The theory of Aladdin’s lamp in customer experience

I assume that most of you will know the story of Aladdin and his magic lamp. As a big Disney fan, I must confess that Aladdin is one of my favourite films. If you haven’t seen it, the story is fairly easy to summarise. Aladdin finds a dirty old lamp and gives it a polish. A genie appears from the lamp and promises to fulfil any three wishes that Aladdin might have.

Tell me your first wish!

What would you do if you had the good fortune to find a lamp like that? Before you let your enthusiasm run away with you, there are one or two rules you will need to observe. You cannot ask for more than three wishes. And you cannot ask the genie to make someone fall in love with you or to bring someone back from the dead. Other than that, you are free to fulfil any of the many dreams you might have, up to a maximum of three. Just imagine it! You find your lamp, you give it a quick rub and a genie appears with the wonderful news that you have three wishes. So what would you choose? What would be your first wish?

During the past year, I have asked thousands of people this question during my presentations. People from every continent, every level of the management ladder and every age group, from sixteen to sixty. But no matter where I ask the question or who I ask it to, the answer for everyone is nearly always the same.

 

And you? What would it be, that first wish?

 

Something for yourself?

Something for your family, friends or children?

Something that solves one of the world’s major problems?

 

The results of my real-life research were conclusive: roughly 95 per cent of people would choose something for themselves or for their family, friends or children. Just 5 per cent want to solve a major world problem as their first priority. I am fascinated by this outcome. Everybody is always talking about the challenges facing the world and how we all need to contribute towards solving them. But once the genie is out of the bottle, we all seem to develop instant amnesia. We could solve all the world’s health problems. We could end the famine in Yemen and the war in Syria. We could eradicate world poverty. But no, as soon as we have the choice we opt for something that has a more direct impact on our own little lives. Not that there is anything wrong with that, of course. That is just the way people are. We think first about ourselves, and only then about the world.

 

Work your way up!

The Offer You Can’t Refuse model only works in a single direction: bottom-up.

As a quick reminder, the offer you can’t refuse model consists of four layers: a good product/price/service, followed by the ultimate digital convenience, being a partner in life for your customers and saving the world. The combination of a good offering on each of those levels creates an offer people can’t refuse.

If you want to be successful, you first need a perfectly functioning interface. After that, you can start thinking about the life of your customers. And after that, you can start thinking about saving the world. This can be frustrating for many of the NGOs. People who work for these organisations often say to me: ‘But Steven, we are trying to improve the world, we are at the very top of your model. So why are things not working the way we hoped?’ The answer to this question is to be found at bottom of the model: ‘You make it too difficult for people to donate money to your organisations. The effort required from potential donors is just too great. As a result, you only attract donors who are truly motivated by your work. All the others drop out. For them, it’s just too much bother.’ In other words, doing good for the world is not enough; the other levels of the model are equally important.

This reflects the fact that there is always a huge gap between what people say and what they do. In recent years, many people in all walks of life have talked about the importance of the climate debate. But in reality, not everyone has made the same effort to try and make a positive contribution. We all know that flying is bad for the environment, but our personal freedom (particularly if it means a holiday in the sun) is also important to us.

During the corona lockdown international air traffic was grounded, so that we were no longer able to fly. Everyone could see how nature benefited, once the level of human pollution was reduced. This positive effect was noticeable very quickly. Once the epidemic had started in China, the number of airline passengers fell dramatically, even though at that time planes were still flying in many other parts of the world.

Conclusion? Before the corona crisis, mass communication about the climate and the harmful role played by air travel had not the slightest impact on our behaviour. But once there was a risk to our own personal health, people stated to change their behaviour almost overnight. I repeat: we think first about ourselves, and only then about the rest of the world.