Let Your Freak Flag Fly: Why Great Customer Experiences Require You to be True to Yourself

Many companies try to polish the “rough edges” off of their public personas, but only by being true to yourself can you provide a truly exceptional customer experience.


Every company has a personality. So does every person. In fact, most people are freaks.

Don’t be offended, I wasn’t talking about you. Well, maybe. Society has a long history of encouraging conformity, so most of us have a behavior or two that we keep under wraps, an obsessive interest or hobby that we don’t broadcast to the world, an obscure author we treasure, an embarrassing musician we adore. I myself love Doctor Who and Walt Disney World and chocolate, but I also own music by Twisted Sister and play Cards Against Humanity. We all have something we love at which our friends and families might cock an eyebrow and that we would never, ever put on our resumes, and those things make us freaks. They also make us human.

When companies are small, they reflect the personalities of their founders. They could be warm and friendly, hip and edgy, fun and funny. They might be a bit disorganized, or slow to return phone calls, or impatient and demanding, but they’re real. We’re used to dealing with human beings, so we accept the flaws because we appreciate the positives. When we find someone who shares our flaws or desires or obscure interests we make a connection, and we trust and want to work with that person. So it goes with companies.

As a company grows beyond the point where the founders are directly involved in everything, it begins to have a more complex and frequently disjointed personality. The individual personalities of everyone in the company contribute and sometimes conflict, but the company itself hasn’t really developed a personality of its own. Most of us are less comfortable dealing with a group than with an individual. The group is harder to understand, and the intimacy of shared interests disappears.

Eventually someone ends up with the job of purposefully creating a new synthetic personality for the company. Congratulations, you now have a brand.

Nobody wants to be responsible for wrecking a growing company, so synthetic personalities tend to be “safe”—inoffensive, uninteresting, boring, and insincere, designed to appeal to as broad an audience as possible without driving anyone away. Being boring and insincere is deadly. Nobody likes hanging out with boring and insincere people. Nobody brags to their friends about that boring and insincere person that they just met.

Great companies of any size aren’t afraid to let their true personalities show. Best of all, a great company’s personality aligns with its common purpose and attracts employees and customers who match. Great customer experiences are many things, but above all else they are consistent. Only by having a consistent personality can an organization deliver a great experience. Seth Godin does a great job of expanding upon this concept in his book Tribes.

People want to work with companies that are like them. People are flawed. People are freaks.

Don’t be boring and insincere. Let your freak flag fly. Be true to yourself and let the world see you as you truly are, warts and all. Embrace what makes you interesting, shout it to the world, and welcome the members of your tribe.

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