Steve Austin Project: "Eating Our Own Dogfood"

*”The Steve Austin Project” is @Fallon’s ongoing/real-time series of thought-starters, visions, and agenda-setting for getting digital back on track here at Fallon.

“Dogfooding” (as it is sometimes called) is when a company uses its own product internally, with the implication being that what’s good enough for the customer is good enough for the company. Originally the idea came from Alpo dog food commercials, in which spokesman Lorne Greene earnestly assured us that Alpo is so good, he feeds it to his own dogs. Since then, and one famous Microsoft memo later, the term has become common among software companies that feel it beneficial to use their own product internally.

dog_food

At Google, “Eating Our Own Dogfood” is not just a vision, its policy. This means that no Nexus 1, no Google Map, no Google Wave leaves the building without having undergone the rigor of hundreds of hours of internal usage and beta testing.

What is good enough for Google is good enough for @Fallon. We’re gonna start eating our own dogfood here. Its policy.

Reasons why #Dogfooding is vital (and mandatory):

* Synchronizes our interests with those of our customers. Customers want an oustanding product–and so do we, because we use it too!
* Helps us continually improve the product. #Dogfooding internally makes it easy to identify possible improvements and cool new features that enhance both the user experience and the product’s overall value.
* Demonstrates, in a tangible and unambiguous way, that we stand behind our product and think it’s a good one.

Back in the middle-ages of interactive ideas, quality assurance and beta simply meant the designer looked at the microsite on both a PC and a Mac to confirm that the Flash animation is playing properly. Check.

This is not enough today. As more of our ideas begin to look and act like Google products – tools, solutions, apps, multi-media experiences, not just a Flash animation. This demands a broader, networked approach to testing, de-bugging and just maintaining a great user experience.

How #Dogfooding works:

Recall Lion-O, who would issue the call-to-action “Thundercats, Ho!” When the call was issued, every Thundercat could be relied upon to stop what they were doing and give aid to the mission at hand. It was policy. Heck, even broke-ass Snarf (who couldn’t fight and wasn’t even a Thundercat) heeded the call and came to throw at least some harsh words at Mumm-Ra. No Thundercat ignores “Thundercats, Ho!” with lame excuses that they were “…too busy, homie! Er, how’d that thing go with Mumm-Ra last week?”

First, look for #Dogfood header or tag in any emails, Facebook invites, etc. It means digital ops here must give the tool a try. Now or at least soonish. If you see #Dogfood, consider it a call-to-action, grab a sword and come fight evil. Respond to your mates with feedback and details about the experience and how it may be improved.

Secondly, all project calendars will need a #Dogfood stage of development…budget and account for this phase accordingly. Like at Google, no project can launch without at least 10 #Dogfooders having tested and used your idea and offered feedback. Minimum 10. If you’re developing an app for moms in mobile…find 10 moms to #Dogfood it. Pay ’em, barter favors, do what you gots to do. But you don’t pass go until you’ve #Dogfooded your project. So it is incumbent that each of us (and the agency at large, I’ll get to that in a minute, standby) to #Dogfood other’s projects, cuz you’re gonna need them to return the favor on yours soon.

Thirdly, consider #Dogfood as a marketing/word-of-wouth call-to-action, too. When one of us launches an app on Facebook, a promotional Tweet, a video post – consider yourself obligated to #Retweet, #Like, #Favorite, #Digg, and generally pass the word to your circle to fuel the meme. Now, I’m realistic, us 15 folks likely won’t ignite a “viral” (we still need mass, ie paid, awareness, check) but shame on us if we can’t muster 20 votes/retweets/diggs on our own hot ideas.

SYSPERLINGStart eating our own dogfood.

Because as Sy Sperling of HairClub for Men used to say: “I’m not only the Hair Club President, I’m a client!”

Read more Steve Austin Project memos here.

About Fallon