You make silent agreements with your customers the day they encounter your brand.
Some brands don’t offer much. They don’t ask for much in return.
But every brand offers something. Beside the products and services they sell, every brand tells a story.
The story manufactures the frame your customers view you in.
Customers flock to good stories. They treat poor stories with indifference.
When you tell a good story, you set the bar high for yourself. Customers bond with this.
People enjoy businesses that enhance their own views of themselves. In a way, your company values help make your customers better people, too.
Think about yourself as a customer. Think of a company you identify with and why.
I think of companies like Apple, Amazon, and Nike.
The stories that introduced me to these companies stuck. The companies helped me see something in myself. Their story resonated with my identity. They also unlocked an aspirational view of myself.
When companies get this right their brand strengthens and they earn enduring customer relationships.
People want to identify with brands that get them. They abandon companies that get them wrong.
As a company, you’re responsible for telling your story. You’re also responsible for holding yourself to the story.
The story you tell also influences people to expect certain kinds of behaviors. When you behave inconsistently with the story you tell, your customers feel it.
Consider two examples:
When I’m in a hurry and looking for healthy food fast, there are not a ton of options. But Whole Foods has been my go-to for nearly three years. I eat there a lot. It’s quick. Reliable. Delicious. And the people are nice.
But tonight I found out they replaced their entire menu with burgers only. It outraged me.
I asked several employees what they thought. Most seemed upset about the change.
To me, the move felt entirely out of character for Whole Foods.
A few months ago I swang through Chick-Fil-A for breakfast.
The street adjacent to the store looked like a garbage truck had lost a few bags and raccoons had found them.
It covered most of the road. But none of it was in Chick-Fil-A’s lot.
The trash was not their problem.
I remember immediately thinking, “I bet they send someone out to pick up that trash.”
Sure enough. When I made it around the drive-thru, I saw a girl in a bright red shirt and black pants picking up garbage.
To me, the move perfectly captured my view of Chick-Fil-A’s brand: be good stewards in everything.
Bringing It All Home
Your brand tells a story. Your brand as a person. As a company.
Everything you do becomes part of your brand.
When you behave in ways that align with people’s vision of you, you strengthen your message with them. When you behave in ways that violates their vision of you, it conflicts with their expectations.
Behave however you want. But beware, if your behavior contradicts the story you tell, people feel it.
The world wants an authentic you. Give it to them.