The other day as I lay prone on the sofa flipping through channels I happened upon “When Harry Met Sally.” The last 30 minutes of “When Harry Met Sally.”
Now I’ve seen this movie so many times I feel as if I not only assisted in writing the script but also hung out during filming and gave notes to the actors, picked out the set decorations, and had a hand in Meg Ryan’s wardrobe. I can sing along to every song on the Harry Connick Jr. infused soundtrack. I laugh at the same lines (every time) and usually tear up, right on cue, at the end.
So, naturally, I settled in and re-watched the ending. One more time.
I am, as American University Professor of Marketing Cristell Russell calls it, a “re-consumer.”
In research published by the Journal of Consumer Research, Russell and co-author Sidney Levy (marketing professor at the University of Arizona) explored the motivation of people who go on vacation to the same place year after year, re-watch their favorite TV shows and movies, and re-read the same book over and over again. (note: my top book is Thorpe; I’ve done an annual re-read for at least 30 years).
The authors explored the drivers of re-consumption as well as the psychological and experiential aspects. “We interviewed people in New Zealand and America to determine why they chose to repeat their behavior,” Russell has stated. “We determined that that re-consumption behaviors serve five main purposes: regressive, progressive, reconstructive, relational, and reflective. The reasoning that people had for their repeat behaviors was far more complex than simply nostalgia. For people to take time out of their busy lives to do something over and over again, the motivations required were usually deep-seated and poignant.”
Some people, it turned out, re-consume due to familiarity; their brain signals to them exactly what sort of reward they’ll receive in the end whether that be a good cry, laughter, or relaxation. Others return for a do-over because, subconsciously, they’re using the activity as a measuring stick for their own life. When re-consuming in this manner, a person mentally categorizes the changes they’ve experienced since the first time they sat, as an example, in a darkened theatre watching the WHMS “I’ll have what she’s having” scene.
While people might re-consume unpleasant things (perhaps inadvertently or against their will) they’ll also return over and over and over again to those things that serve a deeper purpose. They may repeat these consumer activities due to affection (“I always watch any Law & Order episode with Chris Noth!”), nostalgia (“Hey honey…this is ‘our song’!”) or for therapeutic reasons (“When I need a good cry I watch “Steel Magnolias”)
Now think about this from an HR perspective; it ties directly into the true brand of the employment experience and the corporate culture at an organization.
If increased retention and higher engagement (as examples) are desired outcomes at your company, then here’s another lesson to take from our friends in marketing.
Speak to the hearts and minds of your employees and they might, just might, continue to buy what you’re selling.
“Baby fish mouth!” Jess (Bruno Kirby)