Multiethnic People in a Meeting with Social Media Symbols.

The Power of Touch & Your Customers

Apparently, I use the word “touch” frequently.  I’ve noticed a number of people saying it back to me recently.   It actually comes from the more business-like phrase – touch point – the point where you “touch” your customer. The in-store experience, e-mail marketing, news stories, Facebook, Twitter, and special events/seminars/webinars are all “touches.”

  • Effective touches bring customers/clients closer to your organization.
  • Ineffective touchpoints are costly and can even push customers away.

The Kevin Garnett Example

One researcher noted that this works in all kinds of social circumstances.  In a paper due out this year in the journal Emotion, Michael W. Kraus, who studied the National Basketball Association, pointed out that the most touch-bonded teams were the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers, currently two of the league’s top teams.  (Cheers to my friend B.J. Bueno who works with the Lakers!  Great job B.J.!) The touchiest player was Kevin Garnett, the Celtics’ star big man.

“Within 600 milliseconds of shooting a free throw, Garnet has reached out and touched four guys,” Dr. Keltner said.

The research showed that players who made contact with teammates most consistently and longest tended to rate highest on measures of performance, and the teams with those players seemed to get the most out of their talent.

If a high five or an equivalent can enhance performance, on the court or in an office, then why don’t more companies do it?  And, if you’re in the business of customer engagement – and we all are – why aren’t we giving our customers high-fives and pats on the backs, at least virtually?  How are we encouraging them?  How are we engaging them?

The E.T Example

Steven Spielberg’s E.T. was one of the highest grossing movies ever.  For whatever reason, as I was thinking about touches, I thought about this movie and watched the trailer.  E.T.’s touch lights the way, heals a wound, turns death back to life and helps him find his way home.

You can see it here and be instantly transported back to 1982.

The Starbucks Example

We are hard-wired to be touched. Brands and organizations that understand this inherently succeed.  When I go to Starbucks, they say my name.  They are a leading global brand with over 12,000 locations around the world and they know my name is “Laura.”  Lazy Janes on Williamson Street knows my name too.   I love going to Lazy Janes.  I bring my friends there.  I spend most of my eating out cash there.   A whopping 24% of Starbucks customers visit 16 times each month. No other fast food chain posts numbers even close to that.  How else does Starbucks “touch” that customer?  Through cause-marketing, Twitter (826,624 twitter followers), Facebook (6.5 million fans), great press, full page ads in the Sunday New York Times and local marketing.  And best of all, they do it in meaningful and impactful ways.  Their touch MEANS something.  And people can tell the difference.  Authenticity and truth matter a great deal – more than ever, in fact.


The real owner of your brand is your customer.  If there’s no benefit to the customer, the company not only fails to enhance the metaphorical marriage, it weakens it.  When customer engagement slides, so do a great many other outcomes, including future sales, growth and profit.

Whatever your brand story is, I encourage you to do something more with it.  Find out who your customers are and what’s important to them.  The most innovative companies in America today are leading by letting their customers “IN”.  Everyone wants to belong.

Touches in branding include the in-store experience, how your company answers the phone and responds to customers, your e-mail marketing, cause marketing, your social media strategy, the stories you tell and the events you create.  A great example of an unbelievable Madison touch is the World’s Largest BratFest produced by Metcalfe’s Market which raises over $100,000 for local charities.  That’s an incredible local touch that impacts the lives of many throughout the year – and everyone can be a part of it.

Do you think of your marketing as a touch?  What about when the phone is answered or a customer walks into your business?  Is that a touch?  Yes. And how relevant is the touch to the customer?  Do they engage with your brand or are they just passively watching?  The ROI between the two ends of the spectrum is significant.

Links and related material:

If you would like to see Diane Sawyer’s interview about the power of touch, watch it online!

If you want to see a remixed version of HeartLight, check this out: You can see it here