On Wednesday I had a conference with my daughter Fiona’s seventh grade teachers and learned that she is a model student in her science class.  (Thanks for indulging my moment of parent pride.)

I liked seventh grade science too, except for when we dissected a frog.  I was grateful to my teacher, Mr. Maccubbin, when he pointed out the “dissection relief bag” pinned to the corkboard on the wall.

The whole frog thing seemed traumatic until my sophomore year biology teacher, Mrs. Mackey, announced that we’d be dissecting a guinea pig.  No relief bag there.

But I had something better.

At the beginning of my sophomore year I befriended a Vietnamese girl named Trinh (pronounced Chin).  Trinh was gentle, kind and intelligent.  She had a slight frame, a quiet nature and a great sense of humor.

We had several classes together, including geometry and biology, where we chose to be lab partners.

Trinh liked science and being her lab partner was a pleasure.  But she found geometry difficult.

I liked geometry, but considered biology something I had to get through to graduate high school.

So early in the year, we struck a deal.  I would help Trinh with geometry and she would help me with biology.

Explaining geometry to Trinh was easy.  At the moment when she understood the idea I was conveying, she would raise her eyebrows and nod her head.  I relished that moment.  It made me feel good.

Trinh held up her end of the bargain, quizzing me on different aspects of biology and helping me when I got stuck.  But what I remember most, what I laud her for, is what happened during the guinea pig dissection. 

Trinh was probably meant to be a surgeon and happily agreed to do the dissecting.  At one point, Mrs. Mackey asked for a volunteer to run an errand to the office.  Trinh suggested that I volunteer, which I did.

When I came back, our specimen looked quite different from when I left.  Trinh had spared me the greatest trauma.  She had sent me on the errand when it was time to remove the pig’s head.

If that is not a gift of love and friendship, I don’t know what is.

Of all of Trinh’s traits, I remember her as my Biology Savior.  We’ve long lost touch, but perhaps somewhere she still thinks of me as her Geometry Guide.

We often remember the people in our lives by what we did with them or by problems they solved for us.  Those memories stick out in our mind because they involve emotions – joy, sadness, accomplishment, consolation, relief.

And that is the same way that your customers think of your brand.

You might describe your brand by what your product or service does.  But your customers think of it by the problem it solves for them and the feeling that results from getting that problem solved.

And since that is the way they think of your brand, then that is the way you need to talk to them about your brand.

Look at the most memorable marketing messages.  They tap into the solution to the problem they solve and/or the feeling that solution brings.

“A diamond is forever.”
“Just do it.”
“Think different.”
When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.
“Because I’m worth it.”
“Have it your way.”
“The quicker picker-upper.”
“Tastes great, less filling.”
“Look ma, no cavities!”
“Melts in your mouth, not in your hand.”
“Reach out and touch someone.”
“Beef.  It’s what’s for dinner.”
“The Breakfast of Champions.”

Talk to your customers to find out what problem your product or service solves for them and how they feel when it is solved well.

Then use that information to:

  • Craft meaningful marketing messages.
  • Streamline your offering by enhancing it with useful features and removing features that are costly but that hold no value for your customers.
  • Consider new product or service opportunities that are relevant to that same problem.

Once you start thinking of your brand in terms of the problem it solves, marketing becomes easier and more fun.

Marketing problems are the only things I’m dissecting these days.

If you happen to see Trinh, tell her I said thanks (again).

P.S.  Can you name the brands to the slogans above?  Share your identifications in the comments.

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