a slow approach to innovation. In a recent manifesto for Change This, he heralds the goal of creating "an innovative company whose structure and culture are conducive to long-term growth and sustainability." His argument is convincing, "In the world of slow, there will be less waste as there's time to be more resourceful and to use the materials already available."
Essentially, this is a question of how companies manage their time. Both the concepts of "Long Wow" and "Slow Innovation" ask for more time: more time to listen to customers, more time to build a meaningful relationship with them, and more time for the innovator to develop products and services that are built to last. But what about the customers? Will they have the time to wait for this kind of high-quality, sustainable innovation?