So I was on a mission for Jelly Belly jelly beans. Don’t ask me why. I guess it was because I had eaten meat for dinner, and with the whole kosher thing I have to wait 5 hours and 5 minutes before I could have eaten ice cream. In any case, Jelly Belly jelly beans, besides being delicious, are also kosher and pareve (meaning they can be eaten right after meat). I was in Target with my mom and spied a pack. I bought it. The box says you can eat one at a time or enjoy flavorful combinations among the 20 gourmet flavors, which include eclectic choices like bubble gum, popcorn, strawberry daiquiri or toasted marshm mellow (my favorite by far). The interesting thing about a pack of Jelly Bellies is you only get about 2, maybe three of these really good flavors. Then there is the other jelly bean; the one, for the life of me, I cannot understand why it is included in a gourmet pack of such delicious flavors … the black jelly bean AKA black licorice AKA the one I always toss out if I can help it b/c I don’t like the flavor.
For some reason there always seems to be about 4 or 5 of these in a pack of jelly beans. And here I was in a multi-flavor popping frenzy (usually I eat them one at a time) and every few handfuls or so I’d get the black jelly bean. Then a philosophical question arose: the fine people at Jelly Belly must know what they are doing, right? I mean after all, they produce many flavors of jelly bean (have you ever seen the Harry Potter ones, including booger, vomit, and fish?) and the black jelly bean is always included. There must be some people who actually like the flavor – my mother-in-law does come to think of it. These thoughts brought me into further contemplation about a book I started reading called “Trust Agents.”
Picked it up for free at a talk by the authors this past Friday at the Harvard Club. Uberblogger Chris Brogen (my newest favorite Canadian) and Julian Smith (love him – not crazy about his blog navigation/theme) sat on a panel with two other guys (the ones who wrote the book “The Trusted Adviser”) speaking before a crowd of 200 business folks, most of whom were from the social media industry. During the talk they made many points about how it was important for business to experiment, even at the cost of failure, if it meant great returns in the new connected economy. That customers expected conversations, a point I semi-agree with, and companies need transparency and trust to succeed in today’s world where a favorable review on a consumer website can sell the latest widget.
What does this have to do with Jelly Beans? Well, in a way my purchase of a pack of Jelly Bellies encapsulates the trusted relationship that businesses must build. Even though I do not like the black jelly bean, others do. Jelly Belly is taking a risk including it in the pack of gourmet jelly beans b/c (I don’t think I am alone here) most jelly bean eaters do not like them either; my mother-in-law is in the minority. Yet they come standard, despite pissing off a chunk of the jelly bean eating population when they pull them out of the pack.
The point is that businesses sometimes make choices to stick tried and true to tradition even at the risk of negative public opinion. In building trust with the public, business is expected to do some things we don’t like in the interest of achieving specific business goals (not everything Apple does is golden – price point anyone?). The good companies stand by their choices while listening to the feedback. Perhaps they even incorporate the feedback into their future decisions. The true test here will be to see if the black jelly bean ratio goes down after someone from Jelly Belly reads this post (if they are even listening).
More about Trust Agents and this topic to come as I read this excellent book.