Customer Perceptions & Going Off-Brand

Over the holidays, I bought a few things for myself, (shocking, right?!) some of which were from The Body Shop. The company was founded by activist Anita Roddick and based on “the pursuit of social and environmental change.” The Body Shop was about being ethical and green, using natural, sustainable ingredients and “reducing dependency on inappropriate and expensive modern pharmaceuticals.”

body-butter-sheaSo imagine my surprise when several days after using them I happened to read the full ingredient list and find Methylparaben and Propylparabenin in there. Parabens are used as preservatives in lots of cosmetic and pharmaceutical products. The thing is, they are somewhat controversial because they may play a role in breast cancer development so many people are making concerted efforts to avoid products that contain them.

The Body Shop carrying products that contain parabens seems way off-brand. You just don’t expect a company that is all about natural and healthy to include such ingredients. It’s like finding partially-hydrogenated oil listed on any food sold at Whole Foods or being asked to bus your own table at Spago Beverly Hills.

It’s troubling from a consumer standpoint because such a finding calls into question everything the company supposedly stands for and has spent almost 40 years building. Sure, they didn’t outright lie by advertising they don’t use parabens, but the brand and reputation they’ve created implies that they wouldn’t.

Pay attention to the brand are you consciously creating as well as the extraneous attachments your customers may logically apply to it on their own. Of course you can’t control what other people think, but you do need a level of awareness around what clients expect from your brand. For best success, you need to deliver on those expectations.

Want more examples of companies going off-brand? How about when Harley Davidson created a cake decorating kit, Hooters started a commercial airline, or Barbie-themed clothing and accessories in adult sizes. Yes, all these were attempted.

By the way, I returned the paraben-containing items to The Body Shop. They quickly shared an already prepared list of their products that don’t use parabens (so clearly they’re aware people have issues with these ingredients) and then they kindly allowed me to exchange.

Save Yourself from Looking Foolish

The email that showed up in my inbox yesterday from Hyundai Motors reminded me of the importance of list segmentation. And how your business can look foolish, lazy and ignorant if you don’t use it. This email, and I actually got two of them, so I must be in the database twice, invited me to “Save big. Think big” at the Hyundai summer Sales Event.

“Lori, thinking of upgrading? As a Hyundai owner, you have the chance to act fast and save big.”

Really? I just bought my new Hyundai in January. They think I should upgrade already? Clearly they’ve just thrown all the email addresses they have into one giant vat. Everyone gets the same offer regardless of whether she has a six-year old car or a six-month old car. I’m surprised that a company such as Hyundai doesn’t realize that segmentation can strengthen customer relationships, not to mention increase sales.

List segmentation can be as simple or complex as you like

If you have different categories of people in your database, and you should, make sure you’re segmenting your lists. You can do this even if you’re using something as simple as a basic spreadsheet. Create some kind of designation for customers, for prospects, for vendors, etc. You could take it a step further and segment customers by what product or service they’ve purchased or in the case of prospects, which one they are interested in.

Now when you send out offers, you can make them specific to each category of recipient. You become more relevant and credible and your offers will be more effective. Trade in your six-year old car and get our special Eco-Trade Bonus! Been thinking about buying a whirly-gig to improve efficiency in your financial services office? Now’s the time because…

When it comes to ways to thank your customers, list segmentation can be equally important. Yes, it’s a nice idea to think that all clients are equally valuable, but the truth is they are not. Some spend more money or send you more referrals and therefore have a higher lifetime value than others. Others are easier and more fun to work with or require less hand-holding.

Dividing your customer appreciation efforts into tiers and rewarding the A-listers either more frequently or in a bigger way than the B’s and C’s is a smart strategy. The A-list clients are the ones who are the most profitable for you, so it stands to reason that you should spend more time and money to keep them. You don’t ignore the rest of your clients, but you may choose to put fewer resources into their retention.

List segmentation allows you to make more intelligent, accurate decisions. Need help figuring out the best method of segmenting or creating a tiered program to thank loyal customers? Set up a complimentary 15-minute strategy session with me simply by going to