Access Restricted

Quick Read: Want to generate footfall or demand? Sometimes all it could take is a board saying “Access Restricted”.

Iceland is renowned for its fairytale landscapes, waterfalls and dancing midnight lights. But of all the places, an unusual site has become one of its most talked about destinations – a site of a plane crash. 

Sólheimasandur beach in Iceland is a desolate site, but for the mangled remains of a US Navy’s C-117 aircraft. It was in November 1973 that the aircraft crashed at the site with the crew onboard having miraculously survived.

After the crash, the U.S. military removed everything that was salvageable in the aircraft and left behind the 10,000 pound shell by the beach. For over four decades since then nothing much happened around it.

The landowners of the site almost forgot about it and were perfectly content to let time and nature slowly eat away at the twisted wreck.

Iceland Plane Crash

(Photo Credit: Eliot Stein. Source)

But steadily over the years it has become a not so well kept secret among photographers – who lent it an extra air of surrealism, by way of their documentaries and photographs.

In recent times it came to be used as a location for destination weddings.  Not to be left behind Bollywood even managed to get Shah Rukh Khan to lean backwards, spread his arms while not forgetting to romance Kajol over its fuselage!


(Still from the song in Dilwale)

Hell even Justin Bieber skateboarded on the plane’s roof in a music video in November 2015.

Expectedly it led to a steady increase in visitors to the site and got people into driving all over the place with little consideration about the property around. So in March 2016 the landowners’ of the site decisively put up signs banning all access to the area. 

…and then things started to go crazy!

Google Search Trends - Iceland Plane Crash Site

(Google Trends showing a spike in searches for the crash site in March 2016)

All it took was a “No Entry” sign.

Now, hundreds of people every day are reportedly following GPS coordinates to a remote, unmarked gate on the side of the road and trekking four kilometers through a barren lava desert to try their chances at seeing the plane’s twisted remains.

How Hitchcock Got People To See “Psycho”

When Psycho hit theaters, critics weren’t given private screenings. Instead Hitchcock created buzz for the film by exerting an unusual degree of directorial control over the viewing experience of the audience.

Accordingly the showings of the film began on a tightly-controlled schedule in theatres in New York, Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia.  And a firm “no late admission” policy was put in place.


(A standee to announce No Late Admission policy for Psycho. Source)

Theatre managers initially balked at the idea, fearing financial losses. But Hitchcock had his way.

And he was right.

Long lines formed outside the theaters, pulled even more people in and Psycho went on to enjoy critical and commercial success.

Sydney Opera House says “Come On In”

Sydney Opera House is the most Instagrammed destination in Australia.

The challenge:  Only 1% of those who upload a photo ever go inside.

Sydney Opera House found who these people were, recorded personalised invitation videos on the fly, and got them to step in to experience the Opera House from inside with exclusive access and perks.

See the case study video here

While it is definitely a smart intervention that effectively leverages relevant consumer touch points on the fly to get people to step inside, I wonder if the management of the Sydney Opera house had considered the contra idea.

…that of putting up a sign saying “Access Restricted”.

(Featured Image: Sólheimasandur plane crash site by Eric Cheng. Source)

Toothbrush, Vitamins And Pain Killers

Starting from 2001, Google has made 127 mergers and acquisitions till date.

Which makes it nearly 6 acquisitions for every 7 months over the last 12.5 years. It is expected now that this M&A rate is further going to accelerate with Google – for the first time –  considering forging alliances with private-equity firms to help it structure deals.

During the recent Bloomberg Next Big Thing Summit, speaking about how Google evaluates a potential M&A target, Don Harrison –  Google’s mergers and acquisitions chief said

“We apply something called the toothbrush test, which is we ask ourselves, ‘Is this something people use once or twice a day and does it solve a problem?’”

Thanks to its immensely sticky nature (and aided by the current  rock star status of Google), this toothbrush analogy has seemed to have gained an instant global popularity and is shooting to newer heights in terms of recorded “interest over time” as we speak. I did a quick sense check myself  by entering  “the toothbrush test”  as the search term and this is what I see on Google Trends:

ToothBrush Test

(Click to see larger image)

While this sounded to me like a fascinating analogy that brings a powerful idea to life, the concept of The Toothbrush Test somehow didn’t quite fit in within the schema of what I had in my mind regarding so many things that Google does today.  For e.g., I began to wonder –  Is Google+ a ‘toothbrush’? i.e., does it solve a problem and is it something that people use once of twice a day? Or is Sparrow (acquired by Google in July ’12) a ‘toothbrush’?

May be it  is. Or  may be it isn’t. But probably for me there’s a missing piece to the jigsaw here.

That’s when I hit upon this very useful question that VCs are known to ask entrepreneurs. (source)

Is your product like candy, vitamins, or pain-killers for your market?


(Image Source)

To elaborate:

  • Candy = a product that is a nice-to-have, that people enjoy and can be wildly successful if it becomes a fad (like Beanie Babies)
  • Vitamins = a product that is a nice-to-have and serves an emotional need, used to augment and improve things but sometimes harder to quantify and has an unknown market
  • Pain Killers = a product that is a need-to-have and serves an obvious need, or solves critical problems that need to be alleviated and has a quantifiable market and thereby immediately monetizable

While it might probably take a ‘marketing master stroke on steroids’ to sustain a successful company based on ‘candies’ alone, many product ideas can probably be placed in the continuum between ‘vitamins’ and ‘pain killers’.

Vitamin Painkiller

(Image Source)

In this context, as someone who blogs at the intersection of  psychology, technology, and business –  Nir Eyal at the Stanford Graduate School of Business posits that successful companies are known to be so good at embedding/implementing hooks in their products that they travel along the above continuum from being vitamins for ‘pleasure seeking’ consumers to becoming pain killers for their pain alleviation as they cement enduring habits in them.

In other words, a ‘cleverly designed vitamin product experience’ hooks the consumers and becomes so important in their lives that – because it becomes a habit, it becomes a pain relieving product.  Flip through the following presentation by Nir to get a more comprehensive view on his theory of  Hooked – The Psychology Of How Products Engage Us.

That’s when the insight stuck me:
For any well designed product/ experience the question is not IF it passes The Toothbrush Test.
The question is WHEN.
Don’t believe me? Ask the largest cigarette makers in the world who are currently making a gold rush to acquire/ develop e-cigarettes and they will tell you.