When I was in France last month, I noticed something that was different from here. Well, actually many things, like for instance everybody spoke French, but this post is about just one of them: when you push the “Close Doors” button in elevators there, the doors actually close! Immediately! I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but the same is not true here in North America. As far as I can tell, pushing the Close Doors button here has absolutely no effect on when the doors actually close. (Although the “Open Doors” button works just fine.)
I’m sure there’s a good reason for this – probably somehow safety-related or something. But if the Close Doors button is useless here in North America, why even have it? My theory is that it gives the elevator rider the illusion that they have control. Being in control is a very good feeling, and one that marketers would do well to try and provide to their audiences. Unfortunately, most marketing up until now has been about taking control away from the audience.
If you were in control of your web experience, would you have pop-up ads? If you were in control of your e-mail, would you ask for 100 Viagra emails per day? If you were in control of your TV, would you have commercials? Most of us would say, “no,” and that’s why we have pop-up blockers, spam filters, and TiVo.
But if we can make our message so compelling that people will ASK for it, and search for it, and come and get it, then we’re doing our customers a service, not annoying them. We’re letting THEM push the button, and we give them what they expect (or more) when they do it.
A slightly-related, probably apocryphal story: Apparently, in the early days of skyscrapers, a man who was building one visited the nearly-complete structure. He rode to the top floor on the elevator and said to the project engineer, “This is unacceptable! That trip takes far too long! Make this elevator go faster!”
The engineer puzzled over how to overcome this challenge. It was unsafe or prohibitively expensive to actually make the car speed up. Nonetheless, when the building owner visited the site the following week, he found the ride to the top noticeably shorter and complimented the engineer.
The engineer had made only one change to the elevator – he had installed mirrors on the walls.