Blog

Coke Zero, Kermit the Frog, Facebook and Everything Else

Keith LaFerriere, Chief Experience Officer

August 17, 2017

KAI ZEN. Loosely translated from Japanese, it means change is good. To Verndale, it's continual evolution.

My colleague brought this approach to our client in an effort to establish parameters in their strategic vision. And, as are all things related to creative strategy, change is perceived as both an evil mindscrew (completely out of your control), or an engaging, positive, energetic charge to the norm that you either can or cannot control. Let's hope you think it's the latter.

More bluntly, when change sucks, it sucks pretty hard. When it's good, it rocks out loud. How you manage each of these is entirely up to you.

CHANGE SUCKS

Do you love Coke Zero? I do. In fact, I drink way too much of it. You know that drawer in the middle of your fridge that's supposed to have cold cuts, or cheese, or whatever? That's where my hoarded stash of Coke Zero lives; replenished more obsessively than my iPhone battery when it gets to half full. However, they're killing my favorite, delightful bubbly addiction, and coming out with a new formula that replaces the one that my taste buds, body chemistry, and sensory recall have all become insanely familiar with since it launched in 2005. And, what's worse is that they've decided to kill it at a time when sales of the drink are increasing.

However, Coca-Cola is doing this because they're realigning their brands, getting their recipes to be different enough to warrant having the diversity, and making sure that they can streamline marketing and design budgets. Who knows if it'll taste better. I'll give it a shot.

Do you love Kermit the Frog? I do. In fact, as a kid I wanted to BE Kermit the Frog. That little dude got around, had movies, a weird cast of friends, and always ended up being on the right side of the little guy's fight. What's more: He did it without full use of his arms! But, they're changing the voice, which means once again (I am old enough to be devastated by the loss of Jim Henson and his perfect personification of the modern everyman via Kermit), we will have to get used to a cultural icon change without our say.

Things happen. Rightly so, they're doing it because an incredibly self-centered diva was out of control for years, and it was time to get Kermit back to Kermit. Who knows if long-time performer Matt Vogel will be able to easily transition into the role he temporarily took on as “Constantine” in Muppets Most Wanted. I'll give it a shot. Also, I'm not a 9-year-old. Context matters.

Facebook. Changes. Constantly. Need I say more?

Change itself is constant, and even when we don't want to accept or adapt to it, change is also necessary, regardless of the effort it places on you.

CHANGE ROCKS

I promise that the following statement is not a contradiction: I LOVE CHANGE.

If we don't pivot or maneuver, or let the input of our data and customer base influence our next move to a certain degree, we will stay stagnant and pointless in a sea of change. The same applies to our experiences in how we communicate or serve our customers. However, there's so much change going on in our customers' lives (see: Coke Zero, Kermit, and Facebook...), that creating a change in how you deliver your brand messaging is just a way to keep up.

Disruptions in technology or experience design come in the form of wearables, and diverse marketing technology, hacking the norm, and combining the various devices into a new subsystem of communication; using each device to tell the part of the story that matters most at that moment.

But, amid these new and disruptive technologies, there are two things that allow us to manage the change and not make it an issue or a problem in our delivery of services and goods: selective disruption and measured adoption.

Selective Disruption

During each of our strategic initiatives, especially with new clients, we work extremely hard to do two things: Figure out who's bearing down on our client's competitive landscape, and search for a trigger for disruption. In each of these efforts, we have to select the right amount of disruption both for the organization we're expecting to help, and their customer base.

Change is good, but change for change's sake without data and input is empty and filled with risk. When we uncover a great idea, we map it out, dig deeper, and work on how the change will impact the end game. Sometimes, disruption can manifest itself in a new onboarding process. Sometimes, it means we need to blow things up and institute a new way of thinking. Either way, we must be mindful of the customer, and aware enough of how we support that disruption moving forward. In other words, we need to have a measured adoption to whatever we do.

Measured Adoption

As stated by several very talented digital leaders, we are in a time of digital Darwinism. With this comes a self-induced level of pressure to try new things, succeed in new ways, and work towards change beyond comfort.

By being selective in how we disrupt, we can achieve a measured adoption of change. This change can, and should, evolve over time, enhancing experiences that ebb and flow with your customers' needs. Measured adoption means trying two new features, testing the usability (usefulness + comprehension + time to complete), and gathering feedback while maintaining a separate innovative swim lane that allows your business to move forward.

KAI ZEN

Change is good. It's constant. It helps our businesses pivot, but more so, it helps us question the status quo. Just because something isn't broken doesn't mean you can't mess with it. That adage has bugged me since I was a little kid, watching Kermit get bombarded with stupid requests, and learning to manage the always-changing environment of theater. If we accept that change is inevitable, even if only because our customers are changing around us, we can search, enjoy, and celebrate new experiences, with a new sense of creativity.