Brand Wide Open

How some brands effortlessly bypass traffic jams on their road to success when everyone else deals with gridlock and road rage.

Everybody hates traffic. Everybody also loves talking about how much they hate it. But our traffic woes are wee specks compared to the chaos clogging city streets in other countries around the world. Take Lima, Peru for example. I lived in Lima for over a year and loved every minute of it. The streets of Lima were always packed with cars, but they never actually moved–just numberless masses of bitter people making strange, nudge-like movements with their cars. Nobody appeared to be trying to get anywhere, just trying to prevent others from reaching any sort of destination.

Nightmare on Lima Streets

The granddaddy of traffic nightmares in Lima, was attempting to access circular nudge-a-thon roundabouts. After I discovered a little secret, these nightmares turned into a ton of fun! Each time we’d approach one of these circular parking lots, I’d tell the driver, “Está bien. Te ayudaré.” Seconds later, some car would magically be letting us go ahead of them. It literally never failed. No words were exchanged. The flabbergasted cab driver’s jaw would just drop and we’d proceed to slip in and out of traffic as we pleased.

Happy-Confused Demeanor

So what did I do? What was the secret? How did it work? Each time it started by pulling alongside a car we hoped to go in front of. Once we stopped, I’d stare at the other driver. I’d just wait until he happened to glance my way. They’d all look eventually. Eye contact was imperative. The second eye contact was made, I’d flash the biggest grin I could muster and wave furiously. I’d get a double-take every time. I’d then turn off the wave machine and deliver the universal, sliding hand gesture of, “May we go in front of you please?” The double-take would predictably give way to a sort of happy-confused demeanor, immediately followed by a return gesture granting us free passage.

Metal Machines and Human Beings

I had learned to transform myself from a soulless chunk of metal into a real human being. My transformation invited the other driver to transform also. It was was really cool to watch. The thing is, one chunk of metal could care less about other chunks of metal. But people aren’t metal. They’re humans beings–and most human beings don’t want to be pricks. They just want other people to like them. Most brands are no different than an average car stuck in traffic. Their stagnant pace is frustrating and they don’t know how to get ahead. The answer is the same for them as it was for me. Instead of interacting with prospects and customers in faceless, mechanical ways, they too can choose to look up and connect with real people in meaningful ways. No matter what the touch point is between a brand and human being, that touch point can always be more human.

If you brand wide open, you’ll get to see how fun it is to observe the double-take. It happens in that special moment when someone realizes that the machine they thought they were interacting with, is actually a human being. That split-second is pure magic.

Have you ever done a real double-take? What caused it?


    • Thanks Pasi. I’ll keep posting. Regarding your question about how to bring the smile into a brand, I think the answer is going to be different for each brand. My smile was accompanied by eye contact and waving. Those combined to cause the other driver to realize that he was looking at a real person instead of just how his car was positioned compared to other cars. It usually takes a combination of things. I think a perfect example is when a brand simply chooses to reply to a comment on their blog or twitter. For example, I follow the CEO of a large tech company and he tweeted the other day a question. To me, it seemed like he was genuinely interested in other people’s response to that question. So I answered him. I shared my opinion. It’s been a couple days and I there hasn’t been any reply. He doesn’t get it. He’s just spitting stuff out like a machine and refuses to look at the comments or replies as people. If I was to keep commenting and then one day he actually replied, that would cause me to do a double-take. I wouldn’t be expecting it and he could potentially “bring the smile into his brand.”

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