father son customer obsession

A Story of Customer Obsession & It’s Payoff

father son customer obsession

Story Telling and Customer Obsession Merge

Recently I was given some marketing collateral for an organization here in Boise called Life’s Kitchen where I saw customer obsession at work. I had heard about them and their cause; however, it wasn’t until recently that I witnessed a perfect merger between story telling and customer obsession. The research shows the payoff’s of customer obsession is remarkably significant. This article will tell such a story and provide marketing & branding key points that stood out.

The Foundation of Greatness

While I do not personally know restaurateur Rory Farrow, I hope I get to meet the master mind behind Life’s Kitchen. Rory somehow built a future for Life’s Kitchen’s customers by connecting to their needs. His customer obsession or customer centric approach back in 2003 is now showing up in recent research. For example, in Harvard’s research suggesting the focus move more toward the customer in a customer equity approach.  According to Reichheld, Christensen, Kotler & Levitt (2015), the era of chief marketing officers might be morphing into more of a chief customer officer as the demands of marketing products shifts towards cultivating customers (see diagram below).

What Rory at Life’s Kitchen figured out well in advance of this research is that his customer’s stories mattered the most. His customers are youth between the ages of 16 and 20 who 60% came referred by the juvenile justice system. He cared enough to listen to their stories and created opportunities where these youth could be trained and built credibility where 80% of them could be placed in meaningful employment. Not only did Rory get his primary customer right, he went on to use the skills the youth were learning to serve 3300 means to the homeless every month. For those of you who have visited Boise, you typically don’t see the homeless; however, Rory and his team at Life’s Kitchen do. Now the value of Rory’s customer’s and building that equity is quite a complex equation; however, it’s clear when one connects with their customers it builds value over the years.

According to Aaker (2016), companies must find their “signature stories” (p.26). Such stories as in the case of Life’s Kitchen must represent your customer and not the company. A great article by McGovern (2016) titled “Customer Obsession versus Organization Obsession” solidifies the opportunity company’s have to drive innovation around customer’s needs. One more story and a set of Marketing & Branding Key Points I got from my study this week. Docutech is a major vendor of document generation, delivery, and signature services in the financial services industry. We excelled in rebranding the company in 2015 by using our creative resources coupled with an amazing product team to get close to our customers. While sometimes it is difficult to place a number on the value add, what can confirm is the renewed retention of key customer accounts and a story that eventually caused a major investment firm to come to the table at Docutech as a partner. The customer at the center of any organization drives value and builds user stories that sell. The end impact of brand equity is really the total value of the customer and brand equity becomes just a slice of the overall customer equity in our equation. According to Haller (2016), “the best companies don’t just serve their customers well. They serve them in a way that also creates maximum value for the business.”

Marketing & Branding Key Points

  • Understand your customer value
  • Drive a customer-centric marketing strategy
  • Let customers tell their story and how your company enables their success

I hope you find value in getting closer to your customer and truly understanding their needs. I’ve learned the closer I am, as a marketing professional, to the customer the more value I can provide to our prospects and our industry as a whole.

Read this and other marketing & branding articles on my blog here. Or pre-register here for a complimentary copy of my eBook: Brand Anatomy Needed to Drive #WICKEDRESULTS


Aaker, D. (2016, July/August). Signature Stories. Marketing News, (), 26-27.

Haller, M. (2016). American marketing association. Retrieved from https://www.ama.org/publications/MarketingNews/Pages/how-much-are-your-customers-really-worth.aspx

McGovern, G. (2016). New Thinking. Retrieved from http://www.gerrymcgovern.com/new-thinking/customer-obsession-versus-organization-obsession

Reichheld, F., Christensen, C. M., & Kotler, P. (2015). HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Strategic Marketing

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