Why Brands Like American Girl Build Fans Not Customers

Great brands touch consumers hearts, not just their heads. They go beyond rational proof points and connect on an emotional level, and that’s why it’s the last criteria for the brands we choose on our BrandTwist Safari. So our Safari attendees can see brands that get this.

These brands know that branding is a relationship, not a transaction.

Ever feel so passionate about a brand you can’t wait to tell your friends all about it? You’re on a mission to get them to try it too so you can share this experience? When you feel and act this way, you’ve become a brand ambassador and your relationship has gone way beyond the “client zone” to something deeper.

I remember back in the day my friend Shari couldn’t believe I had not yet tried Netflix (this was back in the red envelope era). Every time I would see her she would pester me about it. I actually had a fleeting suspicion that she might be getting a commission from them. Not until I tried the brand and realize how much it changed my ability to watch TV and movies on my terms- did I understand why she was being so persistent.

The difference between fans and buyers.

When we choose brand experiences to visit on our guided BrandTwist Safaris, we look for brands that have fans – not just buyers. Brands that understand the emotional need they are filling – and who work hard to keep that relationship healthy.

American Girl Place is one such experience we will be visiting on our upcoming Safari.

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This brand really gets that they are not just selling dolls. They are fostering important friendships. The entire brand experience is designed around this special bond.  From the cafe where you can dine with your doll, the hospital where dolls are treated with special TLC, the Hair Salon with its pampering services for both girl and doll -even the clothes where you can dress like twins – American Girl is fostering a unique friendship. And not surprisingly, given this bond, commanding a premium price.

Your business can learn so much from TWISTING with American Girl and other brands about building deeper, and more profitable relationships with your customers

Join us in person in NYC as we visit Microsoft, American Girl, and more on our Brand Safari.

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Walk Your Talk by Living Your Brand Promise Every Day

Last week we talked about the importance of Transcending the Ordinary, the issue is though that it can’t end with one idea or one-touch point. It’s critical that you are living and breathing your TWIST. That’s why this week I’m sharing two brands who walk the talk.

What does “Walk the Talk” mean?

Brands that “Walk the Talk”  are brands that live their brand values – they don’t just talk about them, they bring them to life through their actions and behaviors. Employees are a key touch point for the brand and important brand ambassadors.

REI is a great brand to visit on a BrandTwist  Safari. It has many touch points which help set this brand apart and are on proud display in the stores, in walking the talk. One of the brand missions of REI is “dedicated to inspiring, educating and outfitting for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship”. They showcase this in the store, but also share it with the “employee in action” wall. This is a whole wall of photos showcasing employees participating in outdoor activities.

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Do you walk the talk even when it’s the opposite of what everyone else is doing?

One of the most publicized ways they speak to that mission is the award winning #OptOutside campaign. Instead of opening their doors on Black Friday (or even Thanksgiving) they forgo the sales and urge not only customers, but employees to go outside. This also speaks to their business model. In 1938 REI launched, and in their own words they chose to begin a “consumer co-op, rather than a publicly-traded company, enables us to focus on the long-term interests of the co-op and our members. We answer to you—our members—and run our business accordingly.”

Do you and your employees walk the talk?

To really ingrain this experience at every touch point it starts with employees. Microsoft, for example, starts every morning with the Microsoft team doing a “Stand Up” meeting where they get the employees excited for the day- sort of a pep rally based on the brand values. And they end the day with a similar “Stand Down” meeting- recognizing and celebrating the positive on-brand behaviors of the team members during the day, and no doubt discussing how to continuously improve.

 How can your business be inspired by great brands like Microsoft and REI to “Walk the Talk”? Are you brand values celebrated front and center? Are you and your team living them every day?

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A Museum With a Take Me Home TWIST

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What’s the cardinal rule at any museum? Don’t touch the artwork! Now the Jewish Museum’s “Take Me (I’m Yours) exhibit TWISTS this convention by engaging visitors as co-creators and encouraging them to take part of the art piece home with them. This changes the actual piece, and it continues to evolve throughout the life of the exhibit.

With the TWIST of give and take this exhibit not only provides visitors a novel, memorable experience but it’s also an opportunity for the museum to rethink it’s role from that of archivist to sharer. This reinforces the Jewish notion of “diaspora” for the artwork- “spreading beyond your homeland” – with a positive TWIST and helps to make a deeper connection with their visitors.

What TWIST could you “give” to your customers that will make them feel more a part of your business?

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Finding the right TWIST can help your brand innovate and deliver. In TWIST: How Fresh Perspectives Build Breakthrough Brands, Brand School founder Julie Cottineau provides a clear road map to build a stronger more distinctive brand – complete with examples from real life small business owners who have successfully completed our Brand School program. Pick up your copy today.

 

Fundraising With an Interactive Twist

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Charities have to constantly ask people to take time out of their routine, reach into their pockets, phone in, mail in, or go on line and answer questionnaires or fill out forms in order to make even a small donation to their worthy cause. If only this cumbersome process could TWIST into being something that is conveniently accessible, practically effortless and fun to do!

Welcome to “SocialSwipe”, the first interactive billboard to accept credit cards, making donating super easy – and even fun. A credit card swipe through the poster triggers an interactive experience. For example: the card swipe acts as a knife and cuts a slice of bread from a loaf, symbolizing a meal for a family in Peru. The donor feels an immediate sense of emotional gratification – as well as having a very cool experience. Each swipe donates 2 euros and the credit card statement comes with the opportunity to elect to make this a reoccurring donation.

Advertising agency Kolle-Rebbe and mobile payment provider Stripe, Inc. TWISTED by removing the barriers to donating by going directly where potential donors – and their credit cards – already are, (the first rollout was in an international airport), and giving donors the opportunity to be actively involved – and feel good doing it.

How can you TWIST to make your service or product more accessible? Try a loyalty mobile app. like a “Buy ten/Get one” mobile punch card. One local hardware shop we know had a “Trivia Question of the Day” posted over the cash register and anyone who answered correctly received a free light bulb. Offer them a little something extra for an immediate sense of satisfaction, like a sticker, postcard, charm, or discount coupon that will keep you fresh in their minds and wanting to return.

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Finding the right TWIST can help your brand reach more customers. In TWIST: How Fresh Perspectives Build Breakthrough Brands, Brand School founder Julie Cottineau provides a clear road map to build a stronger more distinctive brand – complete with examples from real life small business owners who have successfully completed our Brand School program.

 

 

 

The THINX Revolutionary Twist on Women’s Underwear

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Miki Agrawal not only wants to change how the world thinks about women’s periods, but she wants to liberate women from the constraints of that “time of month”– and she’s doing it one panty at a time.

Ms. Agrawal is CEO and co-founder of THINX, women’s underwear that also doubles as feminine pads.

THINX panties took the practical need for protection (Stayfree pads) and TWISTED it with the sensual way every woman loves to feel (Victoria’s Secret) and created THINX – stylish, comfortable underwear that offers an added layer of protection so women can do more, worry less and feel better about themselves.

One simple TWIST can make a big impact. For every panty sold, one is donated to a women in developing countries to help her live a more productive life without the stigma and encumbrance of lack of supplies.

And by taking something that is a universal need but has traditionally been taboo and addressing it in the open, THINX has become more than a practical product – they symbolize female empowerment and freedom.

What are your customers thinking about – but no one is addressing head on? Let them know you understand and want to help. Your customers will show their appreciationby becoming strong brand advocates.

Brand School is the premier program specifically designed for entrepreneurs and small businesses to help them build their brands.  See how Brand School Faculty can help you realize your business’ potential HERE.

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“Working with Brand School … opens up so many doors and affects so many areas of  your business – an invaluable experience.” - Sarah Hinawi, Executive Director, The Purple Crayon Center for Learning and Innovation

A Travel Tuck-in Twist for Kids

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It’s never easy traveling with kids and as more people are living mobile lives, traveling with kids for business or for pleasure is becoming more common. Soothing a travel-weary child in a strange environment at the end of a busy day can be a real challenge. Hotels offer specialized turndown services for adults – why not do the same for children?  Many hotels now are.

What if you took a hotel and TWISTED it with a soothing brand like Mother Goose? You’d have a smiling, sleepy child – and content parents.

Hilton Waikoloa Village is TWISTING bedtime with local culture by offering flashcards with stories of Pele, the goddess of volcanoes and creator of the Hawaiian Islands. Others provide in-person experiences like RiverPlace‘s special delivery from the “Bedtime Butler” who shows up with hot chocolate and stuffed animals. Still others go way out like Ritz-Carlton on Amelia Island, Florida where actors complete with a real macaw, cookies and milk, and a pretend treasure chest visit the room to tell stories of the island’s buccaneer history.

Hotels are catering to the whole family, providing special amenities to make children’s stay more enjoyable and parent’s time stress-free.

Innovative touch points can have a lasting impact and make a difference in your customer’s experience of your business. What are your brand’s opportunities to surprise and delight?

Brand School’s Faculty give you the tools you need to effectively reach your customer and create strong connections. See more of what Brand School can do for your business HERE.

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“I learned an immense amount from Brand School. It was wonderful to receive lessons from an experienced teacher that directly applied to my business.” - Liz Osting, Founder Herculiz Design

New Twist on Food Delivery

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Food delivery is not a new concept. Internet based delivery services such as Grubhub and Seamless have even taken food delivery a step further by offering delivery from restaurants that may not offer delivery services. However, up and coming business Dashed.com has TWISTED together the concepts behind Domino’s and rewards programs such Mileage Plus to create their “frequent foodie” points system.

Dashed not only guarantees delivery in 45 minutes or less in various cities in the northeastern United States, every order you make earns points towards rewards such as cash, free merchandise, or FoodlerBucks to put towards your next meal. From free deserts to discounts on orders, Dashed’s rewards program will make good food easily accessible and more affordable.

Running from 8am to 1am, Dashed will deliver meals to your doorstep using drivers that have taken a mandated four-hour training program to ensure a high quality of service. By simply entering in your location, the accessible web interface makes it easy to find different types of restaurants offering food from various different backgrounds.

Thanks to Dashed, hungry customers can enjoy a speedy delivery from a wide variety of restaurants while earning points towards future purchases, a concept that will TWIST how you think about food delivery.

Brand School gives you the tools to innovate and deliver more of what your customers are looking for. See what Brand School’s team of experts can do for you and see if you qualify for a one-on-one Brand Health Check Strategy Session HERE.

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“Working with Brand School … opens up so many doors and affects so many areas of  your business – an invaluable experience.” - Sarah Hinawi, Executive Director, Purpl  Center for Learning and Innovation

Branding vs. Advertising: Know the Difference to Grow

A common marketing gap is the failure to understand the difference between branding and advertising. In this  guest post Chris Garrett illustrates how knowing the difference between branding and advertising can strengthen your marketing strategy and your brand. Read about Chris in his bio below.  If you would like to be a guest blogger for BrandTwist contact Jamie@BrandTwist.com for more information.

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A common marketing gap is the failure to understand the difference between branding and advertising. While both are a part of marketing and are done with the express purpose of increasing revenue, they do so in different ways, and each has the ability to make other more or less effective. Let’s take a look at branding and advertising and how knowing the difference can strengthen your marketing strategy and your brand.

Branding

Branding is a lot deeper than we might realize when we’re reading about the newest marketing fads on the internet. Branding has everything to do with identity: who are you and what kind of business are you? What’s your name, and why should I remember it? How do you and your brand make me feel? The answers to these questions should be  related to your products and services – but not limited to them. Your brand is what makes your business feel like a person, and a person is more than an automatic vending machine, business transaction or product; a person has a personality, and just like a person, your business’ brand needs to show its personality. For example, in Apple’s iPod advertisement pictured above, Apple goes beyond simply presenting a “product” for you to purchase. It’s the explosive size, lively color and the dancing, active “youthful” silhouette that communicates how the brand wants you to feel when you interact with them.

Let’s take a look at the major contributing factors and ways to communicate your brand identity.

Logo and Name – Your logo and name are often the first thing people see, and they work essentially as a visual representation of your name. “Brand Recognition” usually refers to people recognizing your logo or your company name, but brand-building encompasses more than that, because in brand-building, the focus is on what people will think of and how they will feel when they hear or see your name.

Atmosphere – Think of Starbucks, what does it make you think of? Wood paneled décor, warm yellow lighting, comfy seating and the cozy smell of coffee, right? What about McDonalds? Bright colors, bright lights, play areas and a whimsical looking clown. Consider what you want your customers to think of and experience when deciding on your décor and environment. How does it make people feel? If you don’t like the view from your windows, get a wall mural that gives your clientele the view you want them to experience; customize everything and make your business’ space the one that people will want to come back to.

Community Outreach – What does your business and it’s employees do during down time? Lay on the couch and watch TV?  Buy fancy things and party all night? Volunteer at a neighborhood shelter? That’s not to say you need to literally go volunteering, but it means you should think about the image your company projects beyond the professional realm. Does your business donate to any causes, or participate in fundraising efforts? Does it sell fair trade goods or use particularly energy-conscious equipment? Let people know what your brand and employees care about.

Work Environment – You might be surprised to see this listed here, but think about the companies we’ve all recently read about in the news and you’ll find that most of the negative brand associations for these companies are related to disenchanted workers speaking out about their abysmal working conditions. On the other end of the spectrum are brands like DreamWorks, Costco, and Whole Foods, all of whom are famous for their widely-recognized employee-friendly policies and happy, helpful workers. Your employees are also part of your brand. Provide a supportive business culture and guide employees on how to best represent your brand and customers will feel and apreciate the difference, too!

Advertising

Your customer’s relationship with your company begins and ends with your brand. What keeps your business profitable is, of course, sales, but the ideal customer comes to buy from your business or use your service specifically because they want to support your brand, not just because they want a product. That’s why it is important to really identify clearly who your ideal target customer is.

Advertising is about communicating what you have to offer through sales, coupons, radio and TV ads, and posters. An advertisement is soliciting a meeting between your ideal customer and your company, and the difference between a customer who knows your brand and one who doesn’t is like the difference between asking a stranger on the street to go to coffee with you, and asking a friend.

Advertising, Branding and Trust

Let’s examine this through the lens of a personal relationship. In the two scenarios below, let’s say that your brand is you; your product is a cup of coffee and your customer is your friend:

Scenerio A: You call up your friend and ask them to come over because you have a cup of coffee you’d like them to purchase. Most likely, your friend will feel you were only interested in making a deal; that you (the brand) don’t really care for them, their feelings or their experience – because you’re clearly placing your product and profit before your relationship with them. What’s missing here? A genuine brand relationship.

Scenerio B: You ask them to come over for a cup of coffee because you want to visit with them, engage in conversation and enjoy some warm and cozy time together. In this instance, you’re making the relationship between you, and how your friend will feel when they engage with you, more important than the product – and you are experienced as being a trusted and genuine person (brand).

The bottom line is to consider the many ways that your brand goes beyond colors, logo design or a jingle, to provide the experience and feeling your consumer is seeking. Once you clearly identify who your ideal customer is and what they need and are specifically looking for, you can pinpoint what your brand should be doing to gain your customer’s trust and deliver what they want. Once you do, your business’ brand can generate loyal followers, who will keep coming back for more.

About the author: Chris Garrett is marketing writer who blogs about aesthetics in marketing, brand building, and advertising for Megaprint.comOn Twitter he’s @GiantGarrettArt.

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Unisource Inaugural Strategic Branding Conference: Hotel, Lodging, Hospitality

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I was honored to be among the presenters at the inaugural Unisource Strategic Branding Conference along side Dr. Chekitan S. Dev, Cornell University School of Hotel Administration; Chris Crenshaw, Vice President, STR and Tony Pollard, President, Hotel Association of Canada.  The focus of this event was to discuss current issues, best practices, and innovative new ways to maintain, protect, and grow an organization’s brand in the Hotel, Lodging and Hospitality industry.

Here are two articles that summarize the event, and provide insightful takeaways that you can begin using right away to grow your business and brand, no matter what field you are in.

Unisource Unplugged Blog:  Trophies, Vomit Bags, and Other Takeaways from our First Strategic Branding Conference

Jackie Sloat-Spencer’s article for HotelierMagazine.com: Unisource Conference Informed on Brand Awareness

Keep your brand fresh and your with the tools and techniques you’ll receive in Brand School, the premier program for business owners and entrepreneurs who want to build stronger, more profitable brands. Receive more information about Brand School’s next session and get free brand-building tools and tips when you join our mailing list.

“Brand School was engaging and helpful to me in learning more about myself and my business. Results came amazingly quick. Now, my brand name speaks my message immediately and I’ve expanded my reach.”  - Lynn Stull, Owner Arts2Thrive

Dutch Bros. Coffee: Brewers of Brand Personality

The Dutch Bros. brand has built a solid and enthusiastic customer base and gives takeaways that any business can start using to build up their following.  Read about guest blogger Chris Garrett in his bio below.  If you would like to be a guest blogger for BrandTwist contact Jamie@BrandTwist.com for more information.

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Founded in 1992 in Oregon, Dutch Bros. Coffee Company has become a giant in its market out West. As a simple drive-thru coffee stand, you wouldn’t expect a fervent following of their brand. But drive for 5 minutes in downtown Boise, Idaho and you’ll see a rash of Dutch Bros. bumper stickers gracing our cars. Out here, we love our Dutch Bros.- and here’s why.

WHAT’S THEIR ANGLE?

BRANDING SURFACES 

As a drive-thru, Dutch Bros. doesn’t have the opportunity to use in-house branding like custom wall murals, floor runners, or signage that most other enterprises rely on. Instead, they have embraced the philosophy that everything is a branding surface, especially their customers. With an online store full of desirable merchandise bearing their logos and catchphrases, often geared towards the ski and cycling cultures popular in the West, Dutch Bros. hasn’t had any trouble finding space on which to advertise.

MULTIPLE SIMULTANEOUS CAMPAIGNS

Dutch Bros. has utilized a branding tactic of running more than one phrase and logo at one time. Normally, this could be a mistake, as too many marketing campaigns at once tend to muddy the message and make a brand less recognizable instead of more. Dutch Bros. makes it work by being trendy and using phrases and logos that are anything but generic.

The popular Dutch Mafia logo doesn’t even mention coffee- it’s a shady-looking fellow holding a steaming cup. But everyone around here knows that it’s Dutch Bros. coffee in the cup and everyone around here seems to enjoy putting this somewhat sneaky logo on their cars, bags, and clothing.  Along with “Dutch Love” and the new “Rebel” line of energy drinks, the Dutch Mafia campaign has become something of an in-joke for people who know where to get the best coffee in town.

POSITIVE MESSAGE

When you pull through a Dutch Bros. drive-thru, you can bet that you’ll be greeted enthusiastically by a chipper employee. The overtly friendly attitude at every single Dutch Bros. location is a hallmark of their quality of service- it reflects the positivity and friendliness expressed in the Dutch Creed. The owners advocate optimism, good will, and affability- all communicated through their employees.

The abundance of positivity and the playful nature of their campaigns has garnered a rarely seen level of brand loyalty, particularly among the Millennial crowd who appreciates personality. The fact that Dutch Bros. is a Western company lends a feeling of community, despite their decidedly non-local spread from Arizona to Idaho. Their locations are locally owned and the main company engages in multimillion dollar contributions to charitable causes. It’s hard not to root for them.

WHY DOES THIS WORK?

The reason these approaches have proved so effective for Dutch Bros. is that they have sought out support from their community with genuine love and a quirky sense of humor, both important for reaching younger consumers.  The feeling of easy humor and friendliness spans from their mission statement to their campaign designs to their employees to the kinds of swag they offer. They know their general audience and are making the most of the model they’ve embraced.

 HOW CAN WE LEARN FROM DUTCH BROS. COFFEE COMPANY?

The most concrete tool to take from the Dutch Bros. toolbox is the use of swag. The online store, full of higher-quality branded wares, is an extraordinary thing to pull off. What some companies would be giving away as promotional swag, Dutch Bros. is able to sell for profit. From the old-fashioned windmill on their cups to the new Rebel energy drink line they’ve released, it’s all presented artfully on swag you’d actually want to own. Expand your brand in your merchandise by investing in some cool offerings that appeal to the younger generations.

The most important lesson is cohesion.  People are able to think of the Dutch Bros. brand as if there’s one guy in charge of it all, and he’s a pretty cool guy. Some brands suffer from multiple personalities, dissociating themselves from their campaigns or stretching themselves into too many directions. By following Dutch Bros.’ example, you can learn to present multiple ideas across multiple mediums without losing track of your message.

About guest blogger Chris Garrett:

Chris Garrett is a writer, designer, and branding consultant. He, like everyone else in Boise, loves Dutch Bros. On Twitter he’s @GiantGarrettArt.