Sitting looking out the same window where earlier this morning ideas came pouring in, Eric was drawing a blank. “Come on”, he thought, “I’m the VP of Sales and Marketing. If I can’t think of what it is that our consumers expect, what our brand promise is, what’s that say about our ability to communicate our point of difference to our consumers?” Just then Thatcher happened by and seeing that Eric’s notepad was blank asked, “Struggling a bit?” “More than a bit.”, Eric admitted, feeling both frustrated and slightly embarrassed. “It’s not easy”, Thatcher suggested. “We don’t experience our own brand the same way as our consumers. We have a lot of other stories attached to it, such as the work that went into the development of a new product, or the marketing plan behind its launch. Try this, envision you are standing in front of a refrigerated case in a grocery store trying to decide which cottage cheese to buy. Finish this statement, ‘you picked ours because’…….?”
Thatcher walked out onto the patio and noticed Don sitting on a chair leaning over his iPhone. “Got it all figured out?”, Thatcher asked. “Yeah, I knew what I was going to write before I even walked out here. Do you want me to share it with you now or wait until we meet back up as a group?”, Don responded.” “You can wait until we are all back together, but let me just leave you to think a bit more by adding this challenge. If you were to come at it from the mindset of our consumer, would what you wrote be aligned with your experience? If so, great and if not, then I’d encourage you to revise what you have on your paper. Is that cool?” “Sure, I’ll play along, but I don’t think it's going to change what I wrote.” Thatcher smiled and started walking down the steps towards the beach. As he walked he gently shook his head and said to himself, “Man that is one stubborn dude. But, he is wickedly smart. If only I could harness his powers for good.” , he thought, as his smile grew wider.
Thatcher knew he would find Jodi sitting in her favorite new space, the little cove she had discovered earlier in the day. “How’s it going?”, he asked as he approached. “Well, it depends if you are open-minded. I started thinking about your instructions that we should consider our brand promise from behind the eyes of our consumers, but I kept coming back to thinking of it from the mindset of our employees.”, Jodi shared somewhat worried. “No, that’s totally fine. In fact, I think it’s good to bring that to our consciousness. A brand is truly an organism. Our employees and our culture help shape its personality. If our brand promise in the eyes of consumers is not aligned with its promise in the eyes of our team, we are in big trouble.”, Thatcher offered. “I’ll leave you to it. We have about 15 minutes before we reconvene, and I don’t want to interrupt your flow.”
Thatcher made his way back to the living room where he found Gail still sitting on the couch. “So, how’s it going, have you figured it out?”, Thatcher asked. “Kind of, I feel like we make a bunch of promises to our consumers, and it’s hard to narrow it down to just one,” Gail told him. “Yeah, I struggled with that as well, but the way I worked it through was to try to find the most common denominator. If we make many promises to our consumers, somewhere they have to intersect or we risk not being in alignment. I’d suggest trying to find that intersection. You have another 10-minutes or so. If you want to get up and move around that might help.”, Thatcher hinted. “No, I’m fine, thanks.”, Gail said. “It’s been really peaceful in here by myself.” “Okay, then I will leave you alone.”, and with that Thatcher walked into the kitchen to grab some water for the group. He was excited to hear what was about to be shared.
Once everyone was back in their spots in the living room, Thatcher kicked it off. “Every time a consumer pulls one of our products off the shelf, its like shaking someone’s hand.” That statement was met with a bunch of quizzical stares. Thatcher laughed. “Not making much sense am I? Let me clarify. When we meet someone for the first time and offer our hand, as soon as their hand is in ours, we start making judgments. A soft handshake offered with downcast eyes, and we are likely to label that person as weak or lacking confidence. A firm handshake that is given in conjunction with a smile and eye contact, well that is someone we can trust. The thing is, the same process takes place when we pick up a product off the shelf or open it in our house. That’s when the impression is made. So my question to you is, what is it that our consumers expect when shaking our brand’s hand. What’s our promise?”
“I’m happy to share.”, Gail offered. “I think our promise is high quality, safe wholesome food.” “That’s awesome”, Thatcher responded, “but does that set us apart from our competition? “Maybe not enough.”, Gail acquiesced.
“Who else wants to add their thoughts? “, Thatcher asked. Eric spoke up. “Well, mine is pretty similar. I think our promise is great tasting, innovative products that are good for you.” “I like that one too, but again is it enough to differentiate us? How about you Don?” “Sure, mine’s a bit different so bear with me. I think our brand is like a trusted friend who you feel comfortable inviting into your home.” The room was dead quiet. Thatcher felt a wry smile spread across his face. “That S.O.B., I knew he had it in him.”, he thought to himself. Before he could respond, Jodi jumped in. “That fits well with mine, which I mentioned to Thatcher I approached from the mindset of our employees. Our promise is that we treat each other like friends and make our products as if they were being served to our own families.” There was an energy in the room. Everyone seemed to recognize they were on to something.
With excitement in his voice, Thatcher said, “This is so cool. We are starting to talk about this company and our brand like a living thing, and it needs to be in the eyes of our consumers and our employees. You see people, even the most logical and linear of us, are emotive creatures. We make most of our decisions emotionally, and if we want to attract great people and loyal consumers, we need to do so through emotion not reason. I think this means we are ready to start developing our P.V.V.O.P.” ”What the heck is PeeVOP?”, Don asked, sounding out the acronym. “Great question, but you know what? Let’s allow what just happened to sink in a bit. I thought I’d take you guys over to a great little taco stand down by the state beach for lunch. We can start up again after we’ve had something to eat.“