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Author gives Stanford entrepreneurs keys to building ‘enchanting’ companies

By Sara Lannin | 2 Mar 2011

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Guy Kawasaki, serial entrepreneur and author of the new book, "Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions", spoke at an event as part of Stanford Entrepreneurship Week. (Photo: Sara Lannin)

Everyone has their favorite brands, stores and products, but how do some companies reach a level of customer appreciation that qualifies as adoration? Creating “enchanting” company experiences was the primary focus of an energetic event with author and entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki on Wednesday, the final day of Stanford Entrepreneurship Week.

Kawasaki’s experience with branding is drawn from decades of experience as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist, as well as several years at Apple, where he was charged partially with “maintaining and rejuvenating the Macintosh cult.”

Kawasaki is the author of ten books on technology and business. His latest, scheduled for release March 8, is Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds and Actions.

According to Kawasaki, who spoke before an overflow crowd at the Engineering School’s Nividia Auditoriam,  attaining an “enchanting” brand is dependent on achieving three characteristics: likeability, trustworthiness and a good cause. None of the three is more important than the others,he  said, rather they must all work in unison for the enchantment effect to occur.

Kawasaki’s definition of likeability includes a strong handshake, attention to dress, and a genuine smile. “Forget the plastic surgery, forget the botox,” he said, “Crows feet are IN!”

In order to be considered trustworthy, says Kawasaki, you must first show you trust your customers. “Trust other people first, and they will trust you,” he said. He used Zappos as an example of an “enchanting” company that has reached great levels of trust with  its customers.

Finally, Kawasaki emphasized that a great company must first have a great product or service. In fact, “the more innovative your product or service, the more you need enchantment,” said Kawasaki. The author shortened his advice for good products into the easy-to-remember acronym DICEE; meaning great products are “deep, intelligent, complete, empowering and elegant.”

After  describing his three essential pillars of enchantment, Kawasaki gave additional pieces of advice to make a company memorable and admirable. First, he emphasized the power of simplicity. “You should be able to explain your product in 2-3 words – think ‘mantra’ not ‘mission statement.’”

Kawasaki heavily emphasized the importance of reaching a wide audience, or “planting many seeds.” In a Web 2.0 age, he argued, traditional marketing is not effective. “In the old days you would focus on the celebrities and the A-list journalists. You sucked up to them and hoped they would bless your product,” he began. “Today though, you don’t know where your successes will come from. It might be [YouTube user] LoneyBoy15, who told his friends about you, who told their friends, who spread it even further.”

Among Kawasaki’s additional advice for companies looking to enchant? Identify key influencers in a family (Kawasaki says his would be his  9-year-old daughter), provide fast, efficient service, invoke reciprocation (allow people to return your favors) and learn to overcome resistance.

Following Kawasaki’s presentation, he sat down for an interview with Jesse Draper, the  host of the web series “The Valley Girl Show.” Draper, clad in a  pink mini-dress, inquired about Kawasaki’s Twitter habits, what gadgets “scare him,” and his days as a Stanford undergraduate.

Guy Kawasaki's question fairy required audience members to answer questions from the magic question bag, in addition to asking their own. (Photo: Sara Lannin)

In addition to her own questions, Draper solicited questions from the audience with the help of a “question fairy” – an assistant in full fairy attire. In order to ask Kawasaki a question, audience members were also required to pull a question from the question fairy’s magic bag. Among the fairy questions: “How do you feel about Segways?” and “Can you make a human pretzel?”

As practical advice to members of the audience, Kawasaki also discussed how to “enchant” individuals, specifically, one’s boss or coworkers. Impressing a manager is straightforward according to Kawasaki, who said, “When your boss asks you to do something, you drop everything and just do it.” He also advised alerting managers early to any potential setbacks in a project. Despite his workplace advice, Kawasaki offered these words of wisdom to all the current students in the audience: “Stay at Stanford as long as you can!

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