Courtney Eckerle

How to Build a Brand that Customers Passionately Love

May 6th, 2016

Every Friday leading up to June 7, when IRCE begins in Chicago, MarketingSherpa will be diving into the lessons learned from last year’s Media Center interviews with speakers and attendees, such as Eoin Comerford, CEO, Moosejaw. He and I spoke last year about taking risks in campaigns in order to reap the rewards of customer loyalty.


“What it comes down to is, do you want a brand that people will care about? If you try to be all things to all people, you’re really nothing to nobody,” he said.

By playing it too safe, brands can evoke only apathy from consumers — “You’re just vanilla,” Eoin said.

“To create that kind of passion, that kind of engagement with your customer base, you have to understand that you’re probably going to piss off some people too, or at least disengage other people with that kind of focused approach,” he said.

Moosejaw, an outdoor lifestyle and outfitters brand based in Michigan, definitely steps outside of the bounds occasionally, he said.

“An example is the Moosejaw Breakup Service,” he said.

Basically, he said, Moosejaw sent out an email to customers that encouraged them to sign up for a service where Moosejaw employees would break up with their boyfriend or girlfriend for them.

All a customer had to do was send the person’s phone number, three reasons why they were being broken up with, and three nice things about them — the last part was “to sort of soften the blow,” Eoin said.

Eoin said he and his team thought they would have maybe 10 or 15 people participating, and “we’d cut it off at 50. We ultimately had to cut it off at 250.”

Moosejaw’s customer service employees were making these calls.

“It was just hilarious. Some of them were definitely pranks, but there were definitely real people, who were really broken up with by Moosejaw,” he said.

The purpose of this was more than just some random fun or engagement — it’s that it was unforgettable for customers.

“That’s a bar story for life — just that engagement, that word of mouth that comes with it. … It’s priceless,” he said.

Moosejaw also created video and blog content from the campaign, Eoin said, because, “everything that we do, we try to create a little bit of a lasting aspect to it as well. … We definitely try to leverage it as much as we can.”


Keep it simple

To launch an idea like this, just gather your team together for a brainstorming session.

“I wish I could tell you we had some incredibly scientific way to do it, but it’s really just a bunch of really smart, creative people sitting around a room and throwing ideas up in the air,” Eoin said.

Sometimes, he said, they begin working on an idea only to find there’s a legal issue blocking it. An example, he said, was an app called ‘Spot a Hottie,’ where people would take a picture of someone they thought was hot in a bar, or another social space, and post it into the app.

“You as the user could then look at where the heat map of hotness was in your local area,” he said.


Be willing to make mistakes

While that idea failed, because people tried to sue over the use of their likeness in the app, Eoin doesn’t regret the process that lead to it.

“It’s hard, and it’s a judgement call. I wish I could tell you we got it right all the time, but we don’t,” he said.

One of the key things, he said, is that you have to be willing to turn some people off of your product.

“You have to be willing to fail fast and move on, learn from your mistakes,” he said.

He gave the example of one such campaign that failed, which is “one of my favorites, because it was totally my fault.”

He had read a MarketingSherpa case study about how Obama for America had raised a lot of money with “these really kind of spammy emails. … You’d go in there, and there would be text links and highlights. I thought, ‘This is a good idea,’” he said.

Eoin sent the article off to his email marketing team, and encouraged them to test an email that was built similarly with the headline, “It worked for Obama …”

“Well apparently, politics and email don’t mix, because we pissed everybody off,” he said.

Marketers have to walk away from those missteps and onto the next idea, Eoin added, with “no fear.”


Get more out of IRCE with exclusive interviews and interactive coaching by visiting our event page


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Courtney Eckerle

About Courtney Eckerle

With a focus on aspirational, customer-first marketing, Courtney’s goal has been to produce clear, interesting and actionable external content for MarketingSherpa readers. This has included writing over 300 case studies, moderating live event interviews, and producing video content. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature, Mass Communications and Film Studies from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind., and was a correspondent for USA Today College prior to joining MECLABS Institute.

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