Why every company needs a customer-based story

By Ted Wright December 17, 2019

customer based story

I recently saw this headline: Why Your Brand Needs a Signature Story and How to Tell It.”

Well, that attracted my attention since that is the centerpiece of what we do at Fizz.

The article defines a “signature story” as:

“An intriguing, authentic, involving narrative with a strategic message that clarifies or enhances the brand, the customer relationship, the organization, and/or the business strategy. It is a strategic asset that enables growth, provides inspiration and offers guidance both internally and externally over an extended period of time.”

Kinda long, so let’s dissect this idea and see how it applies to Word of Mouth Marketing.

The importance of A.I.R.

If you’ve followed my writing at all, you’re no doubt familiar with “A.I.R.,” that the best stories that connect and spread throughout an audience are authentic, interesting, and relevant.

We certainly see those elements in this definition … authentic … “intriguing” which I would connect to “interesting” … and “involving” which I suppose is another way to say relevant.

And I also agree that a story can be a strategic asset that can provide growth and inspiration.

But the middle part of the definition made me pause.

“A strategic message that clarifies or enhances the brand, the organization, etc.”

While this is certainly possible and laudable, it is not necessarily the type of story that will be carried forward by an audience.

Let me give you an example of what I mean.

A customer-forward story

When you think of the JetBlue airline, you probably don’t think of peanuts, or more accurately a lack of peanuts.

A program that really caught fire focused on “peanut parents” (our in-house name for parents of kids who have a serious food allergy).

JetBlue has been known as a peanut-free airline for a long time. Internally, somebody at the airline had a child that had a peanut allergy and they just made the decision to get rid of them. In fact, they worked on their supply chain to eliminate all peanut-related products.

This is good news for a lot of kids with food allergies, but the airline hadn’t really talked about that a lot.  You never see it in the company mission statement.

But we helped JetBlue craft this story to share because it was incredibly relevant to this one customer group. It is a customer-forward story and relevant to a population of parents who are super-sensitive to this issue.  And, of course, those parents know other parents who might be interested in other aspects of JetBlue, so get them talking about one aspect so they have a reason to talk about others.

And that’s why this is one of the most effective word of mouth marketing programs we’ve ever had.

This little story – among many we worked on for the airline – isn’t going to re-define the organization. You may never hear about it in a television ad. But for this target audience of customers, it is a big, big deal.

So yes, every company needs a signature story, but more accurately, they need a portfolio of stories that are relevant to as many customer groups as possible.

A great word of mouth marketing story isn’t about “hear us.” It’s based on “we hear you.”

Ted Wright


Ted Wright is the founder of Fizz, the world’s leading word of mouth marketing (WOMM) agency. Ted is also an acclaimed WOMM keynote speaker and the author of Fizz: Harness the Power of Word of Mouth Marketing to Drive Brand Growth

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