What’s your lagniappe?

My good friend Paul Chaney recently introduced me to the joys of lagniappe, a term popular in Louisiana where Paul lives. As Paul explained, a lagniappe (pronounced LAN-yap) is a “something extra” you give to another person in order to surprise and delight — for instance, you plan a dinner with your wife to celebrate her birthday, and then during dinner you surprise her with tickets to a play. I believe a lagniappe can also create a happy customer, too, as a recent experience of my own shows.

My family and I were in southern Illinois last weekend to explore the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. After driving for more than four hours from the Chicago area, we arrived at the Doubletree Hotel in Collinsville (just northeast of St. Louis) on an unseasonably warm October afternoon. The hotel lobby looked clean and was attractively appointed, but I expect cleanliness from a Doubletree. When I checked in at the front desk, a smiling clerk named Ricardo asked me how many people were in my party.

“Three,” I replied. “Just me, my wife, and my daughter.”

Ricardo then presented me with three warm chocolate chip walnut cookies, each tucked into tiny paper bags.

Thank you for the lagniappe moment, Ricardo.

You don’t need to spend much money or effort to give someone a lagniappe, but surprise and delight are essential. When Cinderella signs your daughter’s autograph book during your family visit to the Magic Kingdom, Disney has certainly brightened your day — but I would not categorize the experience as a lagniappe because the possibility of an encounter with Cinderella is understood to be part of the price of admission. But if Cinderella also gave you and your daughter an invitation for a free dinner at Cinderella’s Royal Table restaurant when she signed your daughter’s autograph book, well, then, Cinderella would be giving your family one heck of a lagniappe. And consider this extraordinary Disney moment as told by customer relations consultant Chris Anthony in Guy Kawasaki’s book Enchantment:

We were on our honeymoon at Walt Disney World in 2007, staying at a non-Disney hotel. The previous night, a member of the hotel staff attempted to break into our room. The management’s response was, “You should have deadbolted the door.” We were both shaken and scared all day; we barely saw the park we went to. Then we went to dinner at Jiko, at the [Disney] Animal Kingdom Lodge.

While we waited, we told Sarah, the restaurant manager on duty, about what had happened. She asked us to wait and disappeared through a staff-only door. When she came back, she had room keys and said, “Cancel your rooms at the other hotel. We’ll match its price for you here at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. That was unacceptable.”

Our honeymoon could have been ruined by the offending staff member. Instead, Sarah, on behalf of Walt Disney World, turned it into something amazing. We’ve never forgotten — and we’re never staying anywhere else.

Chris and his wife went to Jiko for a dinner and got an incredible lodging upgrade for dessert. I think Disney delivered a bona fide lagniappe to Chris Anthony.

The beauty of a lagniappe is that you can gain a loyal customer for life with one small, inexpensive gesture (note Chris’s comment “we’re never staying anywhere else”). We are so conditioned for indifferent service by airlines, banks, telephony providers, and high-tech firms that it doesn’t take much to surprise and delight — just a little humanity.

What’s a lagniappe you’ve experienced? What’s a lagniappe you’ve given to someone else?

Music I like: “Get 2 You” by ILL Son


“Get 2 You” by ILL Son is sweet. The song evokes hip hop and urban contemporary (for some reason I thought of “Knockin’ Da Boots by H-Town when I first heard this song).

When you listen to “Get 2 You,” you feel a sense of urgency for ILL Son to get the girl (”life is like sports with many short careers”), which suggests “Just Wanna Love You Tonight” by the Average White Band. You don’t know if ILL Son will succeed, and I like that.

Here is what ILL Son told me about the song: “The inspiration for writing the song came from my real life experience — a life altering relationship that has brought forth not only the song but the basis of my entire project, ILLSONOMICS= THE STUDY OF WOMAN THRU A MUSICAL PERSPECTIVE.

ILL Son

ILL Son, who is based in Atlanta, shared “Get 2 You” on Global 14 — a social community run by Jermaine Dupri and a hotbed of hip hop. Check out Global 14 and follow ILL Son on Twitter @ill_son.

Al Davis: American badass

Why should you care about Al Davis, the maverick Oakland Raiders owner who passed away October 8 at the age of 82? Because not only did Al Davis create one of the greatest badass brands of all time with the Oakland Raiders of the National Football League, he was a badass. The ethos of the Raiders silver and black has had an enormous cross-over appeal in American culture, informing the tastes of a diverse demographic ranging from urban rap artists to middle-class suburbanites.

Through his actions and his style of marketing, Al Davis epitomized brand authenticity.

Al Davis is best remembered for his take-no-prisoners “Just win, baby” style of running the Oakland Raiders in the 1970s and for the slicked-backed hair and dark sunglasses that made him look like a cross between a greaser and Darth Vader. But he had been part of professional football since 1960 (at one point being head coach and general manager of Continue reading

Where were you when Steve Jobs died?

Where were you when Steve Jobs died, and how did you hear the news?

I was snacking on pot stickers with my family at my sister-in-law’s apartment last night when I noticed my Facebook status feed exploding with reports about the death of Steve Jobs — news reported by citizen journalists like you and me. For me, the flood of information began with a simple “RIP Steve Jobs” from my iCrossing colleague Kristen Deye (which I read on my Apple iPhone), followed quickly by an overwhelming number of hastily written tributes and some occasional “iSads” status updates from many other Facebook friends.

Within seconds, my friend John Hensler and I were texting each other personal reactions on our iPhones. Ironically, hours earlier, John and I had collaborated on a blog post about why we were not upgrading to the iPhone 4S — and ours was just one post amid a flurry of commentary that is inevitable when Apple, the world’s most powerful news maker, has something to share.

As an afterthought, I checked CNN’s coverage of his death, but I was more interested in the raw, real-time outpouring of emotion from everyday people — friends like Andrea Harrison, who wrote on her Facebook wall, “We lost a visionary tonight”; Roger Wong, who blogged about how Steve Jobs changed his life, Lisa M. Blacker, who (like many others) posted a YouTube video of a Stanford commencement address delivered by Steve Jobs in 2005; or Sam Decker, who shared on Facebook a photo of the desk Sam used on his first job out of college — a desk littered with Apple equipment.

As my friend Augie Ray wrote on his Facebook wall, “It’s really kind of touching to see virtually every tweet and post be about Steve Jobs. True influence isn’t measured in Twitter followers.”

Later that evening, iCrossing CEO Don Scales sent a heart-felt email to all employees discussing his reaction to Steve Jobs’s passing away, and he also tweeted, “What an amazing person. Steve Jobs. No one is worthy. No one.” I read Don’s communiqué (as well as a blog post by Seth Godin) on my work-supplied Apple MacBook Pro while my daughter sat next to me writing a short story on her MacBook and listened to music on her iPod Shuffle.

We can’t all be visionaries like Steve Jobs was. But we can create great experiences for other people as he did. The company that Steve Jobs turned into one of the greatest brands in history is embedded in my home and work life (as it probably is for you or someone you know) because Apple puts people first. I want to remember Steve Jobs by putting people first.

Meantime, it will be interesting to see how the brand that was embodied by Steve Jobs evolves without him.

So where were you when Steve Jobs died?

Note: you can share your own thoughts about Steve Jobs by emailing rememberingsteve@apple.com.

The case against the Apple iPhone 4S

Should you upgrade for an iPhone 4S? It’s certainly tempting – but my family can’t afford to upgrade each time a new Apple product hits the market, especially if we’re going to make room in our budget for my purchase of Pink Floyd Immersion box sets. To guide our decision making, I sought the advice of someone whose opinions you and I should trust: John Hensler, owner of Sunken Anchor Media. I don’t purchase any consumer electronics without consulting John. He not only enjoys products by Apple (and other brands) as a consumer – he needs them to perform well as a business owner. Here’s John’s take, contributed as a guest opinion to Superhype:

I have decided to skip the 4S purchase.  The new camera is enticing, but I think I’ll wait for the “real” iPhone 5, whenever that is.  I bet it’s not a year from now.

I don’t want to be locked into another AT&T contract for another two years when my current one will be up in June of 2012.  Who knows, Apple might go back to the schedule of introducing new phones during the summer. Especially with Sprint now a carrier, there will be more competition and choice among providers

I’ve read a few articles from analysts who think the 4S is a stopgap phone to make sure that Apple has fresh product for the holiday season.  I think that’s about right.  At any rate, I’m really quite happy with the 4, and with the launch of the new Apple iOS 5 operating system, it should be great. Apple iOS 5 is impressive on the iPad; I’m sure it will be that way on the iPhone.

Besides, when the next iPad comes out — probably next March or April — it will likely have a retina display, and I’ll want to have one of those for sure. I’ll give my current iPad to my mom.  So I have to budget out my “iPurchases.”

Wise words. In my case, I need to consider two iPhone upgrades (for my wife and me) and any impact on our family phone plan with AT&T. And, it won’t be long before I need to think of our daughter owning an iPhone. I’m sitting tight. How about you?

Hanging out with the Black Eyed Peas

Well, I did not exactly hang out with will.i.am and the Black Eyed Peas – just with the scores of fans who responded to will.i.am’s open invitation to participate in a Black Eyed Peas Google+ Hangout at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time before a September 30 show at Central Park. The experience promised to give fans backstage access to the Black Eyed Peas through the power of the Google Plus Hangouts feature (through which people can schedule the equivalent of video chats with their Google Plus friends). After the Hangout, you could witness the actual concert through a webcam onstage. The September 30 Black Eyed Peas Hangout, although imperfect, was an intriguing approach to using technology to build brand in the entertainment world.

As will.i.am commented during the Hangout (which I watched on a YouTube replay), “I don’t think anybody has had a one-to-many webcam interactive experience like this with fans before and during a show.”

Continue reading