Brand: Ready, 

To tap in to the word-of-mouth marketing that moms wield, McDonald’s launched its Quality Correspondents program that takes moms behind the scenes of its operations so they can share their experiences with their peers.

Practice active listening to obtain valuable customer feedback

As fast-paced professionals running departments or full-fledged businesses—managing people and projects and schedules and products—listening can sometimes fall off our to-do lists. We don’t have time to really pause and listen well. While we may see the value in making time, few of us actually do.

We need to be intensely interested brand listeners. Listening well can certainly help us expand our brand spirit. The insights and perspectives offered by our three significant resources—employees, customers and partners—can lead to true breakthroughs. What percentage of your time do you spend listening to these important people? And just how do you do that?

Brands can practice active listening in a variety of ways. Here are a few examples of two ways companies can make listening a priority:

Face Time From the Top
In one of his first business books, management consultant Tom Peters encouraged leaders to practice “MBWA,” that is, management by wandering around. Those who stay hidden in their offices, too busy to look up or out and engage in personal customer interaction, are really just plain missing out. They send a subliminal message that customer knowledge is good rhetoric and appropriate for “customer service people” but not an integrated brand practice.

Jorgen Vig Knudstorp, CEO of LEGO, the world’s fourth largest toy company, regularly meets with adult fans of LEGO. In a Harvard Business Review conversation with Andrew O’Connell, he stated: “An amazing number of grown-ups like to play with LEGOs. While we have 120 staff designers, we potentially have probably 120,000 volunteer designers we can access outside the company to help us invent. Perhaps most important, these super-users can articulate the product strengths and weaknesses that young children may sense but can’t express.” These interactions have become so important that LEGO has created two customer-driven programs: LEGO Ambassadors and a LEGO Certified Professionals program. These active customer-listening programs not only keep the CEO in the loop, but all members of the LEGO brand team.

Andrea Syverson is the founder and president of IER Partners, which has guided and strengthened brands of all sizes with savvy best practices for creating customers for life. Combining her passion of adventurous listening and working across diverse industries, her "outsider-insider" creative branding and merchandising expertise and objectivity has been valued by companies as diverse as Spanx, Ben & Jerry's, Celestial Seasonings, CHEFS and Boston Proper.  She holds an MBA and has dedicated more than 20 years to providing clients both domestic and international with innovative approaches to branding, product development and creative messaging. She is the author of  two books in which she shares her hands-on approach for both brand building and creating customer-centric products that enhance brands: ThinkAbout: 77 Creative Prompts for Innovators, and BrandAbout: A Seriously Playful Approach for Passionate Brand-Builders and Merchants. You may reach her at
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