Hopefully last year has taught you a lot about how to do business, or in the case of the Mylan EpiPen, a lot about how not to do business. So I want to talk about that, as well as how we can all do better in 2017 by understanding what it means to transfer dominance to our clients and also how to earn their trust.

First Let's Talk About the Epipen Disaster

When customers, who were truly in need of a real solution, gained the EpiPen, they felt in control. They were thrilled, willing to pay the asking price, and were experiencing a rush of positive emotions associated with that gain. To make a somewhat long story short, when Mylan raised the price of the EpiPen, they went from a company quelling fear to a company instilling fear. They did a dominance grab and their customers were left feeling like something had just been taken from them, something they relied on now for peace of mind. The backlash went viral. The theory of the Hedonic Treadmill applies and when the negative feelings came forth, just as the theory suggests, it was felt times two because, as humans, we always feel loss more than we feel gain.

There are so many ways that we are losing control and trust in our products, brands, and even our media. Tony Bodoh, bestselling author, trainer for Fortune 1000 companies, and the founder of Breakthrough Magazine had an interesting opinion about how businesses should begin their trek into transparency and the transfer of dominance. "One of the ideas that struck me is that many companies tend to design products that keep customers relying upon them for pleasant or positive emotions that the customer experiences. I believe that the way forward is for companies to focus on creating products that allow the customer to recognize that they have control over their own emotions because then the customers will come to the company to receive this awareness of their own dominance over their emotion and over their mindset."

Why The Change, Why Now?

This transfer is meant to help design in and build more control geared towards the client, rather than towards the business. Amazon is experiencing some of this right now with their massive issues over incentivized reviews and review clubs. When a company supplies a product to a client for free, in exchange for a review, data shows the review has a tendency to be skewed. The gain of a free product emphasizes positive emotions attached to that product and that translates into reviews that may be more enthusiastic than if the customer actually purchased the product. Amazon is trying to crack down on this, and it is a wise decision for business, because nobody wants to feel as if they are being duped or misled.

Transparency Is the Way of the Future For Businesses

What we are all learning, on a very large scale, is that it's okay to be real. One of my all-time favorite teachable moment in my product design work is about a design fail we experienced with a stylus pen. The pen, unfortunately, had a defective thread that would cause it to basically fall apart. This was in the 90's, the internet was new, we were new (and short on cash), and had no idea what to do. We decided to tackle the issue head on, early on, notifying everyone who bought the pen what could possibly happen, suggesting they, with a bit of humor, tape the pen together and that we would send them two new pens when the new shipment was ready. People took well to our honesty, they sent us pictures of their pens taped together, and this was a turning point for me in business because I realized how much customers crave that authenticity from any business they buy from.

Authenticity Sells In Major Ways

Tony talked about a hotel chain where he went in and worked specifically on up-selling. The staff at the hotel were struggling with a $40 ask, an upgrade to a more luxury room. Tony and his team took the staff into the luxury room and did a 5-minute training with the goal of connecting the staff to the actual benefits of the upgrade. The result was astounding. The excitement, energy, connection, and positive emotions the staff attached to the luxury room after imagining themselves experiencing it for only 5-minutes was enough to create a 400% up-sell increase. Which proves one point very well, authenticity sells.

Our experiences as customers from product awareness, to purchase, is more relevant than anything else. Customers are swayed by how they feel when they buy just as much as they are by the actual product.