What does my KeepCup say about me?

Mikaela-Crimmins-OgilvyBy Mikaela Crimmins, digital strategist, Ogilvy Sydney

Have you ever thought, what do my sneakers say about me? Have you ever wondered what your post code reveals about you? Have you paused to think what your coffee selection indicates to others? Perhaps not. Don’t worry, I haven’t either. That was, until I joined the KeepCup revolution. An environmental uprising led by the ‘latte lot’ bent on banishing the disposable coffee cup.

We’re a smug bunch and wield our KeepCups like we are part of the torch relay, signalling to those around us we care about the environment and we do.

Have you noticed KeepCups are rarely available in inconspicuous colours? That’s because we want people to notice them. In fact, we’re signalling. We’re using an object to express something about ourselves.

Signalling is a non-verbal hint about you. Lululemon signals self-improvement. Louis Vuitton signals status and wealth and my KeepCup is a virtuous expression that I care more about the environment than you do…or that I like brightly coloured things! In short, when there is imperfect information we rely on signalling to make assumptions about other people, however right or wrong those assumptions may be.

Does the signalling theory impact retail? It sure does and in the age of the savvy consumer, retail stores and brands alike need to identify how and where they can use their customers and their signalling ways. If your brand or store can say something positive about its buyer – indicating smarts, ‘eco-ness’ or compassion, don’t hide it. Give your customer the opportunity to demonstrate those credentials to others, in an overt way.

It’s not just helping your customer signal what your brand thinks they should signal it’s about asking the question upfront: what does my customer want to be able to say about themselves and how can I give them a shortcut to signal this? Here are just a few ways brands have tapped into their customer’s ideal self and built them their very own pedestal.

Wasteful eco-ness

Toyota wasn’t the first company to launch a hybrid car. In fact, Honda launched a hybrid seven months prior. And sales of both didn’t really takeoff until 2004 when Toyota launched its second-generation Prius. You know the one with the unusual curves? Toyota knew fuel efficiency wouldn’t be enough for their customers. Rather their eco-friendly customer – those who favoured shortened showers and conscientious composting – had to-date gone unnoticed and craved a public eco symbol. And the Prius, in its visual distinctiveness, did just that.

While the Honda Hybrid may have offered the same credentials, its outward expression was far too subtle, leaving the customer’s environmental behaviour unseen. And by 2014, Prius had outsold Honda Hybrids by seven times.

If your customer is making a conscious statement by choosing your product then return the favour and find ways for your customer to demonstrate it with their peers. It could be in the packaging. It could be the bag your product is carried out of the store in. Or it could even be the store itself. Every touch point offers an opportunity to communicate meaning to others, so don’t waste it.

Frothy elegance

The customer experience with Nespresso transforms an everyday transaction into a feeling of sophistication at all touch points. From the minute you walk into a Nespresso store, you feel as if you are in a luxury resort. The staff channels a concierge or maître de persona, the ordering of coffee is reminiscent of a wine tasting, while coffee capsules are encased in a sleekly designed bag, drawing a consumers’ taste in the finer things to the attention of a humble passer-by.

If your store or product commands a price or appeals to the ambitious then the whole experience needs to signal this. There’s no greater disappointment than when you’ve invested significantly in a product but no-one notices.

Outdoor warriors made behind desktops

Outdoor is the new ‘black’. In an age where screens have replaced the human interface, we all want to prove to our peers we’re getting among nature. And how do we signal to our social networks that we’re one with the outdoors: Capturing and sharing it through screens, obviously!

GoPro have expertly captured their market’s desire to experience and share the outdoors. A GoPro strapped to a chest, a helmet or instrument of death (otherwise known as a mountain bike), symbolises adventure. And GoPro’s apps and campaigns focus on the distribution of content, allowing technology to facilitate signaling to a wider audience too.

GoPro is a great example of a brand leveraging digital channels to help their customers advocate on their behalf. GoPro’s success is the by-product of the signaling theory. As their customers share content proving they’re weekend warriors, they’re inadvertently promoting the GoPro brand.

So, what can you learn from your customers?

  • Discover what your customers want the world to know about them.
  • Identify the touchpoints where your brand or store can help express this.
  • Let your customers advocate for your brand/store whilst they express themselves.

And in the meantime, I’ll express my environmental piety one coffee at a time.


1 comment

  1. Jan posted on August 21, 2017

    I am happy to contribute to the environmental benefits by using a re-usable cup, although my main consideration is that I prefer drinking from a ceramic cup, so i was delighted when i received a ceramic cup from my son last Christmas and have used it every day since. It is nice to have something to feel smug about!

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