An Interview with Soon Yu (Video Podcast)
In the 58th episode of the On Branding Podcast, Arek Dvornechuck interviews Soon Yu and talks about Bad Friction vs Good Friction in branding. his book, Friction.
Follow Soon Yu on his Linkedin and his website.
Check out his book here 👉 Friction: Adding Value By Making People Work for It
You can also watch this interview on my YouTube Channel
Table of Contents
*PS. Below you will find an auto-generated transcript of this episode.
Arek Dvornechuck: Hey what’s up, branding Experts! Arek here at Ebaqdesign and welcome to On Branding Podcast. And today my guest is Soon Yu and Soon is an international speaker and expert on growing iconic brands. So he’s also an award-winning and best selling author on branding, innovation and design. And Soon is also the Forbes contributor.
And he has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post Entrepreneur magazine, the New York Times. And many more. So on today’s podcast, we gonna talk about Soon’s new book, Friction, which I have right here. Adding value by Making People Work for it. Hello Soon. Thanks for joining us today.
Soon Yu: Oh, thank you for the kind introduction, and I really appreciate the privilege on being on your show.
Arek Dvornechuck: Thank you so much So in this new book you basically ask business owners to consider adding more friction instead of just eliminating the friction. Right? To their brand experience, to their customers, to their employees and so on. So you basically argue in your book that is not really about always about making things simple and frictionless and removing that friction. But it’s also more about understanding what is good and what is a bad friction and how to use it to our advantage
Soon Yu: Absolutely.
What is friction?
Arek Dvornechuck: So just for our listeners, I just wanted to start with the basic. Can you explain what really, what do you mean by friction? What, what is it, what does it mean? What’s the definition of friction? And maybe you can give us some examples.
Soon Yu: Sure. So friction in it’s the most simplest definition for our purposes, is anything that add effort, time, consideration, investment to your consumer, to your employees, to customers. I do make the distinction that not all friction is created equal. There is friction that creates oh, frustration, uncertainty, risk, stuff that you wanna basically pull your hair out from. Right? And that’s what I would consider bad friction.
But there’s also friction that makes you pause and think and reconsider and actually make a commitment to something. Or it creates more meaning when you finally decide to actually follow through on something because of all the time and effort you put into it.
There’s friction that what I talk about. Creates the happy chemicals, and we looked at this set of happy chemicals they are dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, endorphins, and adrenaline. And when we looked at those happy chemicals, we realized that it is actually very difficult to elicit those happy chemicals without some degree of friction.
So let’s take each. Dopamine is what I would consider the anticipation drug. It’s the reward drug. It’s what happens when we put a post up and we keep looking at how many likes did we get. The feeling we have when we are waiting for something really important to happen and it’s been delayed, and finally it does happen.
Or it’s the energy we get when we have to take a big test, like in the United States, the SAT test. There’s all this dopamine that gets generated and then the idea that after you’ve taken the test you have a sense of relief and a sense of reward. So that’s all dopamine.
And you think about it, you can’t create the anticipation for a reward without making people either work for it or wait for it . And that’s a form of good friction when you make people wait or work for something.
The other form of friction happy chemical, is oxytocin. Oxytocin is, many people call it kind of the love chemical. It actually is what gen is generated when mothers and babies hug each other for the first time, and a lot of that is about physical friction. It’s about the friction of being in the presence of somebody that you care about and love. And so this whole pandemic actually reduced a lot of oxytocin because we made most of our interactions through Zoom.
And then there’s serotonin, which is actually the recognition chemical and that is all about, hey, did I prove myself to somebody else or prove myself to myself? And you know, did I, did I earn the right to be recognized? And the earning the right is also another form of good friction.
Endorphins call it the pain relief drug where you’re on the 25th mile of your 26 mile marathon. It’s what kicks in. And again, you don’t get to that type ofchemical unless you’ve actually jogged those first 25 miles.
And of course, adrenaline. Adrenaline is a situation where you need some risk. You need to feel a sense of either danger or excitement, and you can’t create danger or excitement or risk without adding some friction.
So that’s how we came up with the idea that not all friction’s created equal. In fact, there’s a lot of friction out there that’s needed to create those happy chemicals.
Good vs Bad friction
Arek Dvornechuck: Right. So just some, some of my takeaways for you guys who are listening. So first of all, we need to understand the, the difference between good and bad friction, right? And good friction, as you already gave us some, some examples. They gonna release those chemicals and you describe them in your book.
There are five different chemicals, adrenaline, dopamine, oxytoxin, serotonin and endorphin. And there are different, you give us different tactics on how to do that right? Step by step. So good friction can add things like, like you already mentioned. but also other things like assurance report, exclusivity and so on.
So I wanted to talk about some of those. Right. You mentioned seven different ones in your book. So maybe we can, I’m not sure if you’re gonna have time to, you know, go through all of them, but maybe we can describe few of them, like exclusivity. I think this is pretty interesting, like playing hard to get like brands like Birkin and Hermes bags like you described.
Soon Yu: Sure, there are seven different, what we call virtues of good friction that brands and businesses can think about. When they add friction into their system, is there a way to add friction to create one of these seven virtues?
So the first one you mentioned is, hey, exclusivity. It’s what kicks in. And again, you don’t get to that type of chemical unless you’ve actually, actually jogged those first 25 miles. And of course, adrenaline, adrenaline is a situation where you need some risk. You need to feel a sense of either danger or excitement, and you can’t create danger or excitement or without adding some friction. So that’s how we came up with the idea that not all friction’s created equal. In fact, there’s a lot of friction out there that’s needed to create those happy chemicals.
You know, if everything is easy to get. and it’s available, then there’s no serotonin and no dopamine, right? Because it’s too easy, right? And when something’s too easy, it doesn’t create as much excitement and it doesn’t create as much anticipation. And once you get it, it’s not like you can show off like, Okay I got this, so did I, so did everybody else. Whoopie do.
But if you were able to get a Birkin bag, which is very difficult to get. It’s not about having the money, It’s about having the connections and the relationships with the sales people and spending many hours in the store buying other types of products so that you become on the preferred list and et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. All that is a certain type of friction so that when you actually do. You can end up getting the product. It’s so much more meaningful to you. And smart businesses don’t offer everything they have for free. Right.
You know, in fact, there’s studies that show that consultants who have charge higher prices actually get greater demand than those that are almost free because people, well, there’s a reason they’re probably valuable. Their time’s valuable. So that’s all about exclusivity.
The other one we talk about is meaning, again, if you think about anything meaningful in your life, it’s usually associated with something that you put a lot of time, effort, relationship, time, whatever towards.
They talk about a good example is the lottery. Those people who oftentimes win a lot of money in the lottery early on in their. . If you look at the research, many of them actually end up pinless and oftentimes in debt because what happens is they don’t really have any concept of the value of money.
Now it’s kinda like having water, right? And so they spend it so freely and they build up bad habits that are not sustainable in terms of lifestyle. Whereas let’s say you and I, instead of winning 10, $10 million in a lottery, we actually spent 40 years of our career. Slowly building up our income saving and, sacrificing and all that. When we think about spending 10 million dollars, we’re gonna treat it very differently because of all the effort that went into creating that 10 million that has so much more meaning to us.
I also talk about good friction creates belonging. If you think about fraternities or organizations that make you feel fulfill certain requirements? Well, part of that is to demonstrate, yes, your interest and commitment, but part of that also create a sense of connection. Hey, we had a shared experience. We all understand e a similar hardship and we are all equally committed. And again, that is a form of good friction that actually creates belonging.
Arek Dvornechuck: Can you give us some examples here? Like for example, in my notes, I have Patagonia from your book. They kind of create a sense of belonging, like standing for standing for one purpose, right? Patagonia is a purpose driven brand. We mentioned already Hermes and Birkin bags as exclusivity.
I also have one more for you guys. For example, this is something like recently I was researching, I wanted to buy a Porsche GT 3 but it’s similar with other brands, like you have to get on a list. The MSRP is is one price, but then first of all, you cannot get this car just like that.
You would have to be a Porsche customer for many, many years and buy many, many other cars, right? So there is exclusivity to it. You cannot just go and buy. And if you wanna buy a second hand, it’s almost twice the price as MSRP. That’s another example.
Can you give us some more examples? Because I think our audience would, would love that because these are famous brands, we can all relate and, and understand the concept.
Soon Yu: Sure. Yeah. I mean, the GT 3 is a great example, right? It’s a very exclusive, It’s the top of. It’s creme. Creme, right? I mean, Porsche is already a creme. Nine 11 is probably one of the best cars ever made, and the GT 3 is the best Nine 11 ever made. So, you know, you can’t get, It’s the better of the best of the best, right?
And so in, in that context, imagine if everyone could buy it, then it wouldn’t feel as significant. And in fact, if there was so much availability, guess what? The price would probably drop. And what you’re experiencing is this idea that one of the ways to create Greater demand is to limit supply, believe it or not, right?
It is the idea of when you actually restrict supply, sometimes that actually generates even more demand than what you originally began with. Sometimes by making people work for it they want to actually, they want, they’ll want it more.
The same thing is true for relationships. Oftentimes, I hear people say, “Hey, you know, one of the, the key virtues is rapport. “ And a lot of people say, “Well, one way to get close to somebody is to do a favor for them.” And I tell ’em, “Look, a better way is to ask a favor of them.” And you think about the psychology of asking a favor, okay? And what happens to the person who’s actually granting you the favor? If you ask for a favor from me and I decide to give granted to you first, you’ve gotta be strategic in what you asked me, and it’s gotta be something where it’s probably easy for me, but very meaningful for you.
But once I’ve granted you that favor forever, I am invest. In the outcome of whatever that favor was to your life, okay? And therefore, I’m gonna pay more attention to you in the future, and I’m actually gonna be even more likely. To escalate the favor.
If the second request somehow builds on the first one and shows some type of impact positively on your life, all a sudden I feel like, you know what? I have ownership on your success. I have ownership on your career or your life or your, personal livelihood and therefore I’m gonna be much closer to you. I’m gonna be much more interested in you. You are now somebody I have a stake in. And so sometimes the best way to get close to people isn’t to, you know, do a favor for them. It’s, they actually ask a favor.
Here’s another example that is about good friction. Pillsbury had this. Great idea of saying, Hey, you wanna bake a cake? All you need to do with our ready mix is to add water. So in 1950, they had this Pillsbury cake mix, and all you did was add water. And quite frankly, they found that the sales were very stagnant because housewives view cooking and serving food to their family as an expression of love. And when they were able to bake this cake that originally took an hour or two hours of their time, and it only took them five minutes, right, to put the water in and put it in the oven. They felt like they were cheating their family of love.
And so Pillsbury quickly did this research and then they realized, you know what? All we need to do is add a little bit of friction and it’ll change the equation. So all they did is they changed the cake mix. So all you do now is add one egg plus the water. Okay? That one egg was enough for housewives to feel like, you know what I put in the right amount of effort to show that I love my family. So again, believe it or not, adding an egg and making your customer work a little harder, actually enhance the experience for the customer.
There are plenty of examples. I worked out in the North Face a great company and in their Korea store, what they do is you get in there and if you’re by yourself, What happens is a store staff suddenly disappears.
They flip a switch and the floor, the literal floor starts to split open, and you are then forced to go to one wall. And luckily that wall has a bunch of rock climbing knobs. And then what happens is a screen comes down from the ceiling and it says, Guess what? You have 30 seconds. And another item comes down from the ceiling, which is their highest and $2,000 jacket, and they say, You have 3 seconds to grab this jacket and it’s yours.
And here you are, you’re cling onto the wall and these little knobs, there’s no floor underneath you. It’s disappeared. There’s sort of this spongy pad you could jump on, but it’s still a good 10 feet below you. And you still have to climb 10 feet up to get this jacket. And it is one of the favorite stores in any type of retail environment. And there’s a reason why the North Face can charge almost double the price in Korea than it does anywhere else, because they figured out a way to get their customers to work, to get engaged, to have gamma, you know, gamification is another way of actually adding good friction, having white rabbits.
And you know, like when Nike does a launch of a special collection, you can’t just get online and get in the queue. You actually have to know the secrets that are being discussed in all the blogs. And one of those secrets will tell you that you have to go to a public square and then you have to download a app that has augmented reality and then you have to trial an error point your iPhone to figure out if you can actually see the image that will give you a number that then you can get onto the website to put it in, to then just get in the queue to buy the product. And that has been one of the most popular ways of launching a product, and that’s making your customers work their butt off.
Arek Dvornechuck: Yeah, these are great examples by the way. So, I hope it gives you guys some ideas and, and by the way, you described. So, there is a few words of introduction, of course, but the second part is all about these tactics and some of them you just mentioned, Right? I’m gonna link to the book in the description below. But as we are approaching the end of our episode, I just wanted ask where we can, what’s the best way to connect with you
Soon Yu: Sure, sure I mean LinkedIn there’s not very many Soon you it’s S-O-O-N-Y-U so that’s one LinkedIn and then you can always reach me on my website
It’s you know www.soonyu.com S-O-O-N-Y-U.com So it’s that’s pretty straightforward. And worst cases, just type in my name under Google because again, there’s just not a lot of mes. Okay,
Arek Dvornechuck: Okay. So we’re gonna link to your website as well and to the book on Amazon for you guys to check it out. Thanks for coming on the show today.
Soon Yu: Thank you Arek!