I’ve been asking myself this question for a while but I’ve never been able to come up with an answer. Why do people fall in love with products? What causes this most elusive and desirable level of customer loyalty? What is love?
Along with UX, storytelling definitely falls into line as one of those “we really need this, but we have no idea what the hell it is or how to implement it” things at startup companies. I’m pretty sure “storyteller” isn’t a job title yet but community managers and marketers definitely cover many of these bases.
Storytelling is the holistic process by which a company interacts with customers. It’s the voice and personality you use in branding, product strategy, and throughout your product. It’s in the copy, visual design, PR stunts, Twitter profile, etc. – literally everything a customer could ever possibly see in relation to your product. It’s a miraculous thing because it influences how people feel about your product and – if executed properly – how they feel about the people behind it.
Storytelling is a vast subject, and I’m constantly learning new things. Here’s what I’ve learned so far, just from observation and trial/error:
- Be bold. Just as people don’t like formulaic and predictable movie plots, they don’t want “just another …,” and they’ll never fall in love with that story. Do something special and stand firm. Did you see what Minbox did with their intro video? Totally unexpected – in a good way.
- You will alienate some people (but not in a mean way). I don’t like gossip magazines or Rolex watches because they appeal specifically to people with particular interests. Find your niche and cater your storytelling to them. Not only will your story resonate with them, but they will tell everyone they know how much they love you. If you try to be everything to everyone, you’ll end up with a story no one can relate to.
- Good storytelling is a full-time job. Every single string of copy, every brochure, every banner ad, every app update, and every Tweet can either reinforce or dilute your story. Never let your guard down, and don’t get sloppy. It only takes one person walking through a theater to break the illusion.
Update: I would be remiss not to mention Braden Kowitz’s new article on effective storytelling. He is a master, and you should listen to him.
Every interaction counts
Every time I tweet at @Fab and @PhilzCoffee, I know I’m going to get a response. Do you have any idea how good that makes me feel? I’m getting personal attention from a company whose products I love. I fucking love them for that. And I know it’s not just me – seemingly everyone gets the same attention:
Alexis says you're welcome @Quan We're here for you.— Philz Coffee (@PhilzCoffee) April 23, 2013
Personal attention – whether the customer is praising or complaining – is major. The fact that so many companies don’t even bother makes it even more meaningful and delightful. Companies like Zappos and MailChimp do this through their customer service channels as well. Showing that the company is made up of really nice and helpful humans goes a long way towards building trust and falling in love.
This is something many product designers hope to achieve – myself included. Delight happens when you surprise a customer in a good way. With heaps of horrible, horrible apps out there, many users expect the worst. When you surprise them with animations, coupons, fun copy, and beautiful design, you stand out as something special. A diamond in the rough. Something to get excited about.
Delight isn’t easy to measure, and I don’t think I’d even know where to start writing about it. It’s visceral and I can only describe it as one of those “you’ll know it when you see it” kind of things. The most delightful interactions are so simple it’ll blow your mind; but they’re deceptively difficult to achieve. It is hands down the most challenging part of my job.
There’s no secret formula for love. Just like our personal relationships, it’s a complex blend of communication, happiness, and trust. Companies have to work extra hard at this, but also have the most amazing opportunity to delight many millions of people. Tell a story that resonates with the people who matter most. Interact with these people in a personal, genuine, and meaningful way. Delight users by surprising them with unexpected good that only your special company can provide.
If you blend all of these things perfectly, customers will fall in love; not because you’ve tricked or deceived them, but because you’ve created a product that is genuinely worth loving.