Do Customers See Themselves in Your Brand Identity?

by Jeannie Walters

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The Power of Identity

The North Face asked customers to walk their talk recently in Korea. In this viral video, customers who identified as adventure-seekers were given a choice. Start climbing the walls, or the floor goes away. Literally!

This is such an amazing example of experiential marketing. And it’s a great way to help customers identify with your products, your brand, and your experience. These customers had, after all, self identified as adventure seekers. This experience celebrated their identities an unexpected and amazing way.

At a recent conference, I saw a speaker from Buzzfeed declare that anything viral was really about identity. If we recognize ourselves in a silly quiz about our hometown or our left-handedness, we want to share it so others can see themselves, too.

This same rule applies to any part of the customer experience we want to feel special. Can your customer see him or herself in the special experience you’re offering? In the rush to amaze and delight, a la Zappos, organizations often overlook ways to truly provide experiences meaningful to that customer.

Consistently great, or consistently… the same?

We want to create a great experience for everyone, but experience really is about how we feel. Here’s where customer experience consistency gets tricky.

A gentleman who travels extensively and is a top-tier member of a hotel loyalty program was telling me he just wished they’d ask him a few questions. He is often greeted in his hotel room with a bottle of wine and chocolates. The thought behind the gifts is nice, but he can’t enjoy either. He’s diabetic and doesn’t drink or eat sugar. How he wished they would give him a special tea he likes and almonds! That’s all he really wants. But they’ve never asked, so he packs up the wine and chocolates and gives them to flight attendants.

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A perk like that, which is supposed to make the guest feel special, actually underlines what they don’t know about him. He can’t identify himself in those gifts.

Know thyself, know thy customer.

Not everything has to hit the mark exactly, but if the experience you deliver to customers is lacking any identity, you might as well pack it up.

When conducting a recent touchpoint inventory workshop, the client was surprised when I pressed for what their brand promise really was. They were confident in telling me what they weren’t. They embraced the ways they were different from the competition, but they hadn’t identified who they were, what they wanted to offer and who their customers were. These are huge questions whose answers have tremendous impact on the experience for customers.

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If you don’t know who you are, you can’t know who your customers are.

Identity is a key part of delivering a superior customer experience, and it starts with the organization. The best experiences are all about identity of both the brand and the customers. Harley Davidson, known for creating intensely loyal customers and a community around them, has a distinct identity which isn’t for everyone. That’s ok. That’s the point. Those who do identify with you will be the customers you want.

Have you really thought hard about your own brand identity? What about ways your own customers can identify with you? It’s a critical first step that’s overlooked all the time! But it’s not too late. Determine who you are and why you offer what you do. Then help those who can identify with you find you.


Photo credit: barbourians via Creative Commons license

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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