Tina Sharkey's 5 Joy Factors

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How can you put customers' emotions to work for your brand? Tina Sharkey shares the results of her research on the topic.  By Jessica Stillman (Editor, Women 2.0)

Eighteen months ago, when Tina Sharkey left BabyCenter, she put herself on a self-imposed sabbatical. Why? She wanted to understand why she has been doing the work she had been doing and what business she wanted to be in in the future.

"I was in the joy business," she concluded after some soul searching, whether that meant bringing great television to viewers or helping women share their stories. This realization set her on a journey of understanding joy, emotion and the brain science behind it, as well as how brands can put these insights to use. Sharkey gave two recent examples of brands leveraging emotion well -from just yesterday.

Before her flight to Las Vegas, Sharkey grabbed a cup of coffee from Phil's Coffee, which is a coffee shop in San Francisco. Phil's may make excellent coffee, but they don't think they're in the coffee business. They are actually in the business of beautiful days, and making you feel someone lovingly prepared something to take care of you. She also grabbed an Uber. What she really loves about their service, she said, is the text message that she got telling her that her driver was pulling up and letting her click to learn more about him. It's an anxiety reducer and also makes customers feel loved.

So what are the principles that these brands are using to design emotion into their products are services? Sharkey offered five joy factors:

The Story Factor

"The art of the narrative is not an new idea," she said. There are entire industries around this. The challenge is to create stories everywhere. For example, BabyCenter has a feature that tells expectant moms the size of their growing baby using an analogy to a fruit or vegetable. It's BabyCenter's most talked about feature. She offered other examples of a brands that do narrative well: Lululemon and Dollar Shave Club. "What's your story?" she asked the audience and urged everyone to ponder and answer this question.

The Confidence Factor

Sharkey described this as living the four-star life, though she clarified this has nothing to do with luxury. Instead it's about how we decide what to do or buy. "The crowd is making so many decisions on our behalf, the crowd is helping us sort through everything from restaurants to an Uber driver," she said. We feel that the crowd has been there before us and is taking care of us.

The Social Factor

"It's not the fact I can post a photo on Facebook. What I'm addicted to... is when people like things," Sharkey pointed out. "What is it about getting retweeted that makes you feel so good?" Having others respond to our content this way feels like getting a hug, she said. We feel liked when people respond to what we're doing on social media.

The Surprise & Delight Factor

Everyone wants to feel like a VIP. Zappos, for instance, occasionally turns customers into a VIPs, overnighting their shoes to them when the logistics of the shipment make it possible. The text message they send announcing the good news though doesn't talk about planes and trucks, it focuses on making the customer feel delighted and special.

The Concierge Factor

Blue Apron doesn't just send you food, they sous chef the food, so all you have to do is cook it, not chop it or do other prep work. This super helpful service is the essence of the concierge factor. Netflix does something similar when it recommends movies for you.

Sharkey pulled all these five factors together to close with a few recommendations for brands:

  • Focus on reception, not conception. Extend beyond designing the product to thinking about the moment when the customer opens or experiences it.
  • Unlock the functional benefit, not just the function benefits
  • Design for validation
  • Always, always, always design for usefulness and smiles

How can you put the joy factor to work for you?

Jessica Stillman (@entrylevelrebel) is an editor at Women 2.0 and a freelance writer with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She writes a daily column for Inc.com, contributes regularly to Forbes and has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM and Brazen Careerist, among others.