A fresh for 2018 continuum for you: The Blitzkrieg / Bohemian peak-end continuum. When you’ve got to make a quick point that sticks? Blitzkrieg. When you’ve got to take someone on an emotional journey to make your point? Bohemian. And like so many roads, this one leads back to Daniel Kahneman.
In a 1996 experiment, Kahneman and friends studied colonoscopy recipients, having them rate their procedure minute by minute, and then offer a final assessment after completion. Sounds fun, right? Intuitively, we might say that we remember an experience by how we felt about it on average. Actually, we remember an experience by what we now know as “the peak-end rule.”
The rule says that we judge an experience based on how we feel at its peak and its end. The peak can be good or bad, it’s just defined as the most intense point. The end is self-explanatory, and in case you’re wondering, the length of the experience doesn’t really matter (that’s called “duration neglect”).
Once you’re aware of it, you’ll see the peak-end rule everywhere. How was your morning coffee? Do you remember the first smell and gulp and then putting the mug in the dishwasher, or do you remember all of the individual sips from start to finish? What’d you think of that movie? Remember the climax and then how you felt walking out of the theater, or do you remember every time you fidgeted in your seat? Pretty weird, right?
If we know that the rule defines how we judge experiences, then how can we better engineer the experiences we’re creating for others? This goes back to the flywheel. If the product creates the relationship, and the relationship draws the person into the ecosystem, then how can we use the peak-end rule to tilt the odds of recurrent success in our favor?
In “The Power of Moments” by Chip and Dan Heath (h/t Preston and Stig), they explain that “defining moments” are characterized by some combination of the following traits: elevation (they “pop”), insight (there’s a twist), pride (they capture us at our best), and connection (they’re social). If we want the relationship forged by a moment with a product or within our ecosystem to be both memorable in meaningful, we need to heed their advice.
Now you’re ready for the Blitzkrieg / Bohemian peak-end continuum.
“Blitzkrieg Bop” by the Ramones is 2 minutes of pop-punk glory. “Hey ho, let’s go,” is the drum and vocal minimalist chant that creates a ramp for the elevation when all of the instruments join. The gang vocal of “let’s go,” is prideful and collective – you’re in the group, you’re coming with us, and this is exciting. The next time you need to make a quick experience memorable and meaningful for someone, think “blitzkrieg.” It hits all at once, it gets the point across, and you walk away with the hook, smiling and tapping it out.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen is 6 minutes of operatic prog-rock. The song has multiple sections, styles, and guitar solos. It’s epic in the truest sense of the word. The next time you’re settling in for a longer-form pitch, think “Bohemian.” The a capella vocals at the beginning lure you in. You build through the ballad, hear the story of “mama,” and melt into the guitar solo off of “I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all.” Every section raising the stakes a bit further than the last. And then it happens. Suddenly, we drop to the quarter notes bouncing on the piano. This is the Heath brother’s “insight” factor. Wayne’s World caught it. The operatic, “I see a little silhouette of a man” section builds tension upon tension through voices (one voice / many voice), textures (harmonious /dissonant), and dynamics (loud/soft) after coming out of nowhere. The tension builds until “Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me….” and we peak with the guitar solo and the socially unified head-banging, which drops us off on the emotional conclusion where “nothing really matters to me / anyway the wind blows.” It may be 6 minutes, but you know the peak, and you know the feeling of absolution you walk away with. How many long meetings, calls, or sessions capture THAT arc?
With a little effort, we can engineer moments to improve upon the relationships people have with a product and then an ecosystem. All it takes is care and attention. For the short product hits, go Blitzkrieg, for the longer ecosystem builders, go Bohemian. Anyway the wind blows, let’s go.