Chasing the Dragon

First impressions are important. This is made painfully evident in high-pressure situations like a first date or job interview, and everyone does their best to design the best possible first impression. Do you fully consider this when managing a brand? The importance is profound, yet often has the easiest win in the arena of experience design.

“Chasing the dragon” is a drug reference. The idea is this: the first time you take any particular drug, the feeling is so dramatic it is seldom replicated on subsequent experiences. Part of the addiction is a desire to get back to that first moment or, using 1950s ad language, that first impression. This same idea applies to discovering a new brand or moment in your life. If a profound feeling is elicited, we will be perpetually chasing that dragon.

If a profound feeling is elicited, we will be perpetually chasing that dragon.

Yet many brands ask the question, “have you dined with us before”,  but never deliver on the experience. Think of it as the razor and razor blade concept, but in the form of an experience. If you provide an amazing first moment, people will come back again and again for the razor blade.

Let’s apply this concept to a simple glazed donut.

This writer has been all over the world and rarely passes a donut shop without swimming into the sugar bliss inside. Just ask me what the CnB donut is at Voodoo Doughnut. Yeah, the one we almost sent to a new client because it seemed funny at the time (longer story to share over coffee).

To my surprise, while browsing for some unnecessary calories at The Bachelor Farmer cafe last week, a simple glazed donut ended up in my possession. Just after the first bite broke the barrier and started its way toward calories for biking, I had a “chasing the dragon” moment. It was as profound of an experience you can have with a donut - perfectly crunchy on the outside, soft enough inside, enough glaze to entice but not overwhelm. I thought about it long afterwards.

The Bachelor Farmer cafe brand created a new moment for me. This is not easy, since we are neighbors and we worked with Eric Dayton to create the branding behind the cafe . This moment was designed by the bakery chef willing to spend the energy to perfect the glazed donut.

Every brand needs at least one signature moment, something that sets them apart from the competitive field. The moment needs to be designed to elicit an emotional response and ideally, create a “chasing the dragon” moment for the people important to you. Yes, we’re mixing drug addiction with brand addiction. If the drug pusher (brand owner) starts to abuse the addicted, the relationship will change.

If you’re struggling to keep people loyal to your brand or sense that you’re not making a memorable first impression, perhaps we need to talk. We can provide you with an efficient way to audit the essential moments of your experience and identify new possibilities.

Reach out to Kitty Hart if you’d like to get a small fix.

About The Author

Aaron Keller

I am an author, strategist, researcher, cyclist, reader and consummate entrepreneur. When an interesting idea crosses my path, I find any way we can bring it to life. Earning an MBA from the Carlson School and numerous valuable credits at the school of hard knocks, I’ll sit at a boardroom conversation with anyone. Want to talk business strategy, consumer behavior and design? Oh, it’s on.


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