It is now well acknowledged that to succeed, a company needs to recognize their associates’ needs as well as their customers’ expectations, and must pay attention to constantly communicate we both groups in a positive, consistent and efficient manner.
For some reasons, usually the internal (towards the workforce) and external (addressed to the clientele) communications are fundamentally different.
Does that mean that employees’ brains are wired differently than customers’?
Of course not!
Regardless of our origin, education, or any other cultural or geographical parameter, deep down we are all the same and respond globally similarly to the same stimuli.
Hospitality group Starwood understood it very well when, in 2006, they launched the Sheraton’ ‘You / We belong’ worldwide campaign:
Under an identical motto and theme song, this campaign was declined in two versions – one for guests, ‘You belong’, and one for employees, ‘We belong’.
The outcome of this US$20 million operation was fabulous.
Not only it allowed the group to introduce a Sheraton new signature ‘Warm Welcome’ experience and increase dramatically brand’s positive recognition, it also improved significantly associates’ sense of belonging and satisfaction to work for Sheraton.
Because when the campaign was built, the designers disregarded who it was addressed to – guests vs. employees.
They worked on the ‘belonging’ factor.
It is only once the campaign’ core design was finalized that they dressed it up differently for guests and associates.
That was the reason of the ‘You / We belong’ great success.
If we are wired the same away and respond similarly to the same stimuli, what are those?
Let’s have a look at what needs to be addressed to positively communicate with both clients and associates.
And anyone else for that matter!
The security need comes from the beginning of time when the first humans had to remain constantly in alert to survive in a dangerous world.
We haven’t changed so much since then: the amygdala is still an active part of our brain that constantly is on the look-out for potential dangers, and asks for nothing more than a secure environment to be dormant – well, never totally.
From household brands (Johnson & Johnson or Unilever) to political parties (“the world is insecure, we are here to protect you”), many are playing with our amygdala!
A positive communication must be a reassuring one.
Leave it to reality shows and movies to bring the excitement of danger to our lives, while we are well protected behind our TV and computer screens!
For everything we do, our brain is constantly asking ‘If I do that, how will I feel?”
Modern societies understood that need very well: their communications resolve around happiness and of course security.
The pursue of happiness today is our main goal.
Few centuries ago, in Western countries, happiness was an afterlife promise.
Times changed and nobody wants to wait anymore and they expect to feel good here and now and not later!
Every brands, according to what they sell, promise you happiness now:
Look at the one of many Coca-Cola Happiness commercials, or Dole packages salad TV ad - is there anything that gives you a better feeling than not having to clean your salad before preparing it?!
Connect to others
This is another trait that comes from beginning of time, when first humans had to live as a pack to survive by protecting each other.
This feature is still very well anchored in us – and they are the root of the success of our today’s social networks from Facebook to Tweeter to whatever will come next.
Companies did not wait for Facebook to communicate on our belonging need (right, Sheraton?).
From Pizza Hut to Olive Garden and most restaurant chains, they all play the ‘let be together’ card!
Why would we need luxury brands if it was not to be recognized by others?
The car we drive, the clothes we wear, the watch we are using are pieces of a picture we are drawing all along our lives.
Think about it:
Who needs a Porsche to go from point A to point B? Any safe, reliable and comfortable car should do, right?
Sigmund Freud theorized that need in the late 19th and early 20th century!
Brands realized the need even before Freud started theorizing it:
Axe is the brand who plays the most the recognition card; car makers – on different tones – do the same; Cadillac is even totally direct about it!
Open an history book, and you will see that men always call for freedom – depending of times and civilizations, freedom can be understood individually or collectively.
From the Spartacus uprising to the American and French revolutions, fighting for some kind of freedom (again ‘freedom’ has to be understood differently depending of time and cultural context) is a common trait of human nature.
As you may have expected, brands are playing the freedom card!
Norwegian Cruise Line tells you to be free with them, as does Audi or Chase Visa Card!
Serve and give
Many of us recognize the need to do good, by helping our needy neighbors, giving money to charities, time to NGOs or to their local Samaritans or place of cult.
Regardless of our motives, a 2013 study was mentioning that almost two billion people in the world are helping others in one way or another on a regular basis (at least twice a year).
Again, it goes back to the origins of humanity when solidarity was the only way for the group to survive in an unwelcoming environment.
Companies such as Vodafone, Coca-Cola or Emirates Airlines, among almost everyone else!, are appealing to consumers’ good heart.
We want to be happy, and we want to be safe.
Nevertheless, let's not forget that our amygdala is still there and never really sleeps!
This is the reason why we love surprises, as long as they make us feel good and safe.
Brands are aware of that need and love to play with it.
Happy surprises are one of Disney main business feeders, as Discover Credit Card – which plays in a funny way on bad vs. good surprise -, and even a supermarket chain such as Publix.
Believe in a higher purpose
Not everyone is religious.
But everyone needs a good reason to get up every morning and go through life’s ups and downs.
For some is to be there for their friends and families, for others is to serve God, or because they simply feel it is the right thing to do.
It is to address that goal that companies and institutions, such as St Louis University or Holland America Line give their potential audience a ‘good’ reason to pay attention to their message.
We can summarize all the above by one simple sentence:
“What I do matters.”
Humans are definitively part of a group, nonetheless we are also individuals.
But are we sure the world outside ourselves even exists?
The philosophical theory called solipsism discusses exactly that.
Regardless of how we look at the theory, it is a fact that – at the end of the day -, ‘I‘, as a sole entity, matter and I want to be acknowledge as such.
If you’re ready to go medical rather than philosophical, you can argue that this is due to the oxytocin, a neurotransmitter which is mainly used at the time we are born to induce a care reaction from the mother, allowing it to survive at a time when the human baby is extremely weak, and not able to defend itself against predators, needing constant assistance from older members of the group to survive – first of all its mother.
Hence, the fact that we matter is essential to our individual survival.
The older we get, the more the effect of the oxytocin wears off:
We don’t matter ‘naturally’ anymore, and we spend the rest of our life to prove and show that we still do.
ING NN commercial summarizes this wonderfully, as well as all the points we discussed earlier:
From the need of security to the need of freedom and to be recognized… all is there!
We all are humans, and regardless where in the world we were born and how we were educated, rich or poor, follower or leader, deep down we are all the same.
Therefore, corporations and entities should realize that the message(s) they want to pass through are identical regardless who they are talking to – employees, clients or any other stakeholder.
It is simply because we belong.