The caress of meaning

Most of my adult life, Kenneth Cole was my shoe brand of choice. 

That changed three years ago.

In 2011, Canadian shoe designer John Fluevog opened a retail store on my block. It was the first time I’d ever heard of him.

During a casual walk by the store on opening day, I glanced at the window display of women’s shoes. They were like props. Oddly shaped. Color blocked. Unlike anything I’d seen before.

I took note of the copy in the window:

fluevog window

It read like an album title from a trippy ‘60s band. I was intrigued.

I looked deeper into the store. A collection of leather and lace art. Every shoe stitched with personality.

I glanced back at the slogan on the window. Fluevog makes shoes for people like me.

I entered.

The story

Men’s shoes lined the back of the store along a platform where Johnny’s ‘65 Jaguar MK 10 was parked.

fluevog car

I spotted a boot that looked like something Joe Strummer might have worn while playing Bonds. Or it could’ve been on Cobain’s foot had he been around to accept his Grammy in ‘96.

They had a pair in my small size, which doesn’t happen often. It was a perfect fit, as if made from a mold of my foot.

They were pricey. Much more than my Coles. And I wasn’t in the market for shoes. But I couldn’t leave.

On the far wall, a set of posters shared a piece of the Fluevog story. Johnny and his son design the shoes from their studio in Vancouver. Every shoe is handmade. Images of cobblers lined the wall too. One was working with the style of boot I tried on. Maybe it was the very same pair.

The man radiated a good vibe.

For 25 years, I’d worn nothing but Kenneth Coles. And yet I couldn’t recite their story. Or describe Kenneth’s vibe.

A caress

Later that night, I opened the baby blue Fluevog box to show my wife what I purchased. As I lifted off the cover, this card popped out:

fluevog note

Lori grabbed it before it hit the floor.

“They spelled your name correctly,” she said.

I scanned the card. Wow. Even people who know me don’t always get it right.

I wondered if this was something the employees did on their own. Maybe it was a store policy? Or was it a brand thing?

Whatever it was, it was meaningful. I felt caressed.

Tip toe

Marketing is what you do to create awareness and demand around your product or service. Tactics like discounts, contests and money-back guarantees are common practice. They are designed to generate interest and increase sales.

Attention to design, packaging, service and descriptive copy is another marketing practice that aims to turn customers into fans.

But interest, customers and even fans are fleeting.

The best brands in the world go further than common marketing tactics. Their goal is to delight – to make people swoon.

That outcome isn’t possible with obvious, commonplace practices, though. It requires a personal touch. Things not everyone can do. Things not baked into typical marketing plans.

Think of how the employees at all Four Seasons hotels – from the concierge to the girl who hands out towels at the pool – always know all their guests’ names.

It’s a simple gesture that makes the experience memorable and makes us believe they really care.

A marketing secret

You can bomb Twitter with “curated” story links all day.

You can blast out hundreds of emails with irrelevant messages written by someone else.

You can check in on Facebook and Foursquare, shoot short videos on Vine, or film yourself jumping off rooftops declaring your love for real estate.

It’s what many have told you you need to do to get noticed.

But there is nothing special, beautiful or loving about this approach. It’s a one-way conversation that’s all about you.

Do something different this year. Do something for your customer that warms them on a cold day. Makes them feel the caress of meaning. Puts them on a pedestal and makes them happy to know you.

Dear reader:

May 2014 be the best year of your life. You deserve it more than anyone. -MD