The Nakatomi Plaza is in a crisis. Only our hero, John McClane can save the plaza and the lives of everyone in it.
As business owners, we all believe we’re John McClane. When our customers are in need, we are the ones to save the day.
Need a pick me up? Buy my coffee. Busy workday? Buy my planner. You need me to save you...right?
Not exactly. We’re missing one crucial component of John Mcclane’s journey to victory. He didn’t do it on his own. Sgt. Al Powell provides McClane guidance when things become dire and keeps him grounded when it matters most.
If there’s one thing years of helping clients at our Colorado branding firm has taught us, it's that you want to be John McClane.
But I’m here to tell you that as a business, you are Al. Your customer is John. You are there to help John navigate through the building and defeat the villains.
Confused? Let me explain.
Brand Strategy = Business Strategy
As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, What Is a Manifesto and Why is it A Must-Have for Your Brand?, businesses built on storytelling and purpose will win out over those that are not. This means that your business needs to focus more on your brand, which isn’t just your logo or colors, it’s your strategy. And in simplest terms, your strategy is aligning your business goals with your customers’ needs.
So, what does that look like? Well, during a regular workday we spend meeting after meeting talking about how amazing our products and services are. We get so caught up putting all our hard work towards something we’re proud of, it only makes sense that we want to throw it up all over our customers. We have John McClane syndrome when in reality, we should be Al. We should be making our customers the heroes of their own lives. Only then can we stand out above other businesses.
You can make your customer have the autonomy of being their own hero through story. Through story, you build trust. Customers look to the brands they identify with to protect their interest to not constantly be sold to.
Jen Rubio, President and Co-founder of Away luggage says it best: “Today’s consumers are looking for more than just a great product, they’re looking for a brand that aligns with their values and that takes the time to truly understand their needs as people, not just customers.”
The Hero’s Journey
The Hero’s Journey was originally articulated by Joseph Campbell and the classic structure includes 12 steps.
The part of the journey that we will focus on here is when the hero meets their mentor or guide that will help them rise above the challenge. We as brands play the part of the guide.
One of the best Hero’s Journeys of all time is Star Wars. In this case, Luke Skywalker is our hero. He wants to go fight the dark side but is resistant to it. Obi Wan Kenobi guides him through the experience. Yoda also acts as a guide in future episodes.
Your customer = Luke
Your business = Yoda
Catch my drift? Let’s go through some examples.
AT&T: Don’t Do This
This page doesn’t acknowledge you as a customer. They believe that their greatest path to acquiring new customers is through having a faster phone connection than other networks.
In this story, they are telling us that they are the hero by choosing to only talk about what they can do for you.
Boost Mobile & Patagonia: The Winners
Boost Mobile does it best by showing us imagery of who we want to be. How do they compete against some of the biggest carriers in the world? They tell us who they’re for. When you look at this website, you think of yourself as a young person who is looking for a better value.
There are different areas of value on Boost Mobile’s website as well. For example, they are having different contests through the website where you can win prizes. They know that their brand story is not just about low-cost phones, it’s about young people having fun too.
Boost Mobile understands that in the modern world, it’s no longer enough to just have a great product at a low price. Customers crave to know who you are and why you exist.
Take Patagonia, for example.
Patagonia’s customers are fiercely loyal to this brand, not only because of their products, but because of what they believe in and stand for. They aren’t afraid to let you know who they are from the moment you land on their homepage.
Only one competitor in any given industry can be the cheapest. For everyone else, there’s branding and storytelling.
Who Are You?
Is there really any difference between the job that these two phones get done?
I would argue, not really.
Nevertheless, if I were to say that your iPhone sucks, you would take it personally and tell me why it’s a great device. Conversely, if you were a Samsung person, you would look at an Apple person and think that they’ve bought into a story that sells less phone for more money.
People identify with brands. Each of us is an amalgamation of the brands we use most. Your brands tell the world the story you want them to know. It signals to others what type of person you are.
Therefore, as a brand owner, instead of saying, “Hey, we sell you phones,” you can find your own way of saying “Hey, we believe that you thing differently by sharing our values and sharing our ‘why’.” By identifying who you are as a business, you tell your customers who they are.
An amazing example of this is Tesla. When you drive a Tesla, you tell the world, “I’m futuristic. I’m technology savvy. I’m doing my part to fight against fossil fuels.”
How Do You Align with Brands?
When you think about your own life and say, “I’m a ____ person,” consider what is happening with your brand experience.
When you start to think about how you align with brands, how are you becoming a different person?
When you think about your own brand, how are you making your customers an insert your company here person?
Be the Customer
Having trouble getting into the mindset of your customers? Here is an exercise that I love to share with other brand builders.
Journal a day in the life as your customer from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to bed. Don’t mention your products or services. Don’t mention your company.
Map out what your customer has before your brand? What do they have after your brand? What are they feeling before your brand? After?
Where do your goals and customer needs intersect?
This is a great opportunity to understand who your customer is outside of your offerings and can give you a broader perspective of how you can act as a guide in your customer’s hero journey.
If you want someone to buy what you’re selling, make your mission and your story more personal and human-centered.
Think about it. Your customers go on vacation and take pictures of their sandwiches at famous delis. They watch their friends and loved ones get married. They buy pets and go to football games. They even sometimes have wings.
My point is, your customers have lives outside of using your products and services. And the more that you can connect and insert yourself into their lives as the hero, the more success you’re going to have as a business.
Because as you know, you are John McClane, not Al. Now go out and help John save the Nakatomi Plaza.
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