Unlock the magic in your story now.

Get the free 20 Questions to ask before launching your Idea Workbook when you sign up for updates.

What’s At Stake For Your Customer?

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing


We often use customer insights to inform product and service development. Throughout the process, our goal is always to empathise with the customer. But sometimes the language we use stops us from achieving that goal. For example, it’s harder to imagine a particular person with a problem by making a list of customer ‘pain points’, than it is to think about what’s wearing a customer down.

For example, we might list the pain points of someone (like my mum), who has trouble opening jars with her arthritic hands, as impaired grip, limited mobility and so on. But we form a more complete picture when we do the work of understanding the impact of those pain points. We get a sense of the emotional cost of living with those pain points when we think about what’s at stake for the person we want to serve.

Here’s how this works in practice.

Two Customer Insights Exercises

Exercise A. Make a list of your customers’ frustrations.

Exercise B. Stand in one customer’s shoes and fill in the blanks in the following sentences.

I’m tired of doing [X] and not achieving [Y].
I’m tired of feeling [X] and never being [Y].
I’m tired of being [X] and not doing [Y].
I’m tired of saying [X] and never getting to [Y].

When we do exercise B, instead of a list of pain points, we get an understanding of the customer’s story and her internal narrative. “I’m tired of having to ask for help and not being able to cook properly because I can’t open jars. When I can’t open a jar I feel like I’m getting weaker and losing my independence.”

What’s your customer’s story?
How does your product or service help your customer do less of X and experience more of Y?
That’s the story your customer wants and needs to hear.

Image by Kirsty Andrews

How Much Information Is Enough?

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy


When do we know it’s safe to cross the road? How much information do we need about how far away that truck is and how fast it’s going to decide whether to step off the pavement?

How much information does your customer need before deciding she trusts you?

As people who sell things or ideas, our challenge is twofold. We must understand what information our prospective customers want as well as how much information is enough. All the while remembering that the same information doesn’t work for everyone and we can only ‘know’ with hindsight what messages worked.

Researchers in university departments around the world spend years, sometimes decades, attempting to answer similar questions. Unlike scientists, we don’t have years to discover what’s working. But just like the scientist we must try and test. We must begin with the posture of empathy for the people we want to reach and resonate with. The question about what we should say then becomes about what the person we’re speaking to is ready to hear.

Image by Garry Knight

Fact Or Fiction?

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing


The bookstore in Albert Park had just opened when Thomas, dressed as Batman, and his mum walked in. They headed straight to the children’s section at the back.  They were shopping for a present for Ben, who was having a superhero birthday party that afternoon.

‘Let’s get Ben this book about Brazil. Then he can learn all about the people in Brazil,’ Mum said.
‘No! I want to get him a book about Batman,’ Thomas shot back, bottom lip out and cape askew.

In the end, they bought both books, but you can guess which one Ben loved.

It’s obvious that Thomas will be the best judge of what Ben likes. But his mum still has an opinion, based on her assumption about what’s better for Ben in the long run.

We sometimes make assumptions based on our opinions about a customer’s wants and needs. It’s hard to be objective about our ideas when we are invested in the outcome. But that shouldn’t stop us trying to stand in our customer’s shoes for long enough to understand how he feels. Our opinion is immaterial if it doesn’t align with the story the customer believes.

Image by Jonnie Anderson

Tell Me About Your Company

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy


If you were asked to describe a friend in three words you’d have no problem. Maybe you’d say he was fun or kind, perhaps you see him as loyal or generous. But if I asked you to tell me about your company’s attributes or brand’s characteristics you’d probably struggle. We invest a lot of time and resources in becoming known without clarifying what we want to be known for.

If we want to have a say in how our brand is perceived, then we need to be intentional about creating that perception. As the saying goes, if you don’t tell your story someone else will.

Questions For You

Can you describe your company in three words?
Are those the three words you aspire to be known for?
Are those three words how your customers already describe you?
If so, how can you continue to tell that story?
If not, what needs to change for you to become the company you want to be?

The goal isn’t to manipulate the message—it’s to amplify the truth.

Image by Garry Knight

The Brand Awareness Conundrum

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing


Every few months another new restaurant on Bourke Street closes its doors for the last time. Sometimes it’s like watching a car crash happening in slow motion right in front of your eyes. The events leading up to the closure follow a familiar pattern.

There’s the launch day fanfare, accompanied by balloons, the menu reveal and opening offers. The staff member stationed out front hands out leaflets to the hundreds of passers-by trying to entice them in. Many put their head around the restaurant door. Most don’t go inside. A few promise to come back but never do. The sandwich board on the pavement advertising discounted ‘specials’ get bigger and brighter as the days turn into weeks, then months, where too few lunches have been served. Those adverts are a sure sign that the lease won’t be renewed.

Bourke Street is one of the busiest streets in the heart of Melbourne—a place thousands of potential customers walk up and down each day. But setting up shop there does not guarantee that the right customers will come and keep coming. We have come to believe that being known is the key to being successful. That’s not always the case. The people and companies that succeed are not just visible to everyone—they’re resonant with the particular group of people that they have optimised their business to serve.

Back to Bourke Street. There’s a new restaurant that’s quickly become a favourite with busy office workers and weekend shoppers, looking for a quick pit stop and a healthy bite to eat. The first thing the owners did was to design the entrance with empathy. They didn’t want people to feel intimidated to step over the threshold. They wanted to avoid people feeling that they had to commit to sitting down if they walked in—which they believed would stop them coming in at all. They removed the door and left the restaurant completely open to the street.  They’re giving people the opportunity to see straight away if this is their kind of place.

Being known by everyone isn’t going to get us to where we want to go. Being right for the right people is where we start. And understanding how to show and tell those customers that we’re right for them is the way we build a sustainable, successful business. We don’t need to find more ways to make everyone see us. We need to find more ways to make the right people sure of us.

Image by Garry Knight

Unlock the magic in your story now.

Get the free 20 Questions to ask before launching your Idea Workbook when you sign up for updates.

Send this to a friend