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Episode #61: As the World Churns

Grad Conn

January 22, 2021  •  12 min read

Today we start with a look at the magic Diet Coke button, work our way through the deliciously decadent Land O’ Lakes butter, and tie it all together with some thoughts about touchstone experiences. It’s an end-of-the-week potpourri for your CX enjoyment.

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PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

All right, it is the CXM Experience. I’m Grad Conn, CXO, chief experience officer at Sprinklr. And today I’ve got a quick potpourri. I’ve got two topics I want to talk about. I want to talk about the first day in office of President Biden, our newly inaugurated president. And pretty cool Inauguration Day. I’ll talk about that for a second. And I want a specific thing I’m going to drill down into that I thought was particularly interesting. And then I’m going to talk about butter for a minute, which I don’t talk about very often. But I love butter. So I’m going to talk about butter for a minute.

But first, let me talk about politics, which I don’t talk about very often on this show, actually, and you probably have no idea what my politics are. I mean, I’m not sure I do either. But let’s just say I’m from Canada. And that usually gives people a good idea of where I probably land. But I would say that it’s been pretty interesting watching the political landscape over the last year. I think as a former Canadian — I’m an American now, so I’m a naturalized American now. But I still think I have a slightly outsider perspective on it. I feel I can stand aside from the fray a bit. I do find it a little odd about how wound up people get. I find it interesting to watch political theater in the US. I’ve always said that US politics are the best theater out there. It’s free and never stops changing. And it’s always entertaining to watch. And certainly, the last few days, last few weeks have been no shortage of interest and challenges and horror and entertainment.

And it was interesting yesterday, I think it was an anti climatic day on the Trump side, watched his final speech. Watched him on his last Air Force One trip to… they landed in Palm Beach airport. And then it was also fascinating to watch the inauguration. Calls for unity, which I thought were good, a lot of positivity, which I thought was good. Tiny bit of… meant to be careful, I think… but tiny bit of the nation’s in disaster, and we need to fix it. I think we need to balance that a tiny bit. Because if you go too far, you’ll alienate the very people you’re trying to unify with. But I get people were excited. So that’s how it all went down.

So today… maybe I don’t talk about this very often, but I love Twitter. I just love Twitter. And there’s something about Twitter’s sense of recency and I love watching or reading a story and seeing new tweets come in on it while I’m reading it. It’s such a great sense of community and adventure.

And so I was on the Twitter homepage today under what’s happening, and there’s a trending topic in politics around Diet Coke. And thought, Diet Coke., that’s kind of interesting. My fiancé has recently kicked the Diet Coke habit, which was very exciting to watch her go through withdrawal, which is a real thing. Diet Coke withdrawals, like a really serious thing. But she did it, she got through it. And she tried a Diet Coke recently, and she’s like, yuck. I’m like, yeah. And so Diet Coke is now out of the household.

But there’s this fascinating post. Apparently, President Biden has removed the Diet Coke button. So when someone named Tom Newton Dunn interviewed Donald Trump in 2019, they became fascinated by what the little red button did. There’s a little red button installed on his desk. So eventually, Trump pressed the red button for them. And a butler swiftly brought in a Diet Coke on a silver platter. It’s gone now. Oh, wow. I mean, there’s gonna be some fun stuff coming out in the next few weeks. But he had a red button with a presidential seal installed on the Resolute desk in the oval office, that when he pressed it a butler swiftly brought in a Diet Coke on a silver platter.

Apparently, he drank 12 Diet Cokes a day. But Donald Trump is always very… I was surprised to hear this in a way because he had a tweet a few years ago, back in like 2012 I think, where he said, I have never seen a thin person drinking Diet Coke, which I thought was a shitty thing to say. But like, why is he drinking Diet Coke? Like, this guy’s such a complex person sometimes. And in Family Guy, there actually is a whole episode about the Diet Coke button, which I thought was a joke, but in fact, obviously it was real.

My favorite tweet is… I mean, there’s one person that says I’m going to black out. What do you mean he had a Diet Coke button? But my favorite tweet was somebody who just kind of played out a conversation. Emmy Bengtson. Emmy said: I would have paid so much money to get to be in the room for the conversation that I imagine went something like this… Biden: alright what’s next? Staffer: setting up the oval, photos are all done. Do you want to keep the Diet Coke button? Biden: [silence] staffer: [silence] Biden: the what in God’s name button?? Beautiful job by Emmy there.

Anyway, so that’s gone. And I just think that I can frame this from an experience standpoint because who knows how many other buttons we’re gonna find in the White House, but try to imagine it from Trump’s standpoint for a second. You know he really enjoyed being President, I think he got a real kick out of the fact that he was president. And I think it was unlikely, I don’t think he expected it. And he thought, you know, I’m president of the United States. And I kind of like a Diet Coke when I like a Diet Coke. And I’m not sure, by the way, this is fantastic for the Diet Coke Brand. And if you ever wanted a great reason not to drink Diet Coke, this would be it. And he’s like, I want a Diet Coke when I want a Diet Coke. So I’m going to install a button that magically brings me a Diet Coke whenever I want it. That’s a hell of an experience. I bet he’s missing it right this very second. So good on you Mr. Trump. Way to maximize the presidential experience.

All right, butter. Let’s talk about butter for a second. This is all food this time. So I lived in Canada for a long time. And then I was stuck in Canada for a long time. And I really wanted to move to the US. I tried many times. I was on different visas. I actually moved at one point and then had to move back a few months later. And it was this life’s mission to get to the US. And I finally achieved that mission in 2006 when I was hired by Microsoft Research, and most notably Peter Neupert, who I kind of owe my whole life to. I don’t even know what would have happened to me if Peter hadn’t hired me. Peter brought me down to the US and haven’t looked back since. And I owe the hire decision… Peter hired me, but Sean Nolan, who was my partner, he was the one I think really pushed the trigger on it. And, Sean, I love you so much. It was an amazing, amazing journey.

That aside, when I was in Canada, I was thinking about all the reasons I wanted to move to the US. And the chief reason was opportunity. I wanted the opportunity that the US offered. And I wanted to be able to do the kinds of things in the US that I knew I could do that I really didn’t have the ability to do in Canada. And I’m proud of what I did in Canada, did some pretty cool stuff. Open Cola was pretty awesome. And we did raise a lot of money, tens of millions of dollars for Open Cola. And did five other startups that were all very interesting. Points.com, some fascinating work there. I’m very proud of that. But I couldn’t get to the level that I knew I wanted to play at. And so I’d fantasize about the US. The only thing I fantasized about, in addition to opportunity was Land O’ Lakes butter. I don’t know why. But we did do a lot of trips to the US and every time I had a chance to have Land O’ Lakes butter, it was just like such good butter. So much better than anything I could get in Canada. It was so branded. And so American. I thought, one day I’m going to go into a supermarket, and I’m gonna buy Land O’ Lakes butter. I’m just gonna buy it right off the shelf, I’m just getting Land O’ Lakes butter.

And so I moved to the US and on my first day I got a rental car. And I randomly drove around Redmond. I didn’t know where I was. It was very strange time for me. I was all alone. And I went to a supermarket. I went to the back of the supermarket. I went to the dairy aisle. The first thing I put in my cart was a carton of Land O’ Lakes butter. And I have been religiously purchasing Land O’ Lakes butter ever since.

They’ve recently come out with a really, really neat version. So there’s a new Land O’ Lakes European style. It’s called Land O’ Lakes Extra Creamy Super Premium butter. It’s got a creamier texture and richer flavor more like a European butter. It’s made with fresh sweet cream. And it’s churned for higher milk fat content. And when I say higher milk fat content… if you say, Hey, Grad, how much higher do you think that milk fat content could be? I’d say well what would you say if I said it was 70%? You would say Wow, that’s pretty high right? It’s not 70. Well, if I said it was 75%? That’s crazy. Yeah. How about 80% butterfat content? You’d be like, Whoa, dude, crazy! And I say it’s still not it. 82% butterfat content. It’s like basically all butterfat. And it is delicious. Thanksgiving was all Land O’ Lakes, extra creamy butter. And it was amazing.

And I gotta say, there’s something I get every single time that I pick up Land O’ Lakes butter. I get a thrill that harkens back to those days, freezing my boochucklies off in Toronto, trying to figure out how the hell to get down to the US and get into the tech industry in the US. And there’s some odd sense of achievement, for me being able to buy a Land O’ Lakes butter, anytime I want. It’s a way of me reinforcing how hard it was, and the sacrifices I had to make to get down here. It was not easy. I had to leave everything behind in Canada, and it was really challenging prospect and process to do this. But that Land O’ Lakes butter is like, that’s my reward.

And just to kind of bring this full circle, I kind of think that’s maybe what Trump was doing. You know, he’s like, I made it all the way to President which is, you know, reasonably significant. I want a Diet Coke button. And so I’m going to have a Diet Coke button. I got my Land O’ Lakes, he’s got his Diet Coke. I don’t know, if I became president — which I can’t, because I’m not born here. But if I became president, maybe I would have a Land O’ Lakes button on the desk. That’d be cool, right?

Anyway, it is all about… if you think about experience, and these two particular stories… part of experience is creating touchstones that help reinforce things. So as you think about your brand, and as you think about the experiences that you’re landing with customers, think about how these things may have a bigger importance in their lives than you imagine. I don’t think the brand manager at Land O’ Lakes is thinking my key target are Canadians who want to come down here, enter the tech industry, and then feel a sense of accomplishment every time they use my product. They’re not thinking that. But I’m not the only person who’s got that kind of emotional attachment to Land O’ Lakes butter, I guarantee it.

So I think that’s probably enough about butter and Diet Coke, which I think are pretty interesting opposite ends of the spectrum, right? Zero calories to all the calories. I’m going to wrap up for today. So for the CXM Experience. I’m Grad Conn, and I’ll see you next time.

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Grad Conn

Chief Experience Officer, Sprinklr

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