Getting Stroft With Your Customers

Via the web, I get to hang around with some really smart people. Two of my favorite conversationalists are Olivier Blanchard (the brand builder) and Kristi Colvin (she wears a lot of hats! You can find her at Design For Users.)

Kristi recently wrote something (which Olivier also quoted) which is truly remarkable about the core of brand strategy:

The heart of a brand, like that of an individual, is vulnerable. It must be both soft enough to prove genuine caring, and strong enough to withstand scrutiny and adversity. But it is your core offering – not your products and services – and if you aren’t in touch with and know what’s in the heart, establishing lasting relationships with customers will be difficult or hit and miss. Do you want a shallow relationship with the people that interact with your brand, or a sympathetic bond that can withstand conflicts?

I hate to say it, but you probably won’t get your user experience 100 percent beautiful 100 percent of the time. Branding is not, I don’t think, about perfection. And when we are imperfect, it is not about the art of the “spin.” It is, as Kristi says, the art of relationship building, being real, being vulnerable.

That doesn’t mean offer crappy service and an iffy product and just put on a big smile when trouble comes boomeranging back at you. It means real people will appreciate other real people doing their best, offering their best. The way to build bridges over inevitable errors now and then is to build those “strong yet soft” relationships with your customers. It’s about time to get stroft (there’s a paper towel campaign in there somewhere.)