What is a Verbal Icon, and how can your customers benefit from it?


Share on LinkedIn

“Our job is all about putting smiles on the faces of children who play with our toys and games.” – Allen G. Hassenfeld, CEO, Hasbro

What is your job? From the above quote by the Chairman and CEO of one of the biggest toy manufacturers in the world, it can be understood that they have a clear indication of what it is they’re company is all about: “to put smiles on the faces of children.” The cleverness of that statement lies in the fact that it encompasses every aspect of what the organization would be involved in on a day to day basis: from designing a toy, to producing a toy, to delivering a toy, to the end result: a happy customer.

I’ve heard these types of concise definitions called everything from “benefit statements” to “vision nuggets” (there’s an unfortunate term). In the past, I have personally called them “Do Statements”, because this statement should clearly define what you “do” for your customer, and it can also help you “do” that each day. But now, I think I like the idea of calling it a “Verbal Icon.” Read on to see why this is valuable.

Your statement should:

Create a word picture. Think of the icons on your computer, and how they help you easily navigate programs and files through simple recognition of visual simplicity. This is the same concept with your statement: you are attempting to create a picture in the mind of your listener. It helps them easily remember what you do; hence the term Verbal Icon. Your Verbal Icon should create a picture in the mind of whomever reads it or hears it. Pictures are always easier to remember than long, complex statements. Why is this? Because pictures, especially ones that the mind imagines, are always customized by the person, and then an emotional attachment is made that causes it to linger.

In the Hasbro example, what do you see in your mind when you read the words “putting smiles on the faces of children”? I personally get the image of a little freckle-faced child playing happily on the floor with a new toy, and I think about cool toys I had when I was a kid, and my favorite pair of jeans. Does the Hasbro statement say anything about freckles, or about my childhood, or the clothes I had? No, but my mind customized the word picture into a form it can relate to. This happens all the time when you read a gripping novel or your hear an important story on the radio or through a podcast; your brain fills in details in its own way, and this is what causes the Verbal Icon to be so powerful.

Be concise. Anyone who knows me knows that I will take five minutes just to explain how to find your way to the bathroom. However, when you are crafting your Verbal Icon, if you cannot define what you do in one sentence, you still have some work ahead of you. Don’t get me wrong; mission statements and goals are very valuable for strategizing and planning purposes, but your Verbal Icon should be so clearly worded and concise that it can be described in 3 to 5 seconds. This not only helps in remembering it easily, but it’s extremely valuable when describing what it is you do when you’re discussing your work with other people. This helps immensely to communicate the understanding, and it also helps to establish your company “brand” in their mind as a concise thought.

Define the benefit. Your Verbal Icon should define whatever benefit your customer receives from having done business with you. As in the example above, the benefit is the smile on the child’s face; i.e. the child is happy. What benefit do your customers receive from your products and services? More leisure time? Less effort? Increased popularity? Focus on the benefits you provide, and you will be much more successful at creating a lasting image through your Verbal Icon.

While these tips can help you define what it is you do, the process itself can take longer than you think. However, it’s well worth the time and effort invested to ensure that you and your teammates understand exactly what it is you’re trying to accomplish with every decision you need to make in the whirl of activity that surrounds you each day. This will ensure that everyone’s actions are always pointed toward the goal of satisfying the customer.

The added benefit is that you also will have crafted a unique way of explaining to others what it is you do in a way that will make it easy for customers to remember when it comes time for them to partake of your services or products.

“One should always play fairly . . . when one has the winning cards.” – Oscar Wilde

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Steve Martorano
Steve has been on the front lines with customers for over 25 years. He is currently Director of Customer Services for Polygon Northwest, a real estate developer in both the Seattle and Portland markets. Steve is also the creator of ThinkCustomerSatisfaction.com, an online resource designed to provide insights and training to customer professionals across many industries.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here