Success of HappyOrNot Shows a Simpler Way to Get Feedback

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As I was watching the coming attractions a couple weeks ago in a local, independently owned movie theater, the owner popped in the back after The Post and shouted out if people wanted him to get that film. A resounding "Yes!" went up. Next came Phantom Thread. "Daniel Day Lewis, what do you think?" he blared. A less forceful but still clear "yes" sounded out.

"Okay, thanks," he said and left.

Wouldn't it be great if publishers could give a similar shout to its captive audience after a coming attraction? "Would you attend an event on that?" "Would you pay for that webinar series?" Maybe we're moving towards something better.

In its current issue, The New Yorker features an article on HappyOrNot, a small Finnish startup that has come up with a "freestanding battery-powered terminal with four big push buttons—dark green and smiley, light green and less smiley, light red and sort of frowny, dark red and very frowny." These are placed at events and stores where people can push and register their happiness or discomfort with something.

The simplicity appears to have made it successful, highlighting more complicated and ill-fated attempts. The author, David Owen, recalls recently going through the security area at Palm Beach International Airport. "I did see a single sign, with a message from the [TSA] which asked for feedback about TSA Precheck: 'Scan the code to tell us about your experience.' But the sign was pushed back against a wall, and no one who didn't understand how to scan a QR code would have known what to do. What's more, anyone who scanned the code, as I did, would end up with just a link to the TSA's general customer-service Web page..."

A thread on the SIPA Forum last week yielded ideas for getting feedback such as:

  • Providing electronic Starbucks gift cards for survey answers;
  • Attaching continuing education credits to survey completion;
  • Sticking to your most popular topics;
  • Advertising a "special offer" as a thank you (a $20 coupon that people could use on any product);
  • Telling people that it will be a "quick" or "2-question" or "1-minute" survey;
  • Offering participants a summarized copy of the results. This can often be quite valuable.

"I think that time has become our most valuable commodity as we busily go about life," wrote Robin Coventry, director of business development & marketing for Fantini Research. "For me, most of the time a survey crosses my desk it gets deleted if it has more than three questions."

At least telling people how many questions there will be or how long it should take is probably a good idea. I've started some with a clear intention of finishing but then abandoned as that percent-completed meter on the bottom barely moves as I start clicking my answers. Offering at least a drawing for something makes sense. Here's one I got yesterday from a theater:

"Please take a minute to fill out our Audience Survey. Doing so will make you eligible to win two tickets to any remaining show(s) in Season 3!" That's a commodity that really doesn't cost the theater anything since they know they'll have some empty seats.

HappyOrNot's success—in just eight years, its terminals have already been installed in more than a hundred countries and have registered more than six hundred million responses—probably has just as much to do with gamification than any secret sauce. We like pushing buttons. That's not to knock its success; it was clever to apply a growing engagement tool to a necessity that does not get enough engagement.

Think about having these buttons as people exit a session. You wouldn't get details, of course, but you would get an overall sense of whether people liked it or not.

"...filling out surveys isn't something you can always do, so it came to my mind that maybe there could be an easier way to give feedback, and to send the data directly to people who are interested in the results," said Heikki Väänänen, the company CEO.

Sounds simple. Stay tuned.

Ronn Are you subscribed to the SIPAlert Daily?
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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…