Wednesday, February 18, 2009

How Do Your Customers See Themselves?

If you’re from Cincinnati, particularly if you’re a Westie, you understand exactly what this image is about. You may be laughing, rolling your eyes or picking up the phone to schedule an appointment, but you understand what it’s about and who it’s for.

For one, it sits in perfect alignment with the dominant narrative about sons of the city’s fabled purple empire on the hill. One’s own relationship to Elder High School defines your perspective on the narrative – either these guys never really grow up or they really feel a sense of belonging to a place they spent four years early in their lives.

Human beings have an instinctive need to belong. Left to their own devices, they quickly sort themselves into tribes, clans, city states, nations, whatever.

Sometime these distinctions are merely a matter of preference such as Trojans fans versus Bruins fans. At other times it’s a desire to be around those who think, act and even look like you, whether that’s Promise Keepers or your college fraternity.

It’s the reason some make positive decisions like serving their country or working in community service. Neutral choices like a bowling league or the local chowder society. Or really bad choices like initiation into a street gang or voting in Republican primaries.

Sociologists call it tribalism, and it can be a powerful motivator. It just may be the mother lode of marketing. Imagine involving your audience in your brand to such an extent that they want to tell everybody.


Now imagine aligning yourself with a passion so strong that you literally can sell … well … purple caskets.

Speak to who your audience sees themselves as being. Fire up the passion in your audience and they will follow you anywhere.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should note I am an alumnus of Elder. I also should note that Terry Deters, who conceived the Purple Package, graduated from rival St. Xavier.

There’s a symmetry in that somehow.

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