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Why do customers fall in love with some companies and move away from others?

If you’re invited to meet with Jeff Bezos, always prepare to reach for a larger purpose. Not long ago, he met with his senior team to discuss the latest customer metrics, but typically, he hijacked the session to talk about something more interesting: why do customers fall in love with some companies and move away from others, as if they gave off an odor?

He attributed this tendency to something less measurable than customer service or product quality. A variety of factors come into play but, at the same time, it is a dimension unto itself.

It’s called corporate reputation or in BezosSpeak, corporate coolness.

Companies do have some control over these attributes, although surmounting them depends on good information systems and a quick response to early warning signs. Companies like United Airlines, Uber, and Equifax are prime examples of what happens when that isn’t the case.

Bezos wrote down 24 reputation factors that can determine whether we let a company into our personal space or not. His thoughts could have been taken from Lincoln’s famous comment about public engagement:

“With public sentiment, nothing can fail. Without it, nothing can succeed.” — Abraham Lincoln

The Jeff Bezos Coolness Hierarchy:

  1. Rudeness is not cool.
  2. Defeating tiny guys is not cool.
  3. Close-following is not cool.
  4. Young is cool.
  5. Risk taking is cool.
  6. Winning is cool.
  7. Polite is cool.
  8. Defeating bigger, unsympathetic guys is cool.
  9. Inventing is cool.
  10. Explorers are cool.
  11. Conquerors are not cool.
  12. Obsessing over competitors is not cool.
  13. Empowering others is cool.
  14. Capturing all the value only for the company is not cool.
  15. Leadership is cool.
  16. Conviction is cool.
  17. Straightforwardness is cool.
  18. Pandering to the crowd is not cool.
  19. Hypocrisy is not cool.
  20. Authenticity is cool.
  21. Thinking big is cool.
  22. The unexpected is cool.
  23. Missionaries are cool.
  24. Mercenaries are not cool.

(source of Bezos’ memo: Brad Stone, The Everything Store)

Author’s Bio

Jeff Cunningham is an advocate for enlightened global leadership, which he calls the most valuable natural resource in the world.

He is a Professor at ASU’s Thunderbird School of Global Management and was the former publisher of Forbes Magazine, startup founder, digital content CEO, and ran an internet venture capital fund.

He travels the globe in search of iconic leaders. As an interviewer/host, he created a YouTube interview series, Iconic Voices, now co-produced by @Thunderbird, featuring mega moguls from Warren Buffett to Jeff Immelt. His articles on leadership have been featured in the Arizona Republic, Forbes, Chief Executive Magazine, Board Member Magazine, LinkedIn and Medium via JeffCunningham.com.

His career experience includes publisher of Forbes Magazine; founder of Directorship Magazine; CEO of Zip2 (founded by Elon Musk), Myway.com, and CareerTrack.com; venture partner with Schroders. He serves as a trustee of the McCain Institute and previously as a trustee of CSIS and Middle East Institute, and as an advisor to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee.

He has also been a board director of 10 public companies.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Thunderbird School of Global Management or Arizona State University as a whole.