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Conversational Capital: E.P.O.

Posted on January 29, 2009 and read 1,709 times

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As part of our full review of Conversational Capital for ihaveanidea, what follows is an explanation of the second engine illustrated in greater detail in the book – Exclusive Product Offering (EPO). In a nutshell, EPO is about letting consumers create an experience that emphasizes and actualizes their individuality.

People often become vocal, committed advocates of a consumer experience when that consumer experience means something to them. The most meaningful of those experiences might even become part of their own personal narratives. These personal stories are currency in the modern world, perhaps even the most valuable currency given the current financial crisis.

We love to feel unique, and rely on stories to define ourselves and project ourselves to others. When a brand story becomes part of our own narrative, the brand’s value increases exponentially. The authors note this behaviour as putting the “capital” in Conversational Capital.

EPO is about experiences that stick in our minds because they remind us we are individuals. Quite often driven by customization: the more an experience belongs to you and you alone, the more compelling it will be—and the more you will tend to share it with others.


Over-delivery is an important subset of EPO. It’s an experience that goes beyond consumer expectations and industry norms, making the experience unique for each consumer.

“It’s what happens when brands make an experience feel special by going much further than they have to in terms of customer satisfaction. Over-delivery occurs when consumer experiences include features that anticipate needs and desires consumers haven’t even thought they would want but end up loving. In the end, it can be understood as an attitude: the desire to be the best and keep improving, just for the sake of it.”

The success of over-delivery depends on knowing how to listen and how to find opportunities to surprise and delight your customers. Feeling that your object of desire has been designed specifically for you, or in some distinct personal way, consumers are giving the ability to claim an experience as their own, that object becomes more salient. The residual value of that product or service is increased when you, as an individual, are satisfied in a unique and memorable way.

As with every Engine of Conversational Capital the goal is to increase Salience, Resonance and Residual value from any effort to get your stuff talked about.
(definitions from the book below)


Brands and the experiences they render derive their power from salience—from being noticeable and important by virtue of the fact that they hold deep meaning for individuals.


Resonance occurs when sound vibrates more deeply. Resonant experiences are those that strike a deeper chord with consumers because they provoke us to explore, think, act, and talk. They have residual value.

Residual value

Interactions typical of Conversational Capital demonstrate residual value—that is, a quality of being at the forefront of thought even after the immediate encounter ends. That value is leveraged as a currency in the form of conversations that color the identities of their participants.

EPO Examples

Starbucks is a huge, mainstream phenomenon. On the surface, you might mistakenly think that it’s a glaring example of homogeneity. Like so many others, it offers a variation on “good, consistent coffee.” Yet it provides a leading example of mass customization and, therefore, EPO. Stand in line at a Starbucks, and you notice that few customers order the same thing. The nonfat caramel-nonfat-soy-macchiato is just one of the dizzying array of blended coffee beverages that have become part of our cultural fabric. Each is made for you, on the spot—a completely exclusive product that only you will taste.

Amazon has no restriction to the number of books it can offer users. By using data-warehousing and neural networks, Amazon builds a profile of the preferences of each customer and compares that to those of customers who purchased similar merchandise. The result is a list of recommendations that, more oft en than not, reflects your tastes and interests and is like no other user’s.

• Shopping at the iTunes Music Store turns the consumption of music into an EPO hallmark. Because you have the freedom to buy separate tracks rather than entire CDs, you create your own experience of an artist’s music. iTunes soft ware enables you to collect that music in a highly personalized library that is like no other.

• Some retailers answer our need for exclusive product offering by enabling customers to create highly tailored products. The mi originals, offered at adidas-owned Originals outlets are a case in point. Customers can have shoes tailored to fit their feet exactly in limited-edition patterns and styles. The shoes are inscribed with the name of the wearer. Bertrand has a pair—one of only 75 pairs of shoes in the world that look like his and the only pair custom-fit to his feet and inscribed with his name. The shoes can be provided only at adidas stores, adding to the richness of the retail experience.

Conversational Capital: How to Create Stuff People Love to Talk About, is a book about engineering word-of-mouth into brand experiences.

Authors Bertrand Cesvet, Tony Babinski and Eric Alper began by deconstructing the drivers of word-of-mouth. What they’ve put together in this book is a collection of insights and observations about how positive word-of-mouth is generated and how their concept of Conversational Capital turns marketing on its head.

The books website – – is an open invitation to take part in the process of defining what is out there that truly has the power to make our consumer relationships and experiences richer (there is also a lot video and links on the website).

Jay Thompson
VP of Stuff




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