What on earth is an earworm? And what does it have to do with customer experience?

The first time I heard this word, I had a completely different idea of what it was. I had to look it up.

So what is an earworm?

According to Wikipedia, it is: a catchy piece of music that continually repeats through a person’s mind after it is no longer playing. It’s usually a hooky song (think Vanilla Ice’s Ice Ice Baby, for example) with that addictive verse or lyric that you just can’t seem to get out of your head.

According to the top definition on Urban Dictionary, the only way to get rid of it is to replace it with another one.

So I started thinking about whether this was a thing for customer experience professionals. Is there something we say – inspiring, annoying, or otherwise – when we talk about the customer experience that sticks in our colleagues’ brains? Is there something we should be saying to make sure it sticks in employees’ heads as they are delivering the experience?

Better yet, and more importantly… is there something your company does that sticks in your customers’ ears or brains? What do you do that’s memorable? (Remember that “memorable” doesn’t mean good or bad; it could be either, though I know we prefer it to be good.) What is it that makes customers think of you constantly and talk about you to their friends? If you can’t answer those questions, perhaps it’s time to start thinking about that.

Consider this: researchers uncovered that recent and/or repeated exposure is/are associated with earworms. They also found that there are different types of memory triggers (a place, a point in time, a sign, etc.) and emotional states (happy, sad, connected, lonely, etc.) that result in earworms.

When it comes to the customer experience, perhaps connecting on the emotional level is the way to go. Here are some thoughts on things that can facilitate that; your company…

  • Purpose aligns with who your customers are
  • Supports a cause that aligns with their values, their lives
  • Is local, localizes, and supports the community
  • Creates a community or a sense of belonging; customers feel part of something bigger
  • Doesn’t brag, it just does what it knows is right
  • Puts the customer above all else (after employees); no distractions
  • Does those little extras that create surprise and delight

Are there brands that have become customer experience earworms? Absolutely. Think of the usual suspects: Zappos, Apple, Nike, Ritz-Carlton, Amazon, etc.

Need some help figuring out how to achieve earworm status? I’m immediately reminded of lagniappe and purple goldfish. Check out that link for some great ideas on how to make your customer experience memorable.

If you’re afraid of being forgotten, do something memorable. -Unknown