Friction: A book review by Bob Morris

Friction: How Passion Brands Are Built in the Age of Digital Distribution
Jeff Rosenblum and Jordan Berg
Powerhouse Books (May 2017)

Example of positive friction: You can’t sharpen a sword blade on velvet

Friction can be either positive as the title of this brief commentary suggests, or, it can be negative. To which does this book’s title refer? According to Jeff Rosenblum and Jordan Berg, “Friction is anything that gets in the way of what people want to accomplish, preventing them from doing what they want to do. It’s an interruption that delays or distracts them from their goal. Consumers don’t want to be disrupted any more. They want brands to solve their problems. When brands remove friction, they create [what Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell characterize as] evangelists, who are fundamentally more influential than paid advertising.”

As I read this passage, I was again reminded of the results of countless surveys that indicate that customers rank “easy to do business with” among what they consider most important as is “feeling appreciated.” Success for most companies depends on repeat business, and, referrals from customers.

What is a “passion brand”? Rosenblum and Jordan Berg: “It is one that people love at an almost irrational level. It’s the brand that gets tattooed on customers’ arms. It’s the brand that creates impassioned conversations around the dinner table. It’s the brand that charges exorbitant prices, yet produces unwavering loyalty. They do this by helping customers fulfill their dreams and aspirations. That’s what fighting friction is all about.” Rosenblum and Berg present information, insights, and counsel that will help their readers avoid or eliminate anything that prevents a customer from becoming or remaining passionately loyal to the given company.

Whenever I conduct a seminar or workshop on that process, I cite a scene near the conclusion of the film Spartacus when the gladiators who remain are given a choice: identify Spartacus or his body and live (albeit enslaved) or refuse and be crucified along the road to Rome. Immediately one after another, the defeated warriors stand up and announce “I am Spartacus!” Today, that affirmation would be “I am Container Store!”

That is the spirit of those who interact with customers at companies annually ranked among those most admired and best to work for. It is no coincidence that these same companies are also annually ranked among those most profitable with the greatest cap value.

Organizations will need both types of friction in the months and years ahead, to sharpen their brand’s competitive edge but also to minimize (if not eliminate) barriers to developing and then sustaining a mutually beneficial relationship with customers, to be sure, but also with everyone else who are essential to the health of their enterprise.

I congratulate Jeff Rosenblum and Jordan Berg on a brilliant achievement. Bravo!

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