Today is Shrove Tuesday, better known as Pancake Tuesday. It is a strange ritual and celebration, seemingly confined to commonwealth countries, which will culminate in millions of pancakes being made, flipped, dropped and eaten (even the dropped ones!).
It is an odd day. Every year it falls on a different date as it always precedes Ash Wednesday, the day the Christian Lent begins. The story goes that if Jesus could wander around the desert for 40 days and 40 nights denying himself all manner of things, then you should be able to give up chocolate, crisps or your Xbox for the 6 weeks prior to Easter too. Self-denial is good for the soul, apparently.
Did Jesus Like Pancakes?
Now what pancakes had to do with all this I always struggled with. Perhaps before Jesus strapped on his sandals for his desert road-trip, his mum had insisted he gorge up on Nutella and Maple Syrup … who knows? Unlikely as it would have ended up in a very sticky hipster beard on his part.
It turns out that the actual tradition is based around using up the foods that you would be denying yourself during lent. Fats (butter) and sugars. Various other religions have similar traditions pre- or post-fasting. A full-on gorge to prepare or celebrate the successful fast. And so it is, pancakes and Easter eggs now book end the modern day Christian Lenten festival. Of course, today many just eat the pancakes and chocolate without observing the middle ‘fasting’ bit! Such are the modern times we live in.
So today, for the day that is in it, I think it only appropriate to learn from the simple pancake. It has much to teach us.
5 things your business can learn from making pancakes
1. SIEVE FOR LUMPS
Those of you who have made pancake batter know too well there is nothing more disappointing than lumps of flour sitting in your pancake. Good batter is beaten until it is smooth. From a Customer Experience (CX) perspective, a ‘lump’ is that moment a customer experiences something wrong in your product delivery. It is the moment the call centre operator fails to convey empathy with their issue, the moment the self-service checkout refuses to acknowledge your existence or the moment you scream as your verified by Visa fails for the 3rd time. Pain is not a welcome moment in any customer journey and frictionless is what we all need to strive for at every turn.
Recently I came across an exciting new business called www.pixelpin.io, allowing users to simply tap any 4 points on a chosen image as their user ID/ password for any app or account. Soon the days of the pin, user name and password will be gone. Good riddance to those lumps.
2. PUSH PAST THE BASIC INGREDIENTS
Milk, Eggs, Flour and a little Salt. Those are the ingredients for pancakes. Mix them up in the right quantities and you have your batter ready to cook. But if I fed my kids plain pancakes there would be a mutiny. Who wants to eat a plain pancake? The pancake surely is just a canvas onto which you can let your sugar desires run wild? While a squirt of lemon and sugar might satisfy some, others go all out. Nutella, whipped cream, ice-cream, strawberries, maple syrup, bananas, blueberries, bacon, and chocolate sprinkles… and that’s just on their first one!
Don’t get trapped into thinking that whatever product or service you sell is what the customer wants. Sometimes that is just the basics. The brands that are succeeding today are the ones that are continuously adding new elements to what they do. It is Amazon opening its’ cashier-less convenience stores, it is Uber Eats delivering your food, it is Air BnB selling tourist related activities in the city you have travelled to or facilitating group payments. Sometimes brands forget they need to be more Nutella and less flour & eggs.
3. PREPARE TO FLIP
Most of the fun around pancakes involves trying to flip them in the pan. The subsequent ‘stuck to the ceiling’ or ‘dropped on the floor’ moment is always entertaining. Like everything, there is a knack, one that you don’t learn until you have failed many times!
In today’s disruptive world, every business needs to be ready for the FLIP. Whatever business model has been successful for you in the past, prepare to be side-swiped. Things are being continuously turned on their heads, often by a single product. Remember, 85% of the entire market capitalisation of the GPS industry was wiped out only 18-months after Google Maps was launched. One App and there goes an industry.
The brands and businesses that will succeed long term in today’s fast pace of change are those that are practicing the flip today. They are looking at where things might go, the forces that may challenge their business and preparing for them. My advice is to start a few practice flips before you are called on for the main event!
4. INSPIRATION LEADS TO CHANGE
Many people will serve up boring pancakes today, traditional toppings lacking in imagination. Without any other input, it is in our nature as humans to revert to the routine, the habits that have worked well in the past. Again, similar to the disruption point above, such an approach does not bode well for surviving a future peppered with change.
If you want a shopper in a supermarket to buy more impulse items today, then show them some pancakes with indulgent toppings. A glossy appetising image is all that it will take. Strawberries, cream and grated chocolate. Or blueberries, crispy bacon and crème fraiche (and a heart attack?). As humans, we react to inspiring images and prompts. Most supermarkets will have large displays of Nutella and flour/eggs today, but few will offer strong recipe inspiration in-store. If they did, they would sell more items.
And so it is with all brands and businesses. Sometimes we think our jobs are done when we have designed and brought our product to market. No. It is only the beginning. It is up to YOU to inspire and excite your shoppers to engage and use your product. It is up to YOU to delight shoppers with the life possibilities that could be theirs through buying what you are selling. Inspire shoppers and they will buy. Expect them to inspire themselves and they will not.
5. FOCUS ON THE FUN
Ultimately as referred to earlier, pancakes are about the fun. The idea that instead of a boring meat and vegetable dinner, kids will come home to tasty pancakes is delightful. That the flipping will go horrendously wrong is part of the delight. Marshmallows and melted chocolate dribbling down chins. Sticky fingers and stuffed tummies, the ‘how many did you eat’ challenge running around schools tomorrow.
Whatever your business, fun is what you need to foster. It is engaging, demands a consumer response and makes people smile. Tears of laughter and joy create powerful memories. Every brand should have a Fun & Laughter Director I think, their only job to engage with customers in a way that makes them smile.
I’ve always liked this ‘Hearing Hands’ Samsung campaign focused around their Hearing-Impaired product launch. The actors had fun and the customer embraced it. Fun can be emotional too, you know!
So, this Pancake Tuesday, even if you have never celebrated before, I suggest you go home and get creative. Apron on, prepare for a messy kitchen and sticky fingers. My daughter once asked me to make her an Olaf pancake …. “sure” I said. I mean how hard could it be?
It turns out, beyond my capabilities! Ah well … it’s good to learn your limitations too!
HAPPY PANCAKE TUESDAY!
Ken Hughes is one of the worlds leading Shopper and Consumer Behaviouralists, blending his vast expertise in consumer psychology, social & digital anthropology, behavioural economics and neuromarketing to answer the question to which he has dedicated most of his career: Why do shoppers buy and how can we make them buy more? Click here to read more
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