Building Your Customers’ Brand | When the Story Isn’t About You

It’s funny, isn’t it? Funny, as in, ironic. Social media is all the rage, with use growing at an exponential rate.

Many marketers (including the Level343 team) talk about engaging your customers, reaching out to them, treating them like people instead of numbers. The business world is all fuzzy, feel good warmth, struggling to embrace the buyer in friendliness. Any day now, the Care Bears will walk in and start growing rainbows out of their fuzzy white bellies.

Then we come across things like “Taking Your Brand Back from Your Customers”. Wow. That sounds somewhat military-ish, doesn’t it? It has a “village mob” flavor at the very least:

Fearless Corporate Leader: Grab your torch and pitchforks, everybody! Let’s go get our brand back!

Crowd: Yeeeeeaaaah!

Welcome to the 18th century of business.

Your Constituents Want YOU!

“Ladies and gentlemen, we promise no new shipping costs, price hikes or product defects!*”

*Except in the fine print where we state clearly that we have the right to hike prices and shipping costs indefinitely without warning and product defects are mandatory during cost cutting phases.

Politics are on our minds right now, considering that the U.S. is in line to either a) get a new President or b) keep the current one. Which brings to mind this question – do you know what a constituent is?

The free dictionary definition of constituent has several neat numbers, as definitions almost always do. “Thank you for visiting your local dictionary! Your most wonderful word is spelled like this, sounds like this, is used as an adjective or noun, and can mean this, this or this.” For the purpose of this article, we’re interested in the definition that says a constituent is part of a whole, empowered to designate (the adjectives) and one that authorizes another to act as a representative (noun).

How does this tie into business and branding, you ask? You, dear business owner, have constituents! We call them customers in the business world, but they are:

  1. part of a whole target market
  2. that has the power to designate
  3. you and your brand as their representative

That’s right. Bet you didn’t know you signed up for politics, did you? Your consumers want YOU to represent them. They’ve voted you in with the best vote possible, the cash in their wallets. They’ve designated your brand, your business – your beautiful product – as the one that tells their story.

This Is Not Your Story

Their story is not your story. This is your story and this is your story, but when they pick up your products or use your services, your brand becomes part of their story. Big brands like Wal-Mart and American Express understand that:

Wal-Mart: Save Money. Live Better.
“I got it at Wal-Mart for a real bargain,” a woman says, and smiles as her friends exclaim over the deal she found.

American Express: Do more.
“Where’d you go for vacation, Bob?”
Steve’s eyebrows go up in surprise. “Wow, really? That must have cost a small fortune. How’d you manage that?”
“Eh, it wasn’t that bad, “says Bob with a sly grin and a shrug. He and his wife wouldn’t have been able to take that vacation without using their American Express rewards, but Steve doesn’t need to know that.

Harley Davidson definitely understands that. “Live cage free,” one of their ads says. “With power comes freedom. With freedom comes anything,” says another. Their entire site lives and breathes the freedom of the road without the cage of an enclosed car. You can almost feel the wind whipping across your face and the power of the bike thrumming under you.

The advertising says, “This is you. This is your story and it’s about freedom!” Of course, the “freedom” theme also ties in neatly with the American dream, but that’s probably a coincidence… maybe.

BMW understands that, and targets a higher standard of living with “the ultimate driving machine”. Prada understands that; the company’s founders worked to become the very symbol of luxury, with its particular brand of “reverse snobbery”.

Do you notice the reoccurring theme with these successful brands? Many people buying at Wal-Mart are thrifty and proud of it. They look for the best deal at the best price (the best deal is not always the best price).

Many who use American Express really do end up doing more than they might otherwise be able to do, thanks to the rewards programs. For some, their “brand” is their own impression of being well off, whatever that is, and rewards programs are a great way to do that.

Have you ever seen a Harley Davidson owner that didn’t have at least a tiny bit of rebel in them? The gentleman with the pocket protector, glasses and a wicked bishop’s move in chess climbs on his Harley and becomes one with the road. It’s just him and his machine.

So Now You’ve Been Elected

So here you are – the elected official of Brandom, Mayor of the City of Brandness and Grand High Poombah of Brandonia. Your customers have voted to designate your company and products as their representative to the world. Now… are you a good politician?

  • Do you listen to your constituents?
  • Do you pay attention to what they want?
  • Do you show that you care about them(and, if so, how)?
  • Are you representing them to the best of your ability?

Or, like the article title used in the beginning, are you working on taking your brand BACK from your customers? Instead of it being an “us or them” idea, let’s focus on a little bit of “us “. Work on building your customers’ brand and they’ll help you build yours. It’s a win-win situation.

We are the nation of Level343. Thank, dear citizens, for reading. Cue the Care Bears belly rainbow.

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2 Responses

  1. This is a topic that I like. Building a brand is not an easy job to be done by anyone, in my opinion to be able to build a great brand requires careful observation of the market requests and available resources.

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