Until 1991, being lost in a multilevel mall parking garage might have struck you as more frustrating than funny. But Seinfeld took that universal and unpleasant experience and made us laugh about it. Everyone has searched unsuccessfully for his or her car; everyone has had to smile while complimenting an ugly baby. Seinfeld simply showed viewers that these mundane moments could be (and are) profoundly hilarious.
Like many comedians, Jerry Seinfeld tapped into our stored knowledge, fused our differentiated experiences, and helped us realize that funny aha! moment that is widely understood. Although his show professed to be about nothing, it actually pushed viewers to envision themselves and their own lives through its four loopy characters.
By weaving such concrete observations about the world into surreal, witty plots, the show became a master at blending. Marketers can learn a lot about blending from Seinfeld, especially when it comes to navigating a modern marketplace that is as dynamic as it is diverse.
In this blog, I’ll cover why blended experiences benefit both the customer and the marketer, as well as three steps to introduce blended experiences into your marketing plan.
Why We Want Blended Experiences
Blending is taking two products, services, or experiences and merging them into a new creation. Just like in comedy, much of business is uncovering and realizing insights that consumers haven’t been able to formally articulate or combine yet. And blending uses those ideas to render an innovation that gives brands a competitive edge.
As an adjunct professor, I’ve noticed that my students are increasingly attracted to blended products and experiences. They have smartphone apps to open their garage doors, and they buy food marketed as sustainable or shoes that double as a donation. Even personal experiences—having parents from different cultures, experiencing different cuisines—show how blending is influencing consumer behavior.
Marketers can take advantage of this trend by looking for blending opportunities in their brands’ outreach. Part of consumers’ readiness for blending derives from how global the world has become, especially given the rise of technology. Free apps like Skype, WhatsApp, and Viber make it possible to communicate worldwide in real time, and social media and other sharing sites expose people to events in literally every corner of the globe.
People young and old are no longer thinking or operating in silos, set categories, or boxes. So neither should your marketing.
How to Start Blending
Successful blending hinges on insight into what consumers are looking for and the prevailing technological and cultural trends that could make a blended product, service, or experience desirable. Once marketers have these insights, they can strategically decide how to evolve their brands.
Here are three tips to make blending work for your brand:
Look Before You Leap
Just as Seinfeld’s incisive observations and formulations made the show such a hit, businesses wanting to blend must meticulously study their target markets.
Smashing two concepts together doesn’t automatically make a successful blend and could actually render something your consumers hate. For instance, Frito-Lay created a Cheetos lip balm. Even though there might be a spot on a Venn diagram where lovers of Cheetos and haters of chapped lips cross, an intricate look at the market could’ve predicted that these were products best left apart.
Measuring reactions to a potential innovation before building a concept through efforts like focus groups is essential to successful blending.
Don’t Imitate; Do Understand
We know that consumers are open to blending, but a great way to hone the scope of innovation is to see what other blended products your consumers love. Then, start your development there.
Tesla, for example, set a new standard for the automobile by merging technology with sustainability. Moreover, it created a car that has transformed how consumers think about transportation. If your consumer base aligns with the Tesla market, consider ways you could blend your own technology with environmental-friendliness.
That said, buy-in is easier to achieve these days given consumers’ willingness for blending, which should embolden you to take chances on insight-driven innovations.
Blend What You Know
Blending-based innovations can take your brand to a new level. But new product development is always riskier than revising an existing product, and you may find that your new products, services, or experiences have more footing in the marketplace when those innovations involve uniting concepts your consumers already value.
When Taco Bell and Frito-Lay got together in 2012 to create the Doritos Locos Taco, they sold 100 million units in the first 10 weeks, according to Fast Company. Once the first Doritos Locos Taco was a hit, the companies felt more freedom to variate the theme, creating Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos and Flamas Doritos Locos Tacos. Still, and although a Doritos-based taco shell is novel, the product’s initial success was founded on blending two known and widely popular commodities.
While Seinfeld didn’t discover that low talkers can be painful to endure or that double-dipping chips is gross, it reframed those singularities into global experiences that audiences worldwide find funny. Blended products, services, and experiences help us see the world in a new light and find the familiar in something new. But only when these blends rely on insights into the micro- and macro-level trends driving purchasing behaviors and decisions and consumer conversations do they drive a brand’s success.
What successes have you had with blending? What potential do you see in creating a blended product or experience for your customers? Tell me about what you’re envisioning in the comments.