Judging A Book By Its Cover

You would be forgiven if you thought that Sister Act had come true last week. A nun turned up on The Voice Italy and rocked out to Christina Aguilera’s ‘No One’ in a video that has almost been viewed 40 million times. And while this woman’s performance was truly phenomenal, it raises an age-old question about book covers.

We are always brought up with the ideal never to judge a book by its cover. But does that notion really stick with us?

When consumers are bombarded with millions of pieces of advertising it is often easiest to just pick the pretty and appealing cover. And this isn’t just for books. It relates to every choice that we make from which packet of gum to buy right through to which Comedy Festival show we go to and which new music videos we try on YouTube.

If the picture is appealing, we are more likely to try it because it automatically creates an expectation in our head that the product will be as appealing. But in saying this, there are serious talents out there which don’t always have a cover that reflects the entertainment they deliver.

Take Cristina Scuccio (the nun from The Voice Italy) for example. If you were to see an album cover featuring a nun in your local CD shop iTunes store, would you try it? Unless you were into gothic choral music the answer would probably be ‘no’.

So why has Cristina Scuccio managed to score 40 million views in such a short time. Well, she has been able to harness the one thing that can overcome a ‘cover’ . . . personal recommendation.

The gap between an audience’s expectation and their experience is their level of satisfaction. If their expectation is dwarfed by their experience then they leave satisfied. If their experience is well below the expectation level then they leave unsatisfied. In this case, the gap was so large (in a good way) that every audience member at the taping and every viewer on the television and YouTube has finished watching her performance with such a high level of satisfaction.

And because the performance that Cristina Scuccio delivered was so far above every audience members’ expectations (as they were expecting religious choral music), the 21st century response has been to share the video. As a result, it has spread like wildfire.

So what’s the lesson? The answer isn’t to lower audiences expectations before they engage with your service because then they simply won’t engage at all. Instead, it is important to make sure that whatever performance you are delivering outperforms the expectations that your audience have when they walk in the door.