I readily admit that this post is going to piss some people off. Especially the ones who were nice enough to send me the gratuitous greetings that inspired this rant.
But please bear with me and read on. You'll find there's something valuable here to learn about building your brand.
Each year about this time the digital holiday cards start to fill my email box. And you know what I'm talking about because you're either receiving them or you sent them.
As I'm sure you've found, the Thanksgiving designs tend to use a stock photo of a cornucopia or an autumnal field. Sometimes it's a pumpkin or a cartoon of a turkey ironically dressed in Pilgrim attire.
The Christmas cards usually feature a pastoral winter scene or a semi-religious theme or perhaps a Christmas tree festooned with lights.
Each sports a headline that reads something like, “Warmest Wishes for the Season,” or “Happy Holidays,” or maybe a poem that starts with words like, “At this special time of year, it's good to hear…”
I'm sure you get these gems too.
But when you open these emails do you ever think, “Oh my goodness, how nice of my insurance company (or cable provider, or septic tank service, or accountant, or power company) to take a moment in this busy season to actually think of me and send such a warm personal greeting.”
No, you do not.
If you even think about it at all you'd probably think something more in line with, “how gratuitous of the people I send money on a regular basis to have their social media person select a stock greeting template and mail merge it with their CRM software.”
That's the Bah Humbug part.
Per TechTarget, “customer relationship management (CRM) is a term that refers to practices, strategies and technologies that companies use to manage and analyze customer interactions and data throughout the customer lifecycle, with the goal of improving business relationships with customers, assisting in customer retention and driving sales growth.”
Borrowing from that definition of CRM, good branding strategy also has “the goal of improving business relationships with customers, assisting in customer retention and driving sales growth.” But as we've seen for the last ten years that I've been writing this blog, great brands are All About Them. In other words, great brands provide an authentic truth about their company (or personnel or reason for being) that their consumers can use to self-identify with and to enhance their lives.
The flannel shirts at a Melissa Etheredge concert or the Juggalo makeup at an Insane Clown Posse show? All About Them.
But fake greetings that transmit fake emotions? At best they get a passing nod or chuckle. Mostly they are invisible. But for some thoughtful receiver these soulless mailers further amplify the nihilistic emptiness that can be so painfully prevalent in both today's digital society and the holiday season. After all, these are the days when our expectations of Christmas past can easily outpace the reality of our lives and our relationships.
At its most fundamental, building brands IS about building relationships.
So before you hit “send” on that CRM-approved generic mailer why not think twice? Instead of sparing every expense and doing the simplest thing possible, this year make an effort.
Make your outreach All About Them.
Send a real hand-written note of thanks, a gift that shows you thought about the receiver, a donation to a charity in your customers' names or something else that expresses how you truly feel.
At the very least your action will make at least two people feel good: