With his dark sunglasses, slicked back hair, and untucked short-sleeve shirts, Mr. R was the coolest dad in our Miami Beach neighborhood. He’d pick us up in his enormous navy blue Lincoln Continental, and let us slide across the slickly mink-oiled cordovan leather bench seats while he screeched around the corners. He’d never even ask us to make sure the car doors were locked before we slammed into them.
At bar mitzvahs and weddings, Mr. R was always the cool dad slipping us drinks – usually screwdrivers or Jack & Cokes – even though we mostly didn’t want them. And Mr. R even let me fire his handgun when we were tramping through the sable palms up in Cocoa Beach, looking at a piece of property he was interested in developing.
But the best part of being with Mr. R was that he would park anywhere – in loading zones, in driveways, even on the sidewalk. When we’d tell Mr. R that he was parking illegally, he’d tell us that he wasn’t – we were just reading the signs incorrectly. According to Mr. R, the signs didn’t say, “No Parking Anytime” but were actually responding to the question, “Is it true I can’t park here?” with the answer, “No. Parking Anytime.”
Of course, we now recognize all of this as bad behavior but back then we felt like we were living large with a real-life member of the “The Rat Pack.”
Mrs. S wasn’t a cool mom but she was a great cook. The best night to have dinner at her house was when she grilled lamb chops. With three sons between 12 and 16 and their friends sitting around the table, Mrs. S would bring out never-ending platters and platters piled with the fragrant crusty chops. At some point, one of us would stop stuffing our faces just long enough to compliment Mrs. S on the great dinner.
“Of course, sweetheart,” she’d respond “I always get my lamb at Maxwell’s. You can’t beat their meat.”
“YOU CAN’T BEAT THEIR MEAT??!!” Hearing our friend’s mom say, “You can’t beat their meat” would throw the table full of adolescent boys into paroxysms of laughter until one of us could catch his breath long enough to sputter, “And you can’t lick their chops either,” before erupting back into waves of hysterics.
Mrs. S would just “tsk tsk” bemusedly and shuffle back into the kitchen, never letting on that she was aware of what just happened. Of course now we understand that Mrs. S knew exactly what was going on and the joke was on us, but back then we had no idea.
My hilarious friends Brian Walter, Ron Culberson, David Glickman, and Bill Stainton have taught me that humor comes from the unexpected – Mr. R’s sign reading, perhaps; or Mrs. S’s double entendres. When you anticipate one thing but experience something else, that can be funny.
I’m not a customer service expert like my friends Shep Hyken and Holly Stiel, but I do know that your brand is built not just with logos and banner ads but also through every touch point between your company and your customer. Where this gets dicey is when our interpretation of the messages we’re sending out is different from the messages our customers perceive.
Just like Mr. R’s interpretation of Miami Beach’s parking signs, our customers look at what we say and decipher our messages the way they want to – not necessarily the way we plan. And so, my mantra of “All About Them” reminds us that we have to work doubly hard to make sure we are building brands and brand messages that not only reinforce what we offer, but also resonate with our customers. Otherwise, our actions can actually work against our desire to build our brand value.
Whether they knew it or not, Mr. R and Mrs. S built their brand value not with logos and taglines but with every single bit of their actions and behaviors. Whether you know it or not, you do too.