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Transforming How Your Customers See You

It is a truism that the lens through which your customers look determines how they see you, understand you, or not, and choose to engage with you, or not. And from every one of our experiences over many decades of marketing, we know that what your customers choose to buy is not actually your product or service; it is the outcome and impact that product or service has on their lives.  It is the experience they now have because they engaged with you. It is their perspective of your story and what it means, or could mean, to them. Because that is what they are buying… a story, your story, that they are choosing to make part of their own personal brand, their own personal story. Ultimately, consumers buy your product or service because of what it means to them, what it enables them to do, how it delivers something they find intrinsically valuable, even aspirational, in their own lives. And the lens through which you want your customers to view your story is always built on:  (1) why you do what you do, (2) what you do, (3) how you do it, and (4) what destination your customer is able to arrive at or achieve because of their engagement with you.  This is what determines their perspective.  And perspective is what determines actions. This is why the most powerful approach to marketing is the story that allows you to personally connect with your audience.  A story that speaks to how you can deliver unique, often aspirational experiences that impact their lives. Why? Because, ultimately, don’t forget all truly successful marketing is not really about you at all, it is about your customer and the lens through which they look.

The best marketers are moving in this direction quickly; away from transactional “facts and figures” product marketing and leaning into stories about real customers, real aspirations, real outcomes. The kind of stories that can actually change perspectives about what is possible.

The question is: how far do you go in telling a story based on what you think are both your and your customer’s aspirations that you can realistically and credibly speak to?

While I will always say you should err on the side of aspiration, the challenge is that you cannot lose credibility and authenticity in this process with a story and destination bigger than you can actually deliver. You cannot make a claim or draw your customer into a story that is not truly supported by the experience your customer will have with you. And where that line is, is always a judgement call.

Let me give you an example.…

According to a recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article “Lime Ads Evoke a Mission Beyond Renting Out Scooters,”  The scooter-rental startup Lime has started a campaign meant to associate its brand with a higher purpose, as its fledgling niche continues to encounter controversy.

The reasons behind this? Well, for anyone who lives in a city where Lime or their competitors operate, you have likely encountered some of the difficulties of both the proliferation of these scooters lying everywhere on sidewalks and surface streets, as well as the challenges when they are “dropped off” in seemingly random locations, often in the middle of busy sidewalks outside of shops, restaurants, and offices.

In Atlanta, where I live, this has caused a backlash against what is really a pretty innovative idea – an on-demand use of temporary, short distance transportation.  This app based personal transportation business gives riders access and ease of use to rent scooters and go anywhere in the city, drop them off for future riders, and repeat that cycle, all while having them charged by Lime as they are dropped off.

Against this backdrop, Lime has launched a social media campaign to change the way customers, prospective customers, communities, and skeptics, see their product and service. The objective, according to Lime, is to help address both the skeptics who don’t ride, want to ride, or even think about scooters, except as urban nuisances; as well as change and expand the lens through which their customers look about why rent a Lime at all?  In other words, they are now telling an aspirational story about their “why” and the outcome and impact their product and service can have on customers and even the broader community. The campaign airs under the theme: “Lime – Unlock Life.”

According to the WSJ, “…videos show riders shortening their commutes and seeing parts of their cities that had been hard to reach. ‘When you unlock a Lime, you’re unlocking life,’ a voice-over concludes.”  According to Duke Stump, a former executive of Lululemon Athletica Inc. and Nike Inc., who was named Lime’s first chief marketing officer in February, “It’s just a more expansive lens than ‘This is a scooter to get you from point A to point B’.’’  Zac Ryder, an executive creative director at the Lab [Lime’s agency] says this about the campaign direction, “Skeptics who don’t ride the scooters are the company’s biggest challenge. How do you have a conversation with people who are never going to get on a scooter? How do you help them understand that these are going to help them make their lives better even if they never open the app?”

Here is one of the videos from the campaign, take a look and see what you think about their attempt to change the lens – change the perspective – of the way their customers and potential customers think. https://youtu.be/C3e-EsD03_c

I love the fact that Lime leans into the power of the story and essentially a “what if” proposition:  What if by renting a Lime your experience would be… the impact would be… your world could change by…

Rent a Lime and you are unlocking possibilities in your life.

These are the right questions to get customers and the wider community to ask and answer in their own heads. It is the right lens through which you would want them to look. And this campaign is indeed telling a story that truly matters beyond just getting from point A to point B, as Mr. Stump alluded to, but… is it credible? Is it truly authentic in this new story from Lime to make the claim that the experience customers and the local communities will have is to “unlock life?”  Or is this a mountain too high to climb in the minds of their audience, customers and constituents? When speaking to something this aspirational, which again is the right overall strategy and approach directionally, you set a very, very high bar that you must be able to deliver against.

To me, this highlights two things to keep in mind when you make these judgement calls:

  1. Elevating and deepening your story really is all about connecting and engaging with your customers on how their life could and would change as they engage with you, buy from you. Product marketing about a new and cool product just isn’t enough. The story of the impact and outcome for your customers, for their lives, is what is transformative. Lime is doing that here.
  2. As is always the challenge, you need to be right. You need to be able to truly and authentically deliver on that bigger story and the experience of that story in reality. Will renting a Lime deliver the experience that validates this story for their customers and the communities they operate in? Will their customers, communities and skeptics believe that renting scooters from them will ultimately help them unlock their life and possibilities in their life in new ways? That will be the test.

Watch the videos, look at their campaign and wait to see what the impact is.

Personally, though I am not their target customer, I love their approach and what they are doing. I want them to be right. And I am rooting for them, and the boldness of more approaches like this.

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