March 17th is St. Patricks Day. A day when the Irish all over the world celebrate, and the rest of the world join in. Few other cultures can boast the reach of the Irish. For such a small country, both geographically and in population, you will find us everywhere.

Famine drove mass emigration to the US in the 19th century aboard the coffin ships (so called as most died before they got there!) meaning that many US cites were built and populated by those of Irish heritage. Around the same time, Australia was where Irish convicts were sent in punishment, the prison ships depositing their ‘problematic’ human cargo as far away as possible. Even in this new 21st century we still do the same. Comparing the youth unemployment rates of Ireland (15%) and Spain, (43%) post-recession it looked as if Ireland’s economic recovery had been a lot better. The truth is the Irish government statistics did not adjust for those who had emigrated, which was the majority of graduates aged under 30. This time the Australian cargo weren’t convicts; they were simply the next wave of the Irish invasion. We were secretly sending the next generation out to take over the world, hoping that no one will notice!

Who Was St. Patrick?

But back to St. Patrick’s Day. On St. Patrick’s Day, iconic monuments all over the world are lit in green – from the Colosseum in Rome, the London Eye to the One World Trade Centre in New York. And of course, practically every city has a parade. But who was St. Patrick and what can he teach us today (other than March 17th is a great excuse for a day off work, a parade and a pint of Guinness)?

The story goes that St. Patrick arrived to Ireland to convert the pagan population to Christianity. He had a tough job. We were perfectly happy worshipping the sun, moon and stars. But St. Patrick set about his task eagerly, touring the country with his large pointy hat and long staff. Legend has it that he also chased Satan from our shores, proved to countless Christians afterwards in the fact that we do not have any snakes here. Mind you, we don’t have any native penguins or elephants either, so he was obviously a very busy man herding exotic animals onto the doomed version of the Ark in his spare time.

The Shamrock became his emblem, his logo or brand if you want. The legend states that he used it to try and explain the Holy Trinity to these simple pagan folk – each leaf of the shamrock representing the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. I doubt waving about a piece of clover made much difference to the confused pagans (who were now told there were not many Gods of the moon, stars and sun but just ONE TRUE GOD, and then told that this one God was in fact THREE GODS, but still all the one – even I’m confused now …). Anyway, it didn’t really matter because St. Patrick was a great story teller. How could you not believe a man in a pointy hat, waving a shamrock and wearing snake skin boots (OK that last bit is unlikely, but he’d have looked cool in snake skin).

So today, following in his footsteps, I am going to use the Shamrock to teach a consumer story of my own.

The Three Consumer Worlds

Today, consumers live in 3 worlds, one for each shamrock leaf. I simply call them MY World, OUR World and THE World. Together they make up their entire being, but individually they are very different places, and realities that any brand needs to understand.

MY WORLD is all about them. This is their individual space, their inner circle, who they are and what they stand for. It is the consumer as an individual, different from everybody else. Products and services that resonate with a consumers’ MY WORLD score high in relevance and loyalty. This is the utopia for any brand, to be a real part of the consumers’ inner circle. This is where true loyalty lies, beyond loyalty but brand affinity and adoration. But being let into this inner circle is a real challenge. This is the stuff of Tribal brand following. Think Apple or Harley Davidson fans, consumers self-identifying with the brand.

OUR WORLD is the next level out. It is about the world they have curated around themselves, the communities they are part of. In the physical world, this can be everything from your school, college and workplace to the clubs and activity communities where you meet. In the digital world, it is the more complicated digital eco-system they have built – the Facebook friends, the forum boards, the Instagram and Pinterest accounts. This world is curated by the consumer, and as a brand you need to be invited in or recommended by the peer network. This is the world of peer-to-peer (P2P) and belonging.

Finally, the outer circle is THE WORLD – everything else. Everything that is not part of who I am (MY WORLD) or the world I have curated around me (OUR WORLD) falls in to this outer circle. For Gen Z and millennial shoppers, this outer world has little significance. Made up of people I don’t know and brands I care little about. Most corporates and brands live in this space, there but not overly relevant to me.

This division between these three worlds might seem simple and insignificant, but brands that are unable to push their way in to the OUR or MY world circles are discovering the cold shoulder of irrelevance. The growth of the P2P economy is significant and framing your brand proposition to be part of this inner peer group is critical. Today you have to be ‘ONE OF THEM’, not a corporate outsider.

Pushing Your Way In

Perhaps an example will illustrate better. Most brands are part of the corporate noise, pretending to have a ´relationship´ with end users but really still running a transactional model. Launching a brand that is accepted into that OUR WORLD space is far more difficult, but of course not impossible.

Take the Dollar Shave Club. At this stage, we have all seen the viral video and understand this simple replenishment economy product. In fact, re-watch the video below before reading on, this time looking at it as a masterclass in how it is designed to push its way into YOUR WORLD, to invite you to join their CLUB, to join forces against the ‘establishment’. The ‘Our blades are f*cking great’ viral was designed to be part of the users’ sub-culture. They used peer-to-peer to instantly manufacture acceptance and relevance, to push their way into that MY WORLD space, in from the cold of the outer corporate irrelevance world.

Leveraging the peer network is a serious challenge for brands. Today it is the consumers and users that have the power. What they say about your brand, product or service is truth. Consumer and peer perception is reality. Get used to it. Leveraging user content here is key. Getting the consumers to become your brand ambassadors, to tell your story for you is the objective. Once you are part of that OUR world space then, you have to be comfortable with them owning your brand. As long as you have crafted a good ‘user generated content’ strategy, then the consumers do the story telling for you.

From User to Storyteller

Technogym is another brand I work with who understand this new reality. They are one of the world’s leading manufacturers of fitness equipment. If you have been in any decent gym recently, it is likely you have worked out on one of their machines. Historically, they had been a B2B company, supplying gyms, hotels and workplaces all over the world with wellness equipment. But they also wanted to recruit brand fans at the consumer level. The fitness community was of course perfect for that OUR WORLD strategy, and with their Let’s Move & Donate Food campaign, they bring together the key trends of P2P, Sustainability and Gamification.

Each user registered their ‘moves’ using the unique personal ‘key’ (and later the App) that can be docked into every Technogym machine, with the ‘moves’ later translating in to food donations to those in need. Each pull of the rowing machine, each metre jogged on the treadmill, each stair-master step recorded. Users compete against others in their gyms for the most ‘moves’. Gyms challenged other gyms in their area to a showdown. Countries fought to be at the top of the league table. And it was all shared on social media platforms by the users themselves. The brand had become part of THEIR world, and the users were telling the brand story to each other. And this is how a B2B brand makes that leap into the consumer world.

Be Part of Their World

Have a think about how you can start to strategize about becoming a more relevant part of your brand users’ world, pushing your way into that P2P space.

So, this Patrick’s Day, as an Irishman, we welcome you to OUR WORLD, perhaps just for today. As you sit at your local Irish bar with your pint of Guinness in one hand and a shamrock in the other, you might not be Irish, but everyone is today.

Welcome to the party!



Ken Hughes is now considered one of the World’s leading virtual speakers on the subject of consumer values, organizational change, leadership and agility. His virtual keynotes are famous for their high-energy, thought provoking content as well as their impactful and inspiring delivery.

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Ken Hughes, known as The King of Customer Experience on the International Conference Circuit, studies emerging consumer behaviour and helps businesses and brands establish deeper and more relevant connections with their customers.

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