The Jeep Wave, Customer Culture, and Marketing Your Business

I recently sold my car and bought myself a new Jeep Wrangler.  I used to be a Jeep guy but took a two year hiatus but I'm back now!!  ;-)  My recent Jeep shopping experience produced a funny story with a marketing lesson in it that I would like to share.

When I was test driving the Jeep that day up in Lebanon, NH I  passed another Jeep going the other direction.  The driver was a man and he raised his hand off the steering wheel and waived to me.  I immediately and instinctively waved back. This is what's known as “The Jeep Wave.”

The Jeep Wave

I'm not sure if you've ever heard of this before (I never had until I had my first Jeep and even then I had to Google it to find out why people in other Jeeps were waving to me).  ;-)

Anyway, this nostalgic gesture that I had forgotten about made me smile and laugh out loud (and affirm my decision that I absolutely wanted the Jeep). 

I had forgotten about this shared ritual Jeep Wrangler owners do called the “Jeep Wave.”  Even if you have no interest in being a Jeep owner, you may find this marketing lesson interesting and applicable to your business.   I invite you to take a minute and watch this short video of a fellow marketer describing the Jeep wave and then I'll meet you below to show how you might use something like this in your business.

Check out this short video to see a fellow marketing professional explain the Jeep Wave.

The Jeep Wave Defined According to Jeep Talk.org:  “An honor bestowed upon those drivers with the superior intelligence, taste, class, and discomfort tolerance to own the ultimate vehicle – the Jeep. Generally consists of vigorous side-to-side motion of one or both hands, but may be modified to suit circumstances and locally accepted etiquette.”

What Can You Learn From This And Apply To Your Business: 

First, let me ask you – Have you ever been a customer of a business where you were proud to be a customer of that business?

Perhaps you even self-identified with that brand and it was part of who you were.  Maybe you love Nike, Under Armour, Lulu Lemmon, Jeep, Carhart, a particular brand of Coffee (think Dunkin vs Starbucks vs. Local Coffee Shop), Crossfit, Paleo eating, Veganism, etc.

There are many brands and businesses I am personally proud to associate with.  Some are local coffee shops (True Brew Barista), some are local restaurants (Barley House), some are realtors, chiropractors, lawyers, doctors, dentists and more.

I love going to certain businesses because of the product they serve.  For other businesses, I love the people, but for some businesses, I like people I associate with to know I go there as it says something about me.

Its a statement of who I am, what I believe in, and more.

Think about Mac vs. PC – Mac users are raving fans of anything Apple and once converted rarely return to the dark side…  ;-)

(I'll likely not go back)…

Another example, I go to One to One Fitness gym and I proudly wear the gym sweatshirt, participate in group events associated with the gym, participate in fundraisers that included pulling a firetruck down the street, post about my workouts on my personal Facebook wall on a regular basis and more.  I wear my association with his gym like a badge of honor.

I like who I am when I go there, what I am becoming, and the culture associated with it.  I do not vibe with other gym cultures like Planet Fitness, Gold's Gym, etc but many others do and that is ok.  Variety is the spice of life and different businesses offer different things to different people.

What does your business offer and how is it different than your competitors?

Further, every day I go to my gym I perform rituals (similar to the Jeep wave) that everyone else that is part of the culture performs as well. Rituals such as pre-workout dynamic warm-ups, setting up for my bench press the same way each set, wrapping my wrists for heavy bench presses, how I cover my hands and forearms with chalk before lifting up a heavy stone, and drinking a protein shake at the end of the workout, etc.

Rituals make us feel like we belong when we perform them.  Belonging is the key word in that sentence.  When we belong to something, when ‘everyone knows our name,' we are more likely to continue to do business there and remain a loyal customer.

Big lesson in that:

Without that sense of ‘belonging' and being part of the clan your business could be first on the chopping block when it came down to a decision on whether or not they will continue doing business with you or go elsewhere.

For the businesses that ‘get this' and do a great job with customer culture I feel the following:

  • It’s part of who I am and I self-identify and associate with it. 
  • I feel good because I “belong” to something.
  • I feel good because I am part of something.
  • Every time I flash ‘the Jeep Wave' I feel a sense of pride and belonging.
  • Every time I see a fellow gym buddy I know we have shared similar experiences.

This creates a sense of pride and satisfaction within me and I am sure if you search your mind

Two Questions To Ask Yourself

What “Shared Rituals” do you have (or could you have) in your business?

It could be a shared process or experience that all your customer go through or experience.  It might be a particular client intake process, a special signature gift new customers receive from you, a wave, an unexpected thank you card in the mail, a wrist band, a regular customer appreciation event like a Cookout, and more.

There are countless examples but this kind of customer culture can separate your business from all your competitors through.  It helps to differentiate you.  Doing things like this will get you out of the ‘commodity game.'

A big mistake that I see a lot of business owners doing is that they do things just like everyone else in their industry.  Don't do this.  Don't be like everyone else.  Some great advice I have heard says that if you want different results than everyone else in your industry is getting you must do things they aren't doing.

I encourage you to look for ways to work this into your business.

Moving on to another question:

Do My Customers Have an ‘Insider Language?'

The Jeep culture also has an “insider language” that people outside the customer base may not understand, but many within speak fluently.

Some examples:

Words such as “low range, locking differential, approach angle, crawl angle,” are examples of insider language for Jeep owners.

Another example:

The gym I go to is no different.  We use insider language there too such as “2-board press, speed deadlifts, power clean, JM press, max effort work, dynamic work, assistance work, active recovery, and more.” 

Wrapping Up and Suggested Actions

No matter what kind of business you are in there are countless ways that you can make your customer culture stand out from your competitors.  You may not create the culture to the level of Jeep but even if you simply succeed in differentiating yourself from your competitors it will have been worth the effort.

Even the addition of a special touch or a different way of doing things can go a long way to creating a unique customer culture.  This alone may dramatically increase your referrals and grow your business.

See you on the road!

Kyle Battis
(Jeep Owner)

Helping small businesses grow through smart online marketing is our passion – you'll know it as soon as you talk to us for 5-minutes. I hope to talk with you about growing your business very soon.

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