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The Magic of CX 🤝 Brand: A Case Study with Vacation Inc.

Hi, CX Wizards!

It’s been a busy few weeks, but with spring weather in the mix, you sure won’t hear me complaining.

Today is one of my favorite newsies I’ve ever written. It’s about how CX and Brand go hand-in-hand to create magic.

It’s also about one of my favorite brands, Vacation Inc., and my fantastic experience with them last week.

But before we get into it, here are two quick updates:

1. I had a total blast chatting with Val Geisler, a retention expert, on the podcast last week. We spoke about the evolution of retention, how to fix retention, how community building plays a role in retention, and so much more.

It’s one of my favorite conversations to date–I’d recommend you check it out here.

2. For the first time in 48 weeks, I have a few sponsorship openings for upcoming newsies!

If you’d like to get in front of more than 8,000 CX’ers, Marketers, and Executives, please reply to this email or DM me on Twitter.

Alright, let’s jump right in.

Vacation® Inc is an award-winning sunscreen company from Miami that’s on a mission to make sunscreen fun.

The brand launched in June 2021 and quickly became a viral sensation, beloved for its “leisure-enhancing,” sensorial products and nostalgic 360-degree brand world that’s inspired by the sun-soaked days of 1980s sunscreen culture.

Their tone is sensational, as are their products. Their flagship product is a sunscreen that, in my opinion, evokes a sense of nostalgia with its scent, reminiscent of a poolside piña colada and perhaps a questionable decision or two.

Vacation® Inc Product Page

In their own words:

“Our signature sunscreen scent was developed in conjunction with the much celebrated ARQUISTE Parfumeur. It immerses the wearer in a nostalgic mix of coconut, banana, pool water, pool toy and swimsuit lycra for optimal poolside lounging.”

They created a universe, and that universe expands all the way to their CX.

Have a seat. Let’s chat.

  • Brand & CX: The Relationship You Never Knew You Needed

  • Oh buoy!: My Problem and Vacation Inc.'s Response

  • A Leisurely Convo: An Interview With Amelia @ Vacation Inc.

Before we dive in, a huge shout to Gorgias, our sponsor for this week’s newsie.

Gorgias is my CX helpdesk of choice and what I’ve used at both OLIPOP and JRB.

If you have been here for a bit, you know how much I love Gorgias and why I think it’s an absolute must-have for any Shopify business. More on my fav Gorgias use cases here.

I’ve seen brands at all revenue stages use and love Gorgias, and I highly recommend you check it out.

It’s our one-stop-shop for all things customer. If you have any questions about how we use Gorgias or why we chose Gorgias, feel free to email me anytime.

Brand & CX: The Relationship You Never Knew You Needed

A great brand makes a customer feel a certain kind of way. And more often than not, it’s done with powerful brand marketing.

Brand marketing creates a unique identity and personality for a product, service, or company that differentiates it from its competitors.

It involves crafting messages and visuals that resonate with the target audience and communicates the brand's values, benefits, and unique selling points.

Brand marketing aims to create an emotional connection with the customer and establish a long-term relationship built on trust and loyalty.

It encompasses all aspects of the brand, from its name, logo, and packaging to its advertising, social media presence, and overall customer experience.

However, while brand marketing is essential, it's only part of the equation. To truly build a successful brand, it's critical to deliver a great customer experience that lives up to the promises made in the marketing.

That's where CX comes in, and the magic happens when the two work together seamlessly.

Brand marketers are like matchmakers trying to set you up with a date. They work hard to create a positive image of the brand, make it look attractive, and get you interested in trying it out.

CX, on the other hand, is like going on a first date. It's the experience of interacting with the brand and seeing if it lives up to the hype.

Just like a first date can make or break a potential relationship, a customer's experience with a brand can make or break their loyalty to it.

Brand marketers may have done an excellent job presenting the brand as trustworthy, reliable, and customer-focused. Still, if the CX experience falls short of those expectations, it can be disappointing and damaging to the brand's reputation.

It’s a bad date that had lots of hype and potential.

Similarly, if the CX team is doing an excellent job of delivering a great experience, but the brand marketing is confusing, inconsistent, or doesn't accurately reflect the customer experience, it can create confusion and mistrust in the customer's mind.

Let’s talk about a universe in which these two teams worked hand-in-hand to create an experience I won’t forget for a while–all over an air freshener damaged in transit.

Oh buoy!: My Problem and Vacation Inc.'s Response

I’ve tried quite a few of Vacations products before, smitten by their unreal product quality and fantastic branding.

My entry drug was their Vacation® Summer Leisure Pack: Sunscreen, Spritzer, & Two Air Fresheners.

Their commitment to the world they created goes from their site to their confirmation emails, and even down to the old-school receipt that comes with your package.

Some might call this “commiting to the bit.”

I call this a “flawless brand experience from start to finish.”

The air freshener was stellar and made me feel like I was on vacation whenever I hopped into my car. A restock was due.

I ordered a few, and one came slightly damaged in transit. I reached out to them with a quick email. Here is the response.

They not only provided a great customer experience, but they also kept me in their brand universe. They didn’t let the dream stop for a second, even when it rained on my once-sunny beach.

We’ve chatted about the experience I had at the Waldorf Amsterdam in the past, and while they are dramatically different in nature, they have one large thing in common:

They keep the dream going. They don’t allow a negative experience disrupt the flow.

The following day, Ray, Regional Sales Director & PT Accountant, followed up as promised.

Although the seaplane pilot has yet to officially apologize, I am learning that this might just be Christopher Frangipani’s problem he has to work through, as I am not the only one he owes an apology to.

A Leisurely Convo: An Interview With Amelia @ Vacation Inc.

The customer experience I had was delightful. It swept me off my feet and made me eager to learn more.

As one does (or maybe it’s just me here), I posted this interaction to Linkedin and it kinda popped off.

With luck and a bit of sleuthing, I found the legend behind all this CX magic and asked them a few questions for this newsie.

Turns out that Ray, our favorite part-time accountant, is actually Amelia Scoyni.

Amelia, so glad we connected!

Thrilled to have you hear to ask you a few questions.

Eli: Cx is usually a reactive problem-solving department, but Vacation is seemingly focused so much more on brand experience than I’ve ever seen. From the characters portrayed in the email, to the “leisurely” tone used, and the cheeky messaging. What inspired that?

Amelia: We strive to embody the hospitality, care, and “virtual turndown service” akin to a seven-star Caribbean resort. Being the literal front desk of an operation is all about first impressions.

We view every touchpoint of communication with customers as an opportunity to make them smile, inviting them into our immersive brand world, where the blue banana daiquiris are flowing and the service is something you want to write a postcard home about.

This is what really drives our tone and strong brand voice - we wouldn't be Vacation® without it.

Eli: On a practical level, how does marketing and cx work together to create an environment where storytelling is put on a pedestal?

Amelia: Vacation® marketing and customer service go hand-in-hand-- just like our signature emoji, the business handshake 🤝.

Our brand’s tone, which borrows from 1980s corporate parlance, acts as a general framework that the entire company uses. For us, everything we do is in service of the brand.

The marketing department takes customer service as seriously as the customer service department takes marketing!

At the end of the day, every conversation with our customers needs to reflect the level of care that’s found in every piece of communication that we put out in the world – whether that’s one of our marketing department’s iconic Poolside Etiquette emails or an email exchange with a customer over email.

Eli: Who’s writing these emails? What does that process look like?

Amelia: I am the only person dedicated to Ray Smith’s inbox full time. I was hired a year into Vacation’s inception (where a solid foundation was already set), and was given the opportunity to own it and strengthen our customer service practices.

Because I love writing, I carve time out of my day to find inspiration: sometimes from our Business Card titles, or listening to our radio station Poolsuite FM, or even just scrolling through the many 80s-era photos in our company’s image archive - and then get to work on creating new, funny macros that are both on-brand and helpful.

Eli: As a customer, when sh*t hits the fan, the “brand storytelling” moment disappears, and real life returns. How does the cx team maintain the balance of taking customer issues seriously while still injecting the jovial brand spirit?

Amelia: We have a mixed customer base - a beautiful mix of super fans and people who’ve just discovered us and aren’t necessarily familiar with the brand just yet, so it can actually be tricky at times.

We believe that it’s 100% possible to convey our cheeky brand spirit even when dealing with sensitive order issues, as long as we hit the basic tenets of human understanding.

But the truth is, when “shit hits the fan," we deal with it very seriously. Sometimes that requires a more direct tone, but we always try to turn lemons into lemonade.

Why? Because our mission is to make sunscreen fun, and when customers aren’t happy (for any reason!), we're falling short on that mission.

Eli: On a practical level, do y’all have basic macros/scripts for lost/damaged packages and replacements etc? Is this scalable?

Amelia: We draft, craft, and finesse our standard responses on an ongoing basis. We have a lot of them now, actually. As we grow, it's our goal to ensure every customer receives the “Ray Smith” signature brand of customer service.

While we have responses ready for almost every situation, whenever possible we try to write a little extra to make every email come across as special.

We like to bring up details from any previous correspondence, commenting on the pristine boating weather in their city, or giving them an anecdote from Ray Smith’s busy life - such as the birthdate of his 9-year-old Yorkie, Jimmy (June 21st, 2014), or the location of his and Mrs. Smith’s honeymoon in ‘88.

Eli: I’m imaging your customer base is invested in this world y’all created. What are some of your fav responses to an email similar to the one you sent me?

Amelia: Whenever we hear from a really dedicated Vacation® honorary employee, the banter can be endless.

For example, we have a specific response for when an item is missing from an order that involves our SVP of Lobby Shrimp Cocktail Sculptures, his wife’s Tropical Punch, and tipsy warehouse staff.

This is a potentially frustrating situation that with a simple email ends up making our customers laugh and banter back. Here’s an incredible response we received recently that perfectly conveys the experience we want our customers to have:

Eli: So many brands start referral-type programs and fail because it’s bland, lazy, and doesn’t make people feel anything. Vacation leveraged the custom business card strategy to both create hype around launch, but also as a referral tactic on the site today. How’s that been going?

Amelia: It’s an absolutely incredible way to engage with our customers - they take their roles very seriously, and we always address them by position.

In fact, Linkedin shows us as having 74 employees, when in reality we only have 12 full-time staff - that's how much our customers love being a part of our world. Everyone is an employee at this wild and crazy sunscreen corporation, and our website is the virtual town hall, vibe generator included.

While the referral side of things attached to our business card is thriving, we have a few ideas up our sleeve to really maximize customer experience - honorary employees stay tuned!

Eli: This might be one of my favorite newsies I’ve ever written. Thanks so much for gracing us with your presence, Amelia!

That’s it for this week!

Any topics you'd like to see me cover in the future?

Just shoot me a DM or an email!

See you next week,

Eli 💛