What is lagniappe? A word worth traveling to New Orleans to get – Chapter 3


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[Over the coming weeks I’ll be sharing excerpts as we work towards completing the manuscript for ‘What’s Your Purple Goldfish?’. Today is a glimpse at Chapter 3]

What if . . .

What if there was a simple marketing concept that moves the needle towards achieving differentiation, driving retention, and stimulating word of mouth? What if your execution was 100% targeted, with 0% waste and given with a personalized touch?

I believe the answer lies in focusing a greater percentage of your marketing budget on the customer, not the prospect. Deal with the one that is “in hand” rather than the two “in the bush” through a concept called ‘lagniappe’.

What is Lagniappe?

Lagniappe is a creole word meaning ‘the gift’ or ‘to give more’. The practice originated in Louisiana in the 1840?s whereby a merchant would give a customer a little something extra at the time of purchase. It is a signature personal touch by the business that creates goodwill and promotes word of mouth.

LAGNIAPPE(lan’y?p, l?n-y?p’) Chiefly Southern Louisiana & Mississippi

  1. A small gift presented by a storeowner to a customer with the customer’s purchase.
  2. An extra or unexpected gift or benefit. Also called regionally boot.

Etymology: Creole < Fr la, the + Sp ñapa, lagniappe < Quechuan yapa. Interesting fact- Napa comes from yapa, which means “additional gift” in the South American Indian language, Quechua, from the verb yapay “to give more”

Enter Samuel Langhorne Clemens

According to Mark Twain in Life on the Mississippi:

“We picked up one excellent word–a word worth traveling to New Orleans to get; a nice limber, expressive, handy word–’lagniappe.’

times-picayune-mastheadThey pronounce it lanny-yap. It is Spanish–so they said. We discovered it at the head of a column of odds and ends in the Picayune, the first day; heard twenty people use it the second; inquired what it meant the third; adopted it and got facility in swinging it the fourth. It has a restricted meaning, but I think the people spread it out a little when they choose. It is the equivalent of the thirteenth roll in a ‘baker’s dozen.’ It is something thrown in, gratis, for good measure.

The custom originated in the Spanish quarter of the city. When a child or a servant buys something in a shop–or even the mayor or the governor, for aught I know–he finishes the operation by saying– ‘Give me something for lagniappe.’ The shopman always responds; gives the child a bit of licorice-root, gives the servant a cheap cigar or a spool of thread, gives the governor–I don’t know what he gives the governor; support, likely.”

A marketing lagniappe, i.e. purple goldfish, is any time a business purposely goes above and beyond to provide a ‘little something extra’. It’s a marketing investment back into your customer base. It’s that unexpected surprise that’s thrown in for good measure to achieve product differentiation, drive retention and promote word of mouth.

So – is it just a Baker’s Dozen?

In order to understand a baker’s dozen, we need to travel back to its origin in England:

The concept dates back to the 13th century during the reign of Henry III. During this time there was a perceived need for regulations controlling quality, pricing and checking weights to avoid fraudulent activity. The Assize (Statute) of Bread and Ale was instituted to regulate the price, weight and quality of the bread and beer manufactured and sold in towns, villages and hamlets.

Bakers who were found to have shortchanged customers could be liable for severe punishment such as losing a hand with an axe. To guard against the punishment, the baker would give 13 for the price of 12, to be certain of not being known as a cheat.

The irony is that the statute deals with weight and not the quantity. The merchants created the ‘baker’s dozen’ to change perception. They understood that one of the 13 could be lost, eaten, burnt, or ruined in some way, leaving the baker with the original legal dozen.

A baker’s dozen has become expected and therefore it is not a ‘marketing lagniappe‘. Now – – if you provided a 14th bagel as part of the dozen . . . that would be lagniappe.

Acts of Kindness

Another way to think of lagniappe is as an ‘act of kindness’.

There are three types of ‘Acts of Kindness’:

  1. Random Act of Kindness – we’ve all seen this before. Good deeds or unexpected acts such as paying tolls, filling parking meters or buying gas for consumers. Usually a one off feel good PR activation. This draws upon gift economy priniciples. Giving with no expectation of immediate return, except maybe for potential PR value. But it doesn’t just need to be random anymore. Executed correctly, as part of an integrated strategy, ‘branded’ acts of kindness’ can create brand awareness and more importantly drive brand loyalty.
  2. Branded Act of Kindness – next level 2.0. Here the item given is usually tied closely with the brand and its positioning. It’s less random, more planned and potentially a series of activations. This has the feel of a traditional marketing campaign. Many brands are moving in this direction. According to EVP / CMO Joe Tripodi, Coke is leaning more towards ‘expressions’ than traditional ‘impressions’. Less eyeballs and more emphasis on touches. What is an expression or a touch? It’s a ‘like’ on Facebook, a video on YouTube, sharing a photo, a tweet on Twitter etc.
  3. Lagniappe Act of Kindness – 3.0 stuff. Kindness imbedded into your brand. Giving little unexpected extras (g.l.u.e) as part of your product or service. This is rooted in the idea of ‘added value’ to the transaction. Not a one off or a campaign, but an everyday practice that’s focused on customers of your brand. The beauty of creating a purple goldfish as a ‘branded act of kindness’ is that there is no waste. You are giving that little extra to your current customers. You are preaching to the choir . . . the folks who are already in church on Sunday.

Here is an infographic that shows all 3:

lagniappe acts of kindness

Think of it as the Curly Fry

One Curly FryMy friend Rick Liebling recently shared some insight on lagniappe. Here is a snippet from his post at rickliebling.com:

. . . Lagniappe. It’s a fantastic concept that explains how brands can benefit by giving consumers just a little bit extra (read about it here). As I was reading “My life,” a blog by my friend and colleague Anastasia Wylie, she made reference, via a Jason Mraz song, to one of my all-time favorite lagniappes.

Ever go to a fast food joint, order regular french fries, and get one curly fry in the bag? Man, I love that! It’s such an incredibly small thing, it’s an accident of location really (the regular fries are right next to the curly fries in the kitchen). But it makes you feel like you received something you weren’t supposed to, that others didn’t get, and that you wouldn’t necessarily have asked for (“hey, could you throw one curly fry in there please?”), but once you get it, you are over-joyed. That’s a lagniappe.

I love how Rick has summarized the feeling you get when you receive a ‘lagniappe’. The curly fry is that ‘unexpected’ little extra.

Plus: Walt understood the power of exceeding expectations

I had the pleasure on meeting up with Rick Cerrone at a networking function. He shared a story about Walt Disney that became #537 in my Project. Rick mentioned the concept of ‘plussing’ from a book by Pat Williams called, How to Be Like Walt: Capturing the Disney Magic Every Day of Your Life.

Here is a superb summary by John Torre:

“Normally, the word “plus” is a conjunction, but not in Walt’s vocabulary. To Walt, “plus” was a verb—an action word—signifying the delivery of more than what his customers paid for or expected to receive.

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of examples of Walt “plussing” his products. He constantly challenged his artists and Imagineers to see what was possible, and then take it a step further…and then a step beyond that. Why did he go to the trouble of making everything better when “good enough” would have sufficed? Because for Walt, nothing less than the best was acceptable when it bore his name and reputation, and he did whatever it took to give his guests more value than they expected to receive for their dollar.

Perhaps one of the best examples of Walt’s obsession for “plussing” comes from Disney historian Les Perkins’ account of an incident that took place at Disneyland during the early years of the park. Walt had decided to hold a Christmas parade at the new park at a cost of $350,000. Walt’s accountants approached him and besieged him to not spend money on an extravagant Christmas parade because the people would already be there. Nobody would complain, they reasoned, if they dispensed with the parade because nobody would be expecting it.

Walt’s reply to his accountants is classic: “That’s just the point,” he said. “We should do the parade precisely because no one’s expecting it. Our goal at Disneyland is to always give the people more than they expect. As long as we keep surprising them, they’ll keep coming back. But if they ever stop coming, it’ll cost us ten times that much to get them to come back.”

Marketing Takeaway: It’s vital to continually be thinking about your own product or service. How can you “plus” it up to exceed expectations.

[Next Up Chapter 4 – Purple Goldfish Strategy]

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Stan Phelps
Stan Phelps is the Chief Measurement Officer at 9 INCH marketing. 9 INCH helps organizations develop custom solutions around both customer and employee experience. Stan believes the 'longest and hardest nine inches' in marketing is the distance between the brain and the heart of your customer. He is the author of Purple Goldfish, Green Goldfish and Golden Goldfish.


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