Posts Tagged ‘customer engagement’

I wanted to share a new Founder’s Story video I created for Chef Erick Harcey at Victory 44 in Minneapolis:

Every truly great company is born from a founder with a driving passion for what they do and a strong vision guiding their work. The realization of those founding principles becomes a story that must be told.

Chef Erick Harcey of Victory 44 in Minneapolis believes that phenomenal food should be accessible to everyone, so he’s created a restaurant unlike any other in Minnesota. It’s a restaurant of chefs – only chefs. They just also do the jobs of the front of house staff, the servers and the restaurant managers. And their unique model, carefully selected menu items and seasonal ingredients let them keep costs very low, putting the dining experience on center stage.

Erick’s story is a founder’s story. It’s one that should never be overlooked when seeking to engage customers (or employees) holistically. By articulating values which customers may identify with, they are far more likely to become patrons for life. And it gives customers a back story to tell their friends about, creating a ready army of word of mouth advocates for your brand.

There’s a new name association game in town that can tell us a whole lot with a little (one word actually). It’s called Brand Tags and you can play the game yourself at

The concept here is that the site flashes up a well-known global brand and participants type in the one word that comes to mind when faced with that logo/brand name. There have been 1.7 million brand tags and counting. Once you’ve personally tagged five brands, the real fun begins as you are able to scroll through those 1.7 tags by brand name. Enlightening fodder indeed.

So what do all of these brand tags mean for brand story? They mean that we can and should find brand story themes by listening to our customers.

Let’s take 3M as a case study. If you scroll through 3M’s tags, you’ll notice many words that describe customer perception of 3M – paper, post-it, technology are among the most tagged. But what’s the singularly most tagged word of all for the 3M brand? INNOVATION. Now that sounds like a compelling theme to inform a brand story. And even more importantly than the fact that it’s a compelling theme from which to begin weaving a story is that it came directly from customers of 3M. Which brings us to another major guiding principle of brand storytelling:

The best way to create a truly authentic brand story is by inviting your customers to narrate your story with you.

Your customers’ perceptions and experiences already contribute to the living and evolving story of your brand. And actually, your customers will keep telling stories about your brand whether you invite them to or not. So why not continue to encourage their voices and let those honest and authentic customer experiences guide the themes of your brand stories?

And once you’ve begun (or continue to) identify and refine those core customer experience themes or “brand tags,” the real fun begins: you’ll have some storytelling to do.

Yeah, they sell coffee – but what is Starbucks really selling? Well, are you in the mood for love?

So over the years, nearly every Starbucks employee has collected stories of seeing first love first hand. Coffee shop romance is not an uncommon thing after all when there’s nearly one on every corner. But Starbucks employees saw what was happening and they did something about it. They told their stories. And in telling their stories they invited others to tell more stories. Until one day the company decided it was time to capture these little slices of love and put them to work for the Starbucks brand. As part of their Valentine’s Day push, the company announced a contest called Match Made Over Coffee calling for couples to submit a 250-word story about relationships that found their first spark at a Starbucks outlet. The winner would receive an all expense paid trip for two to Vienna, Austria – coffee capital of the world. They received nearly a thousand entries.

Winners were announced to great media fanfare and the Valentine’s Day volume and mood at Starbucks coffee shops around the country was let’s say…steamy. And Starbucks’ reputation as a place to go to well, you never know – meet that special someone grew and grew.

Starbucks knew exactly what they were doing by telling these stories and encouraging customers to tell their stories. No, the stories weren’t about how great the coffee was but they were about the experience people had while enjoying Starbucks coffee in a Starbucks coffee shop. Starbucks is well aware we are in the experience economy and we are selling far more than products these days. And they knew the power of great stories, well told, that reinforce that brand experience message.

Well played, Starbucks. Well played indeed. Do you know what stories your customers are telling about an experience they’ve had at your place of business?