People Only Like Me For My Shirts

I was at Target the other day (I know, I know it’s “cheugy” – the new word that teenagers use to refer to somebody that is uncool – but I like Target’s stuff) and a man across the produce section caught my eye. He was staring very intently at me, like people do when they are trying to figure out how they know somebody. I’m sort of an introvert, and I didn’t recognize him, so instead of returning his weird stare, I ignored him and went back to buying vegetables.

When I checked back at him a few seconds later, he was still staring – and this time he and the woman he was shopping with were coming my way. “Oh great,” I thought. “I have no idea who this is. Maybe he thinks I am somebody else.” But before I could change directions and duck into the bakery section to hide behind the fresh carbs, my admirer pointed at my chest and said “awesome shirt.”

I had forgotten that I was wearing a concert t-shirt from one of my favorite (very) heavy metal bands – a goofy parody of Star Wars that always made me smile. Clearly he was a fan of heavy music, and here in Grand Forks, you don’t find that many folks that share those tastes. We made a brief connection as he headed for the check-out lane, and I acknowledged his keen eye.

It’s easy for the same kind of thing to happen when your business is promoting its products or services. You go about your daily tasks and assume that your customers only care about the features and benefits that you have to offer. You think they always have logical, rational intentions within the purchase funnel (“let me study the ROI on this”), but a lot of times it’s your t-shirt that gets their attention.

Coincidentally, I also recently had a young woman who I didn’t know compliment me on a Stan Lee graphic tee I was wearing (I like to wear t-shirts). She was obviously a fan of the Marvel universe, and she recognized that we shared an appreciation of the brand. Do your customers appreciate your company’s brand that way? They will if you put in the work to build it up.

Be careful not to get too caught up in the features of your products or services. Don’t get me wrong – they are critically important. However, many times they get attention after your brand itself – just like my smiling face is often secondary to whatever nerd-friendly shirt I have on.

With a strong, healthy brand, engagement can happen spontaneously. Get your messaging on track, and be ready when somebody says “hello.”