“If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going [With Customers], Any Road Will Get You There”, Wisely Said the Cheshire Cat


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In paraphrasing Lewis Carroll’s famous conversation between Alice and the Cheshire Cat in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, what I’m principally doing is calling out poorly designed and executed customer experiences, fuzzy value propositions, communication and marketing inconsistencies, unclear or nonexistent strategies, insufficiency of customer and competitive insights and profile data, and an overall lack of focus too often evident in product and service programs.

Just as the Cheshire Cat asked Alice some important questions to help guide her way through a strange, unfamiliar land, here are some basic, critical marketing and channel questions for companies to consider in strategizing and managing the customer journey:

1. Can your essential tangible and emotional business, or value, proposition for customers (expressed in the customer’s terms) be easily stated, i.e. “Do you have a ‘why’ as well as a ‘what’?” Is there insight on how this compares with competitors’ value propositions, and how your customers perceive their strengths and weaknesses?

2. Who are your customers, who are your best customers, and do they want what you make available, i.e. “Do you have a process for identifying, and analyzing, the reasons customers buy, or don’t buy, what you offer?” What is the customers’ competitive brand set, and why have these alternative brands been selected?

3. How do your customers ‘learn’ and make decisions, i.e.”Where do they get product and brand information, how do they process and share it, and is it personalized for their specific requirements and needs?” Where are these customers in the life cycle?

4. Are your customers involved in all phases of product, service, brand, communication, and marketing development, i.e. “How much, and how well, do customers participate in the conversation, and partner and co-create on all elements of value and messaging?”

5. Do employees, irrespective of level or function within the enterprise, help you deliver perceived brand, product, and service benefit, i.e., “Do customers see employees as ambassadors or saboteurs?”

6. Does the business – and everyone in it – have a passion, sets of processes, and shared level of understanding (through messaging, programs and training) for truly valuing, respecting, and cherishing its customers (and employees), i.e. “Do you have a customer-centric culture?”

As a strategic, customer-focused marketer, the Cheshire Cat is a pretty reasonable and fundamentally logical character, even if the customer behavior realm in which he exists often is not: “You just go where your high-top sneakers sneak, and don’t forget to use your head.” Living in Wonderland, the Cheshire Cat understands the value of good planning, and getting intelligent answers to essential value proposition and brand equity questions; and he also appreciates the beneficial, and often elusive, forming and executing of customer strategies. As he notes: “Only a few find the way, some don’t recognize it when they do – some… don’t ever want to.”

Occasionally, just like in the Cheshire Cat’s mythical world, marketing, brand-building, and experience programs can seem to vanish altogether, at least insofar as customers are concerned. The challenge for enterprises is to make sure that there is an end goal, or strategic set of value objectives, always in sight and mind for all stakeholders, and that everyone understands it. Remember how easy it is to stray off the right path, recognizing, as the Cheshire Cat sagely quoted: “Oh, you can’t help that. We’re all mad here.”

Michael Lowenstein, PhD CMC
Michael Lowenstein, PhD CMC, specializes in customer and employee experience research/strategy consulting, and brand, customer, and employee commitment and advocacy behavior research, consulting, and training. He has authored seven stakeholder-centric strategy books and 400+ articles, white papers and blogs. In 2018, he was named to CustomerThink's Hall of Fame.


  1. Nicely said. The questions are great for all marketers and researchers. I am reminded over and over again of Peter Druckers line about customers: “The purpose of a business is to have a customer.” Why do so many companies forget?

  2. He actually said “The purpose of a business is to create a customer”. It’s the word ‘create’ that is distinctive here, and it is deserving of some further explanation. From my perspective, it’s about customer life cycle – getting the right customers in the first place, keeping them with demonstrated value, and recovering the most profitable defectors by rebuilding the relationship. Drucker also said: “”The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself." This is about personalization, meeting the customer on the customer’s own terms, and also demonstrating value and consistency in the experience. It’s also about insightful, actionable research, leveraging structured and unstructured (Big) data, and microsegmented messaging.

  3. ….that I like, not by Drucker, but by Benjamin Hoff in “The Tao of Pooh”:

    “"How can you get very far,
    If you don’t know who you are?
    How can you do what you ought,
    If you don’t know what you’ve got?
    And if you don’t know which to do
    Of all the things in front of you,
    Then what you’ll have when you are through
    Is just a mess without a clue
    Of all the best that can come true
    If you know What and Which and Who.”

  4. … do not be afraid to be a Tigger. Tigger, who reveled in the fact that the most wonderful thing about him is “I’m the only one,” is the hero of innovation. I suspect that Jerry Garcia borrowed on Tigger’s wisdom when he said, “It’s not enough to be the best at what you do. You must be the only one who does what you do.”

    Thanks for another mind-expanding article!


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