Be Mindful of the Boomerang – Why Your Experience Portfolio Needs to be Diverse

Written by Alex Jimenez

In social psychology, the “boomerang effect” refers to the unintended consequences of an attempt to persuade someone, which results in their adopting the opposing position instead. It is sometimes referred to as the theory of psychological reactance, which means that attempts to restrict a person’s freedom often produce an “anti-conformity boomerang effect.” (Sensenig & Brehm)

We recently published a three-part blog series focused on the recommended steps and pitfalls associated with pivoting your organization’s business model and operating processes due to COVID-19.  This was in response to simplistic, idealistic, and vague content that has been floating around the Internet since March.  While many of our clients, and likely many of you, are still in the midst of finding your footing in this new marketplace, we wanted to share some advice about your long-term planning while you and your respective organizations focus on your short- and medium-term actions. 

Digital. Everywhere.

Right now, and rightfully so, there is a predominant focus on digital.  Digital events, digital sales, digital engagement.  Most of our clients are developing digital alternatives to existing offerings and/or developing new offerings with digital delivery.  I have no argument with this, and digital needs to be a priority for most organizations. But, be mindful of the digital boomerang.

Before I go forward, let us take a moment to look back.  In 2008-2009, during the Great Recession, I was in a business that provided language services (translation & interpretation).  25% of our revenue portfolio at the time was driven by the conference and events industry.  For those of you who do not remember, the Great Recession severely impacted that industry, with many industry leaders hypothesizing that the industry was on its way out and would likely never recover. 

In 18 months, we went from driving more than a million dollars of annual revenue in that vertical of our business to selling off the business for a fraction of that. We were never able to support that line of business efficiently again. Did the industry die? No. Was it different? Yes. What was the common denominator that thought leaders missed in their dire predictions? Human nature.

Human Interaction Prevails

If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s how easy it is to take for granted the simple, daily interactions we have with others and the ease with which we can move about the world. We will want those experiences back when they can happen safely.

Over the past 120 days, the world has had to adapt to a remote social and working environment that was thrust upon us so quickly that it is hard to comprehend.  These types of changes typically take years, if not decades to adopt uniformly, yet many people have had to make this shift—both physically and mentally—over the course of weeks and months, not years or decades.  As thought leaders, we need to be mindful of this because a readjustment is likely coming. 

This is when the boomerang effect started becoming part of our conversation here at Mekanic.  Humans are social beings, and a world that does not include in-person interactions, whether personal or professional, is simply not realistic when it is not necessary.  Will social interactions look the same as they did before 2020?  Maybe not—especially not in the short term.  That said, once safety measures are in place and the pandemic subsides, will it be realistic for organizations to only have digital offerings, especially those that offered in-person events and offerings as part of their business model prior to 2020?

The answer is no.  Sure, if you sell widgets, this can be done 100% digitally. Even then, there is still a desire for in-person experiences.  Does this experience need to include 10,000 people in a confined space? Maybe not.  Do we need time for the risk and apprehension to recede before in-person experiences ramp up? Of course. You should invest in your digital presence, not just because you need to cut through the noise in the digital world more today than ever before—but also as a risk mitigation strategy.  Even so, you should continue thinking long-term about developing an experience portfolio that combines best-in-class digital offerings with outstanding in-person engagement. Road shows, pop-ups, intimate gatherings, invite-only, etc. 

Enriching Your Experience Portfolio

How can you integrate the successful approaches implemented by start-ups, boutiques, and other small brands into your experience portfolio?  How can you connect with your audience at a local level while including others who are not nearby?  These are the big questions we are all going to have to answer over the next 12-18 months, and the organizations that embrace portfolio diversity in their experience offerings are the ones that are most likely to rise to the top. Humans like to be around other humans, and nothing can replace personal contact and interaction.  We should not forget that.

“The only investors who shouldn’t diversify are those who are right 100% of the time.” Sir John Templeton.