A wrong way to approach building a brand is to be you-centric, rather than customer-centric.
So, continually orient yourself to the perspective of your customer. Your customer, not your business, is the hero of the story. And your business exists to serve this customer.
Your job isn't to tell the world how great your business is. Your job is to engage customers so that their world can be better as a result of allowing your business to serve them.
Here is an example of how not to build a brand story, an example of missed opportunity for empathy. This business was it-centric, rather than customer-centric.
Back in late 2008, Seattle's Washington Mutual Bank, we lovingly call it WaMu, failed and was subsumed in a shotgun wedding with Chase Bank. We Seattleites, just like the rest of the country and world, were reeling from the beginning of the Great Recession. And WaMu failing was like salt in the wound.
We didn't particularly want this swaggering newcomer, Chase, to show us how great they were. We just wanted our bank, our WaMu, our hometown pride to be restored.
And their greeting to us Seattleites at that time was this – they plastered buses around the city with this bus ad: "Seattle, land of coffee, seafood, and now, helpful banking."
Now, helpful banking?
We previously did have helpful banking; it was called WaMu and we loved it. It was our hometown pride. How dare this newcomer come in and say that now we finally are going to be swept up and saved by this newcomer who is the hero?
Understanding our response required some empathy from Chase. It required that they step into our shoes and feel the wound with us. Chase could have empathetically let the Seattleites be the hero, but instead, they insisted that they were the hero and insulted us further.
Here's how another financial institution spoke to the Seattle customer during the same period. PEMCO Insurance developed a bus ad campaign, and in this campaign, on all of these buses, plastered about the city, were inside jokes about living in the Pacific Northwest. And the caption for each was, "We're a lot like you, a little different." On all of these buses were these funny, kind of quirky, inside jokes that made us smile and made us feel proud again.
PEMCO did the opposite of what Chase did. Instead of presuming a superior seat at the family table, they became one of us. They felt the zeitgeist of Seattle and then made the Seattleite the hero of the story.
I still, today, 11 years later, witness people grinning when they see one of these PEMCO ads.
When you're building your brand and messaging and story-telling for your brand, are you you-centric, or are you customer-centric? Are you tuning in just to yourself, or are you tuning into what your customer needs?
Remember: build a more meaningful business, one that creates value for you and for your customer, by making your customer the hero.
Lindsay is a Brand Strategist and Founder of Ironclad Brand Strategy, which builds brands using an exacting and analytic method. Her background as a P&L owner at Clorox fostered a deep appreciation for the executive charge: to create sustainable value. Ironclad advises companies from burgeoning startups to national corporations, including Zulily, IMDb, T-Mobile and Starbucks. Lindsay holds an MBA in Business from the University of California Berkeley, Haas School of Business.