When I was younger, I wrote a lot of letters. Most of them were to professional athletes. The pattern was always the same: Write a letter, stuff a baseball card or photo into the envelope, send it and wait. I was after one thing: a signature.
The majority of those envelopes were met with silence. But some came back, with a name scrawled in glorious black ink across the image. What was once a piece of cardboard was now a work of art; its signatory transformed from an athlete into an idol.
What’s in a name?
What is an autograph? Why do we place such value on the signing of a name?
It’s not the scribble of a sharpie on the photo that instantly multiplies its value. Nor is it the signature, the shape of the words, or the style of the writing. In fact, if someone else were to make the exact same marking, with the exact same marker, the photo would be defaced and plummet in value.
The value of the autograph is not in the signature, the photo, or the marker. The gold comes from the fact that someone paid enough attention to participate in an experience.
While we’re on this philosophical trip, let’s take this a bit further…
You can’t duplicate authenticity
What if we wanted to duplicate our prized signed photo? Fire up the photocopiers and produce an identical clone. This one is easy and obvious – the copy is completely devoid of all value.
Yet if our super famous celebrity signed two identical photos, each is granted the hallowed magical status.
Collectors refer to this as authenticity. You can’t photocopy attention, you can’t duplicate a moment. The interactions have to be unique.
The moral of the story
All of the fuss that we make about autographs boils down to this:
We place incredible value on authentically unique moments of attention paid by individuals of perceived importance.
The value is entirely in the interaction. The actual signature simply serves as proof that it occurred.
Put your signature to work
Here are some thoughts on how to apply this to your business:
We’re all stars, sometimes. You don’t have to make movies or sing pop songs to be important. In the time of need… at the point of sale…in moments of confusion, your importance skyrockets. To someone whose cable was broken, Frank Eliason might as well have been a super hero.
Be on high alert – Keep your eyes and ears open for moments where your attention can increase your value. Twitter search and google alerts get all the fame these days – but giving people attention is equally valuable in your store or on the street.
Sign authentically. Every time - People can detect a fraud from a mile away. Even if you’re answering the same question for the hundredth time, don’t hand out photocopies. Value requires authenticity. Blue Sky Factory does a great job creating authentic customer experiences.
Grow more arms – Chris Brogan talks about growing bigger ears. But that’s only half of the equation. Signing autographs all day long takes energy. It takes strength. It takes time. To finish the play authentically, as the number of potential interactions increase, organizations have to grow more arms.
How much time and money is your organization spending on becoming famous?
Are you putting an equal amount of thought into what is happens when you get there?