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Brands: You're Only As Good As Your People

Screen Shot 2013-08-28 at 10.39.50 AM It all began with a man...a plan...a canal...PANAMA! No, wait. Wrong story.

I don't really remember it how it began, but I'm pretty sure it went something like this: really cool designer techie friend makes comment in passing about his awesome new bank. I recoil in horror because we know there is no such thing as an awesome bank. Five minutes later I find myself thinking ,"Is Nathan is drunk? He doesn't seem drunk. Could there really be such a thing as an awesome bank? Perhaps I shall try this so-called awesome bank."

I then proceed to Simple's site only to discover...NO. A nice little message pops up telling me THOU SHALT NOT PASS...for now. But someone will email me eventually. I immediately proceed from "curious potential customer" to "my life is going to end if I can't be part of this RIGHT NOW," thus becoming the living embodiment of why we marketers tell you brand people to dig deep and resist the temptation to let everyone into your party right away. The power of barrier to entry is strong! But that's a blog post for another day.

Months go by. Countless glasses of wine are consumed. I move across the country. And last week I get an email letting me know the secret password for the cool kids table bank.

One app download and passphrase later, I'm in and digging it. But now what? It's a bank app.

After several minutes of poking around on the app and site I come across some pretty serious customer service "mantrifesto." Alongside statements like "we're serious about good service," I find something that basically says (and I'm paraphrasing) "Contact us anytime about questions or problems or just to say hello."

"I will accept your customer service challenge," I think to myself, "I will email you just to say hello." And I did.

bank 1

Much to my surprise, a short while later I received this response from my new bank friend, Ryan O.


And then I said...


Which is when I met my new friend Bank Bruke...


So naturally I did what any person would do...


To which I received this gif as a response...


1. Your brand is only as good as your people. Your company will live and die by the people who make your company. Using the simple laws of attraction, we can deduce that if you develop a solid business plan you'll build a solidly awesome company which will attract amazingly wonderful people. Good draws good. Great draws great.

2. Give your people permission to be awesome. I'm willing to bet that Simple never covered "proper use of to use How I Met Your Mother gifs in customer service conversations," but there you have it. Hire people you trust. Hire people who get your brand. Then give them permission and freedom to love it, represent it and make it their own. Because in making it their own, they're making it awesome for your customer.

3. A little real human goes a long way. Sure, I recognize the irony  of my ways. I'm averse to real banks because I don't want to deal with a real person. (Truth: the day photo deposit was born I threw a mini-celebration.) Now I'm singing the praises of a brand that uses an technology to connect you with a real human.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that I didn't like going into real banks because the people seemed mostly miserable, standoffish and lukewarm. Even at their speediest, our interactions typically felt just like a business transaction and nothing more. My interactions with Simple have been a series of fun, quirky, personal moments of human engagement. And that has made all the difference.

4. You pretty much haven't lived until your bank #HIMYMs you.  Wherever you are, Ryan O. and Bruke, I hope you're enjoying a Pine State Biscuit. Thanks for being awesome. I don't know if I'll ever see a drawing of a narwhal playing ring toss with a unicorn, but please know if there were ever a bank I'd walk 500 miles would be you.


Bringing Back Recess

Yesterday was one of those unusually cool autumnal days we don’t see a lot of this time of year in South Carolina. The kind of weather that compels you to slow down and take note of the world. The choreography of leaves dancing in the wind. A man walking a matching pair of dogs down the sidewalk. The sound of footsteps over a gravel path. It was the kind of day that compels neighbors to stop, wave and say hello instead of just passing by. As I sat in my car, stopped at a red light, I noticed two men sitting on a downtown bench. They were two people who appeared to be from very different walks of life. On the left, an older man in a suit. On the right, a younger man with dreadlocks almost to his waist–and a style most of us here have come to closely associate with Asheville. Despite their differences, they appeared to be engaged in a pleasant exchange. The kind that takes place when two strangers decide to embrace an usually autumnal day and happen to come to a rest on the same bench.

In the sixty seconds I sat at the light watching those two men, a realization came over me. Most everyone has some sort of social media skills these days, but social skills are going extinct. We do a lot of talking, but we don’t make much time for conversation. We interact a lot, but connection is becoming rare.

Go find a park bench at lunch today. Take a walk with a colleague to get a cup of coffee. Talk with someone for five minutes. Your day and your heart will thank you. Take a break and GO TO RECESS! (In case you haven’t heard, recess is back.)

Twitter will still be there when you get back.

I promise.