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Making Our Customers the Protagonists in Our Story

Glidden knows that its customers often suffer from color-fuddle.   While they desperately want to refresh their homes with a splash of new paint, the paint company’s customers are often emotionally and physically flummoxed when it comes to being able to select a paint color.   How will Salty Tear, Friendship, or Potentially Purple translate from a color swath to their walls?  Will it clash with their upholstered couch or the cherry-stained floors?  How it will make their bedroom or kitchen feel?  Caught in a seemingly infinite number of choices, many potential paint customers stand on the sidelines, paralyzed with indecision.

To make this process easier, Glidden launched a microsite that features multiple color discovery tools to build people’s confidence in their color choices.  My is not about pushing Glidden paints—you have to look hard to find their name on the site—it is about encouraging and enabling their prospects’ and customers’ self-expression.  In so doing, shifts the protagonist in the Glidden story from the company to its prospects and customers. Story telling becomes story finding as Glidden’s prospects and customers find their needs met in the Glidden experience.  This shift often leads to profitable customer action.


How does Glidden accomplish this inversion?  Several engaging tools on the site help would-be-painters identify their individual style, visualize how colors will look in their home, and mitigate their overall sense of risk.

  1. The multiple-choice quiz, “My Life, My Colors,” for example, generates customized-color palettes based upon individuals’ personalities, styles, and preferences as revealed through an online questionnaire.
  2. “My Image Inspiration” allows people to upload a photo of an object they like—a couch, rug, or fabric—from which the site will identify paint colors that both match and coordinate with it.
  3. “Color My Room” allows people to select paint colors and virtually paint the walls of their room.  A picture of the refreshed room can be shared on a variety of social platforms to gather feedback from friends and family. If it is a winner, “Color My Room” will calculate how much paint is needed for the space, identify the closest store where it is available, and generate a shopping list to take along.

Could it be any easier? People love the tools. BuzzFeed featured “Color My Room” in an article titled, “31 Home Décor Hacks That Are Borderline Genius.”  Imagine having your marketing content be considered borderline genius. Insight and advice from do-it-yourself-oriented home decorating bloggers also appear on the as do before and after pictures of customers ’projects.

color my room

Through Glidden’s prospects and customers are moving beyond being color-fuddled, making headway with their projects, creating the rooms of their dreams, and buying Glidden paint. By focusing on meeting the needs and desires of our prospects and customers, catalyzing their story rather than ours, Glidden drives profitable customer action.   But Glidden is not alone. Here’s how IBM made IT managers of small and medium-sized companies the protagonist of its story:

IBM knows that small and medium-sized companies generally do not have the luxury of a large IT staff. As a result, when they evaluate potential IT solutions, these companies often look to trusted advisors, business partners, and industry analysts to help evaluate, recommend, and deploy their IT decisions. Understanding this dynamic, IBM developed Midsize Insider, a lightly branded customer community where conversation about the tech needs and concerns of the group flows. Through Midsize Insider, community members are able to educate themselves about a rapidly changing and complex market while IBM continually takes the pulse of its prospects and existing customers.

Midsize Insider operates like a newsroom, with over 60 bloggers and journalists contributing a steady flow of content on topics that are on the minds of business owners and IT folks—topics such as smarter computing, security and resilience, cloud computing, CRM, and business analytics. Each of the writers is carefully chosen and possesses a deep understanding of midmarket challenges, offering a unique and informed perspective on industry trends. News stories and trending topics complement the articles, creating a vibrant and up-to-the-minute resource for members.

Recognizing the quality of the site’s content, Google News, which aggregates content from a variety of high-quality sources, taps Midsize Insider’s content for distribution to its readers. By syndicating its content through this news site, Midsize Insider reaches a broader base of interested parties and is able to direct them back to its site, where they can access additional expert content. A robust discussion group on LinkedIn provides a forum for members to connect directly with each other.

By aligning its marketing efforts with how its current and prospective customers gather information in support of potential IT purchases, IBM creates a story finding experience.  It offers real value, quietly positioning itself as an expert and trusted advisor for small and medium-sized businesses. Serving as the connective tissue between IT decision makers and IBM, Midsize Insider’s informative content keeps a steady and relevant conversation going and ensures that IBM is continually in touch with the marketplace.


Take Away:  What other companies are successfully catalyzing their prospects’ and customers’ story finding? How might we be able to shift our storytelling efforts to catalyze story finding??  What content forms might best accomplish this? At what points in our customer journey might this shift bear the most fruit?  

By Lisa Leslie Henderson