Making Meaning to Customers, Employees
It is important to be reach and connect with customers and employees in a way that is meaningful… In a way that matters to them… Idea Sandbox talks a lot about meaningful marketing, but what IS IT that people find meaningful?
In their book Making Meaning: How Successful Businesses Deliver Meaningful Customer Experiences authors Steve Diller, Nathan Shedroff, and Darrel Rhea – through research of people from around the world – have discovered the types of experiences people find valuable.
Below are the fifteen experiences that emerged most often in their research. Presented in alphabetical order, I re-work the original content.
This list may come in handy when you’re developing new products, briefing creative materials, or in an examination of your brand. You should apply this both inside and outside your organization.
Which of these is your product, company or brand providing?
Achieving goals and making something of oneself; a sense of satisfaction that can result from productivity, focus, talent, or status.
- American Express has long benefited from transmitting a hint of this meaning to its card holders by establishing itself as a credit card intended for those who are successful, and
- Nike relies on the essence of this meaning for many in its “Just Do It” campaign.
The appreciation of qualities that give pleasure to the senses or spirit. Of course beauty is in the eye of the beholder and thus highly subjective, but our desire for it is ubiquitous. We aspire to beauty in all that surrounds us, from architecture and fine furnishing to clothing and cars. Enormous industries thrive on the promise of beauty stemming from shinier hair, whiter teeth, and clearer skin. Beauty can also be more than mere appearance. For some, it is a sense that something is created “correctly” or efficiently with an elegance of purpose and use. Some companies distinguish themselves through the beauty of their design, such as…
- Bang & Olufsen audio equipment, and
- Jaguar automobiles.
A sense of unity with others around us and a general connection with other human beings. Religious communities, unions, fraternities, clubs, and sewing circles are all expressions of a desire for belonging. The promise and delivery of community underlies the offerings of several successful organizations. These businesses attract and support user communities who embody specific values tied to their products and services
- NASCAR with its centralizing focus on car racing and leagues of loyal fans that follow the race circuit,
- Harley-Davidson motorcycles and their Harley Owners Group (HOG), and
- Jimmy Buffet with his dedicated Parrotheads.
The sense of having produced something new and original, and in so doing, to have made a lasting contribution. Besides driving our species to propagate, we enjoy this experience through our hobbies, the way we decorate our home, in telling our stories, and in anything else that reflects our personal choices. Creation is what makes “customizable” seem like a desirable attribute, rather than more work for the buyer, for example, making the salad bar a pleasure rather than a chore.
The willing application of oneself to a responsibility. The military in any country counts on the power of this meaning, as do most employers. Duty can also relate to responsibilities to oneself or family, such as reading the daily paper to stay abreast of the news. Commercially, anything regarded as “good for you” that relays some sense of duty and the satisfaction it brings. These include…
- Cross-Your-Heart bras, and
- Cushioned insoles.
Clear understanding through logic or inspiration. This experience is not limited to those who meditate and fast. It is a core expectation of offerings from…
- Fox News, which promises “fair and balanced” reporting,
- The Wall Street Journal, which many consider the ultimate authority for business news, and
- Sierra Club, which provides perspective on environmental threats and conservation.
The sense of living without unwanted constraints. This experience often plays tug-of-war with the desire for security; more of one tends to decrease the other. Nevertheless, freedom is enticing, whether it’s freedom from dictators, or in the case of…
- Google, the freedom to quickly search the Web learning and interacting with millions of people and resources.
The balanced and pleasing relationship of parts to a whole, whether in nature, society, or an individual. When we seek a work/life balance, we are in pursuit of harmony. Much of the aesthetic appeal of design depends on our personal desire for the visual experience of harmony. Likewise, when we shop at…
- Target for a toaster that matches our mixer, we are in pursuit of harmony.
The assurance of equitable and unbiased treatment. This is the sense of fairness and equality that underlies our concept of “everyman” or Average Joe. It helps explain the immense popularity of products with a simple, impartial appeal to a very broad audience.
- The Ford Taurus,
- Toyota Camry,
- The ranch style house,
- Levi jeans, and
- White cotton T-shirts.
A sense of unity with everything around us. It is what some seek from the practice of spirituality and what others expect from a good tequila. Although we don’t normally think of them as a company, the Grateful Dead sustained its revenues for decades building an experience that connected with its fans’ desire for oneness. Similarly, organizations that connects their members into nature or a broader sense of the world and are capable of evoking a meaning of oneness.
- Monterey Bay Aquarium, and
- The United Nations.
Atonement or deliverance from past failure or decline. Though this might seem to stem from negative experiences, the impact of the redemptive experience is highly positive. Like community and enlightenment, redemption has a basis in religion. Any sensation that delivers us from a less desirable condition to a more pleasing another one can be redemptive.
- Weight Watchers
- Bliss spas, and
- Grocery store candy aisles.
The freedom from worry about loss. This experience has been a cornerstone of civilization but in the U.S. in particular, acquired increased meaning and relevance after 9/11. On the commercial side, the desire for this experience created the insurance business, and it continues to sell a wide range of products. Including…
- Automatic rifles,
- Depends undergarments, and
- Credit cards that offer protection from identity theft.
A commitment to honesty and integrity. This experience plays an important role in most personal relationships, but it also is a key component of companies which portray themselves as simple, upright, and candid. Such as…
- Whole Foods,
- Volkswagen, and
- Newman’s Own.
The recognition of oneself as a valued individual worthy of respect. Every externally branded piece of clothing counts on the attraction of this meaningful experience whether it’s Ralph Lauren Polo or Old Navy, as does Mercedes Benz, the Four Seasons hotel chain, and any other brand with status identification as a core value.
Awe in the presence of a creation beyond one’s understanding. While this might sound mystical and unattainable, consider the wonder that Las Vegas hotels create simply through plaster and lights.
- Disney has been a master of this experience for decades, and
- Technology companies routinely evoke awe as they enable their users to do what seemed impossible the year before.
The original, unedited list may be found on the Making Meaning website.