One of my favorite books is Wired to Care. It does a great job of really emphasizing the importance of connecting with your customers. Really deep understanding of your customers occurs when you have empathy. There is no us versus them. The line becomes blurred between those inside the building and those outside. The book makes a great point that the fastest way for a company to have this kind of empathy is to hire its customers. Hire the people that love your products and services and have them evangelize your products. This will really let your brand transcend into more than just a brand but a lifestyle—surround your company with people that eat, drink and breathe your brand. Those that truly embody your company’s beliefs and values. Those that reflect your worldview.
A company that has done this in a very memorable way is Harley Davidson. You know when you see a Harley Davidson rider. You know. They are PASSIONATE about the brand and the values that it reflects. Many of them even have the Harley Davidson tattoo on their body. Think about it, they have a corporate logo as a tatoo. As Simon Sinek pointed out in one of his talks, nobody’s getting a P&G logo tattooed on themselves. Harley Davidson has created more than a brand—they have created a lifestyle. Again, true customer loyalty happens when someone will buy your product in spite of their being cheaper alternatives or more convenient ones. Harley Davidson bikes are much more expensive than their Japanese counterparts. Do you think that matters to the hardcore Harley Davidson customer? Not. One. Bit. A lot (not all) but a lot of their employees ride Harley Davidson bikes. They deeply understand the appeal of the product and they know what the Harley Customer wants—all they have to do is look in the mirror.
The secret to Harley Davidson’s success is that they created a community or as Seth Godin would put it, they created a tribe. A group of people that care about the same things, have the same beliefs & values. More importantly, they understand each other…and they communicate that sense of “tribe” to the world and to everyone around them. It all comes down to being able to communicate why you do what you do and why it matters.
Company’s need to be able to communicate their true beliefs and embrace what that brings. Some companies have become very good at “communicating” what they think we want to hear. It’s unfortunate because when a company tries to convince us of something that they do not believe, they come up short. This is where the disconnect and distrust happens. As consumer’s we notice inconsistencies. We may still buy but there is no true loyalty. For that to occur, we need authenticity and connection. Think about how you are positioning your products and services. Are you reflecting your true beliefs and values? Or are you merely telling your potential customers what you think they want to hear?