What a subway emergency exit has to do with word of mouth.

One of those things that drives me nuts about riding the subway is the people who exit through the emergency exit doors, setting off that horrific alarm.

Like we don’t have enough noise in this city already?  And you can read, right?  It says “Emergency Exit.”  Last I checked, a lot of people going through the turnstiles doesn’t qualify as an alarm inducing emergency.

Ugh. Drives me nuts.  Almost as much as people who don’t use turn signals.

But a lot of people walk through those doors.  So many now, that it’s the norm.  And as much as it drives me crazy, the users of the NYC Subway have set their pattern of use . . . and my suggestion to the MTA is to adopt a new system (that’ll save us the screeching siren) because their customers aren’t using their product the way they wanted or intended.

They continue to try and force them, but that’s not working out for anyone.

When a product is launched, the creators have an idea of how people are going to use it and what they’ll like . . . but the fact is, you never know until that product is entrenched in the market.

Perfect example – my iPhone commercial.

For those of you who don’t know, I was lucky enough to be featured in one of the very first iPhone commercials (you can see it here).  Shooting it was one of the coolest experiences of my life.  It was directed by the documentary film master Errol Morris, who used his famous interrotron for the interviews.  And it was a commercial by Apple, so for me, watching them work was like a kid who wanted to be an astronaut going to space camp.

In the middle of shooting the close ups of my hand and the phone (they gave me a manicure before the shot!), I started manipulating the phone around with my hand and I heard this convo in the background . . .

Apple Marketing Guy:  Tell him to turn it the other way.

Errol:  Why?

Apple Marketing Guy:  Just tell him.  He has to turn it the other way.

Now at this point, I start freakin’ out.  I’m gonna get fired.  And I don’t know if I can turn it another way.  It continued.

Errol:  I’m not telling him that.  It looks fine.

Apple Marketing Guy:  You have to.  That’s not the way to turn it.

Errol:  But that’s what he’s doing.  So who cares?

Apple Marketing Guy:  Look.  Steve wants the consumer to . . .

Errol:  Agh! I’ve told Steve you can’t tell the customer how to use the product!  But fine . . .

Now, look, this was a tense moment and I didn’t know what was going on, and I’ll admit that my first thought was, “Who the heck is this Steve guy and if he thinks I should turn it a certain way then why isn’t he here?”

And then I realized . . .”Oh.  That Steve.”

I got a talking to, and I figured out how to turn the phone.  And fortunately, I was one of only 6 or so people featured in those commercials (and they shot hundreds).  I found out later that Steve (aka Mr. Jobs to me) had to personally approve each and every one of those commercials, and although I never had the pleasure of meeting him, I just love the fact that he said yes to me. 🙂

But, as Errol pointed out, he was wrong about forcing me to use the phone “his” way.  And a couple years later he got a lot of flack for it when he told the world that they were holding the phones wrong which was why they were dropping calls.

Your users, your audience, they are going to tell you what you’ve created, and they are going to use it the way they want, and most importantly for theater producers, they are going to talk about it the way they want.

If you want them to talk about the music, and they talk about the star?  Tough.

If you want them to talk about the star, and they talk about the set?  Get used to it.

Sure, you can try to Steve Jobs-it and manipulate your marketing (and my hand) to try and get people to say what you want them to say, or you can do the reverse . . . listen to what they are saying, listen to what they are doing, and market or make that.

Oh, and please use your turn signal.  It really helps speed up traffic when you do.  And you’ll decrease my blood pressure at the same time.


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