It was yet another day in the middle of a heat wave in Shanghai. Temperatures hovered around 100 with a heat index of 115-120… but staying inside, in my air conditioned home office, was getting too boring day after day. I needed a change of scenery. So off to my favorite coffee shop I went.
As soon as I stepped out of the building and into the outdoors, I was hit by a wave of heat. It was almost a physical barrier to get through, step after step. I scanned the shared bike’s QR code to rent it for the ride over to the next district, and realized I’d left my headphones on my desk. I knew if I went back inside the air conditioning I would not come out again. So I decided to pick up a cheap pair once I got close to my favorite coffee spot and workspace (if you don’t know which one I’m talking about, then I’m guessing you probably don’t follow me on Instagram!).
Fifteen minutes or so later I was searching for any kind of little shop that would sell cheap earbuds. I finally found them in a convenience store… and on the way to the cashier I saw something that would solve a problem I had – a very hot walk from the convenience store to the coffee shop. You see, I could rent a bike again and bike the distance, but I’d still be in the sun most of the way anyway, so I might as well just walk… especially because that was more convenient at this point anyway.
I picked up this shiny little umbrella and inspected it. The label featured a sun rather than a rain cloud. I recognized the shiny material… I’d seen these umbrellas dotting the sidewalk before. Silly me, I’d thought they were regular ol’ umbrellas, just repurposed to block the sun. But no. This umbrella was specially designed to block hot UV rays. So I got it.
I popped that sucker open as soon as I hit the wall of heat outside. And it did keep me several degrees cooler by blocking the sun’s hot rays. Even though it quickly broke (it was very cheap), I still keep it on my backpack if in case I have to walk a bit the rest of the summer. And I will probably buy a new, higher quality one at some point.
Here’s the lesson in all of this:
I was burning slap up with nothing but more heat in my future for the next eight minutes or so. My problem was that my best transportation option from where I was to where I wanted to go was… walking. And yet I knew I was going to feel miserable doing it. I saw something designed exactly to solve the problem I had… it was a specific solution.
– It wasn’t an app telling me I should input my location and hire a car to take me down the road to a place what was within walking distance.
– It wasn’t a fan that I could hold in front of my face as I walked in hopes of staying a half degree more comfortable but not addressing the actual problem of the sun.
– It wasn’t a cold drink promising extra hydration from my time out in the sun.
Instead, it was a product I had not considered buying before, but that clearly explained it was, indeed, the specific solution to my problem.
It spoke to me. It said, “I know you have to walk in the sun. I’m not going to pretend you can avoid it. But look! I can block the hot sunbeams from bearing down on your head so that your walk will be a bit more comfortable. Oh, and if you keep using me, I can help prevent sun damage from all this walking outside…. just saying!”
I don’t care if it blocks rain too or not. It’d be great if it did, but I haven’t bothered trying. I don’t know if a regular umbrella keeps me a few degrees cooler just like this special umbrella does. I haven’t bothered trying that either. Because I have this one that clearly told me it blocks those UV rays. So why go with anything else?
When you have a deep understanding of your customer’s problem and how you can fix it for them, you can be that shiny UV umbrella on a day in the middle of a heat wave too. You can position your brand to be the specific solution your customer (or the cause you’re supporting) desperately needs – and when you do that, they’ll know your brand is perfect for them as soon as they set eyes on it.