That Hot FedEx Guy

Several weeks ago I was onsite in San Francisco with one of the big Web 2.0 companies. We were talking about how they were re-centering their business around their users after spending the previous year focused more on product development. They realized that a rabid userbase is a key component of the success of any online service.
The morning had begun with one of the head honchos declaring that they wanted to be ‘the Apple of’ their category. They wanted people to feel a personal and emotional connection to the company and its products just like many have a certain devotion to the wizards at Apple.
That phrase turned in my head for most of the day. This was a company based around an online service – an intangible service. For an iPod, the emotional connection is easily made when you first open the box and see those magical words ‘Made by Apple in Cupertino, California’ – you visualize a gaggle of hipper-than-thou designers and techies tweaking and troubleshooting the device until it is just right and makes its way into your hands (after being assembled by overseas cheap labor in a decidedly un-California setting). But the brand realization is real when you put on the headset and rock out to your first song on your iPod. Whether it is Count Basie or Shirley Bassey, Missy E. or Daft Punk, your experience of the product is tangible and personal and piped right into your brain through your ears. Further the experience of the product – the iPod – is secondary to your experience of the content – the music.
So how to get this same kind of devotion with an online service?
From my own experience, there’s very few online services I am devoted to. I used to be devoted to Dreamhost but after a hacking incident and several outages I still recommend them for beginning entrepreneurs but they seem to have dropped the ball on performance and customer service (their glib attitude during outages and errors is no help). Other online services I pay for currently include LinkedIn (my profile) and MediaTemple (my new host) all very good services but I consider them just that: services. My MediaTemple hosting is a receptacle for my online business. I’m much more emotionally connected to my content that is hosted on their servers than feeling a certain love-in with their staff. They really don’t have any outward facing faces for their product or service. Steve Jobs is a primary face of Apple – we can latch on to him and understand Apple’s history through the prism of his story. (And, I’d guess that is exactly the way that Apple wants it considering their lack of public bloggers) I think we need a human face if we want to evoke an emotional, tribal kinship.
This particular Web 2.0 company has some pretty high visibility people but none of them are really reps for a particular service in their product line. Their tech support folks, the ones that truly are on the front lines of the customer experience – are not visible – neither are the programmers who forge the codebase or the product and project managers who coordinate the whole effort. I think if they started featuring their team to their users they’d evoke a more personal connection to the brand and service.
Which brings us to That Hot FedEx Guy.
I was catching up with an acquaintance at the Argo Cafe on Broadway and Briar. A FedEx truck rolled by and we both glanced at it to see who the driver was. I immediately knew the same thing he was thinking.
‘Don’t worry – it isn’t him,’ I said.
‘Who?’ he asked.
‘You know who. That FedEx guy. The short one with the nice arms.’
He immediately starts giggling and confesses:
‘We always try to be home when he delivers and I am always disappointed if it is that other delivery guy.’
You could probably quiz any ‘guy who likes guys’ in Lakeview – and most of the man-loving women – and they’d all be able to tell you about That Hot FedEx Guy. Buzzcut, blond, nice arms, short, nice calves – always wears shorts as early as possible once it gets warm. And always smiling as he goes about delivering packages.
Here was a perfect example of an attractive representative for a global brand – an intangible service where the true emotions are represented by what is being delivered – not the delivery itself. And yes, attractive in the conventional sense but even if a brand is completely un-sexy there can still be value to having a warm, friendly face that customers can relate to (and not a mascot).
What public face to you present to your customers? Is it yours? If your company is dominated by a head honcho CEO or such – how are they featured? Do people feel they can relate to him or her? What employees do you allow your company to engage directly with the public and show up as ‘real people’ – the whole ‘talk to your customers like you talk to your friends’ thing.
What do you think?
p.s. And Liz and Wendy – I know you guys have seen the FedEx guy. I’ve decided I’d rather work there intsead of UPS anyday – I look better in purple than brown and the red/yellow of DHL reminds me of McDonalds.

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About Andy Wibbels

Andy is an award-winning blogger and author of the book Blogwild! A Guide for Small Business Blogging. His work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Entrepreneur, Wired, Business Week, Forbes, and other national and international media. He was worked at several San Francisco startups including Get Satisfaction, SAY Media, InMobi, Keas, and Mindjet. Currently, Andy is Director of Marketing at Lucidworks. Tw · Fb · G+ · Li

8 thoughts on “That Hot FedEx Guy

  1. Liz Strauss

    I have a Fed Ex guy . . . could be the same one, based on where we live. 🙂
    I agree a personal connection that pulls it altogether is what makes irresistible. You got the head, heart, and meaning to my life all in that Fed Ex guy.
    Steve Jobs might be adding “a sense of childlike wonder to the world,” but I don’t get the feeling that he’s doing it for me. I can walk away as soon as he misses the mark. He hasn’t won my heart only my iPhone dollars. I love the product, not the company. HUGE difference.
    You’re right, brown is NOT your color.

    Reply
  2. Wendy Piersall

    I dunno… lots can be said for a rich chocolate brown… perhaps with a nice touch of aqua blue.
    But, if you must press me for an answer, yes, Purple is definitely ‘you’.
    As is entrepreneurship. 😉

    Reply
  3. Heather Ledeboer

    Personal connection is something I really try to focus on for my website. There are a lot of little ways that I do this. One of them is on our about us page http://www.mom4life.com/pages/aboutus.php I have my personal story of course but I try to take a slightly unexpected angle with my story focusing on what makes me a little different. Than my staff and I put together a fun video also on our about us page that is a spoof on “the Office” sitcom. Lastly, I show my staff because they are a very important part of our team. I feel the internet can be very impersonal so as much as I can I bring the “people” behind our website to the forefront. We also highlight the mom inventors behind the products we sell (all our products are mom invented) by telling their story and showing their photo at the bottom of their product description whenever possible.

    Reply
  4. vonjobi

    a few days ago, i decided it was time to stop hiding behind a flag and put my face on my blog… so that people don’t automatically assume that the librarian who owns the blog is female.
    no one will mistake me for the fedex guy, but with the photo maybe–just maybe–i can get a few more readers, too =)

    Reply
  5. Susan Fuller

    Great article Andy! I want to see that FedEx guy.
    An example to support your premise…
    There’s a site I have visited that has wonderful content and no indication of who runs it…and believe me I’ve looked.
    They highlight various experts in the realm of spirituality and personal growth, but there is no indication who’s writing the daily posts that arrive in my inbox offering me advice.
    I have contacted them twice via the anonymous form asking who they are. So far, I have gotten no reply.
    The result…I’m probably going to unsubscribe and I’m certainly not going to recommend them.
    Personally great content isn’t enough. They need to put a face on it.

    Reply
  6. sajad

    helloHello sajad jalali.., This is to inform you that a package containing a bank draft worth ($ 1,000.000.00) and other finical document given to us to give with Mrs. Maria Alex and that is why we are in contact with him and have already paid for shipping and everyone else what is left is the maintenance of security fees ($ 250 USD) to advise proceed with the payment of maintenance of security ($ 250 USD) so that we may proceed
    with the delivery immediately, confirmed receipt of payment.

    Reply
  7. Nina

    Andy,
    You may want to address this with UPS. Their management style has really changed since they went public and they don’t seem to think that the driver’s interaction with the customer means much – they run the company by numbers now, not customer satisfaction. BTW, I’m married to a great UPS driver & his customers LOVE him – especially when he’s wearing shorts.

    Reply

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