Great Marketing Changes The Culture

John Luginbill

Forget employee manuals, vision statements, and brand campaigns; the truth in action will define your brand.

One of the most well known customer service stories is about a man who went into a Nordstrom store to return a set of tires. Nordstrom — an upscale retailer that sells mostly apparel, shoes and accessories — does not sell tires. The customer bought the tires at the store occupying the same space prior to Nordstrom moving in. The Nordstrom store manager decided to allow the customer to return the tires at the Nordstrom store. From then on, no employee ever had to read the thick customer relations binder, they had a mantra instead: we even take back tires.

This is really a marketing story more than a customer service story.

Marketing is what made this story famous. First Nordstrom marketed to every employee so they knew the story. Every employee suddenly and deeply understood the Nordstrom Value Proposition: extraordinary customer service. The whole team was made aware there are many places Americans can go to overpay for luxury goods, but the way they treat customers at Nordstrom truly differentiates them. Everyone now knew exactly how to treat customers: even take back their tires.

Employees told their families, families told their friends, friends told acquaintances and so on… it was one of the earliest examples of a viral campaign. And of course, the marketing/communications department provided background and interview contacts to reporters. It’s not hyperbole to say this was more powerful than any brand defining traditional campaign Nordstrom has ever launched.

What’s the point of this post: the biggest bang for the marketing buck is telling the true stories to your employees before launching the campaigns to customers. Nothing you say is true until the employees believe it is true. After you start living your truth, then a brand campaign can be a valuable addition to the marketing mix.