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.

BrandTwist Brand Safari TWIST American Girl

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.

 REI BrandTwist Brand Safari Brand Inspiration

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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Transcend the Ordinary and Rise Above Your Competition

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 6.59.13 AMNow that we’ve got you planning your next Brand Safari it’s time to figure out what to look for. Over the next few weeks, we’ll talk about what we look for on our BrandTwist Brand Safari’s, kicking off with T – Transcend the Ordinary.

Today we’re going to talk about how brands like Coco-Mat and Microsoft transcend the ordinary with their customers by allowing customers to experience their brands in a way that’s different from anyone else.

Let’s start with talking about what it means to transcend the ordinary, I think it’s about looking for brands that go beyond what’s expected. Transcend ordinary experiences to provide something fresh. It’s about how your clients experience your brand. Coco-Mat and their flagship store is a great example of this.

Can buying a mattress be relaxing?

On a recent Safari, we visited the iconic Coco-Mat store in SoHo for some hands on inspiration that attendees then TWISTED with their own businesses. Coco-Mat has shaken up the mattress category on every level by providing mattresses that are customizable by layer and made with all natural materials- like coconut fiber (hence the name). No metal springs are used. That’s not even the best TWIST though.

Cocomat Brand Safari BrandTwist Brand Experience

They also have TWISTED the sales experience and transcended the sometimes stereotypical pushy mattress seller to a more thoughtful and zen experience. Their sleep specialists invite you to spend a few hours or even the night in a special “nap suite” in their SoHo store. They will make up the bed with the exact mattress you are thinking of purchasing. So you are sure that it’s the right fit. There’s a bathroom with shower in the suite and calming scents and decor.

It’s shifting an experience that can be stressful and frustrating and instead allowing you to experience the ease of their company at every step. It’s a completely unique experience that turns category norms on their heads. How can you relieve any friction in your buying experience for your customers- and make the process of engaging with your business as smooth and “dreamy” as possible?

How does Microsoft transcend the ordinary?

The idea of letting potential customers experience your brand instead of selling them on the idea is something Microsoft has done well with their flagship store in New York. Which is exactly why we’ll be hosting a Brand Safari in the NYC Experience Store there in September.

Microsoft experience stores give potential customers the opportunity to interact with the products. This helps them fall in love through learning more about the features. This is evident in the innovative Youth Spark coding camps.

These camps not only serve the community (another way to transcend) but it also gives consumers the opportunity to engage with the product, and fall in love with a product.

How can you transcend the ordinary?

Now it’s time for action, look for brands that turn the category norms on their heads. Remember, the best brands to TWIST with are outside of your category so get creative. Think about brands you love or have experienced that provide the opposite of what you expect (ex. a zen mattress buying experience instead of a stressful one).

Then TWIST this with your business. How can you tackle head on and rise above the common pain points in your category to provide a fresh, memorable and compelling brand experience?

Don’t forget to stay tuned, we’ll be talking about Walking the talk when we return with our next post.

Can’t wait to experience the TWIST for yourself? Grab one of our limited Safari spots for September here.

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Get Out From Behind Your Desk – Go Experience Brands

Are you experiencing the world through your computer or phone screen?  As a small business owner or entrepreneur, you need to hit the streets, experience the brandscape through the eyes of your customers – to truly know how to meet their needs and offer something of value that will break through the competitive clutter and get noticed.

This is why BrandTwist Safaris are so valuable because they take us out of our every day and put us in the center of experiences where we learn important lessons about branding which are then applied directly through Interactive, hands-on exercises to TWIST that inspiration and create actionable innovative brand ideas for new products or services.

BrandTwist Safaris have been applied successfully for companies like Virgin and Spotify in iconic neighborhoods including Times Square, SoHo and Rockefeller Center. The good news is they can happen anywhere.

Microsoft Experience BrandTwist Brand Safari Experience

Can you build your brand by hanging out in a lego store?

Big brands, like Microsoft, are building flagship stores all over the world to change how their customers engage with their brand. Allowing customers to experience a brand by touching and feeling, or even playing with the brand.

For the next 5 weeks, we’re going to talk about how you can go on your own Brand Safari, and what to look for. Even better, this series is leading up to a Brand Safari in NYC at the Flagship Microsoft Experience Store – that 30 lucky applicants will be able to attend.

You don’t need to be in Manhattan to do a BrandTwist Safari, you don’t even need to be in a large city. The most important thing is to pick locations/experiences to visit that are 1) away from your category – to maximize the freshness of the ideas and 2) are locations that connect deeply with their targets. Don’t forget, the value is about getting out of your everyday and away from your own business.

If you are not sure where you would go on a BrandTwist Safari ask yourself these question:

  1. What are the brand experiences that really engage people?
  2. What’s hot and why?
  3. What’s a best-kept local secret?
  4. Where do all the teens love to go?
  5. Where do the tourists go in your town or city?
  6. Where does the customer service rock?

No matter where you go, the trick to getting the most out of your Brand Safari is to observe and record what is going on around you – bring a notebook or a clipboard with paper, take photographs, buy something from the store or location and see what the purchase experience is like and the packaging. Do they give you your purchase in a plain paper or plastic bag – or does the brand use the packaging as a walking billboard – like the Build-a-Bear Cardboard bear homes?

Dig into the details, that’s where the best insights are and write everything down. You never know what could inspire your own TWIST later.

Stay tuned for our next post, we’re going to dig in on some specific details around where to go and how to TWIST those valuable insights with your own business.

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Trader Joe’s Caring With a Twist

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When we are feeling down or under the weather, we all need some comfort. We love Trader Joe’s packaging TWIST. They use the tissue box packaging to let you know they care and want you to feel better! We love the personal signatures like “love, tissue” that brings the point home.

What will help make your customers feel more loved? Little touch points, like packaging copy, are a great way to ad a little delight to their day – and keep you fondly on their next shopping list.

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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.

TWISTING to Help Causes Succeed on Selfish Giving Podcast

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BrandTwist Founder & CEO, Founderj of BrandSchoolOnline.com and author to “TWIST: How Fresh Perspectives Build Breakthrough Brands” is the featured guest on CauseTalk Radio, with Joe Waters.  Visit the Selfish Giving website to learn more about how nonprofits & businesses can raise money & make money with win-win partnerships that change the world. – See more and hear the whole discussion HERE.

Highlights from the show include:

  • Julie’s career path to branding expert, including her unacknowledged invention of the Pet Rock and a stint with Sir Richard Branson.
  • How Julie defines Brand and a Brand Twist.
  • When is it appropriate for organizations to Twist? And why it’s okay to turn off some people!
  • How you find your twist in the marketplace by looking both within your own brand story and outside your industry.
  • The importance of failing harder and developing focus when it comes to brand development.
  • The incredible opportunity nonprofits and businesses have to promote themselves and build their brands.

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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.

A Switch With a Twist

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Here’s a TWIST that is so handy and so simple you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it and why you didn’t invent it. Have you ever found yourself confused with which light switch is which? In your home? In someone else’s home? In your new home? At work? SwitchID solves this problem with unique visual TWIST.

The old fashioned way was often taking a marker and labeling switches, taping up little notes or putting up stickers to help remember or let guests know which is which switch. But they rub off, wear out or leave a sticky mess behind.

SwitchID is a simple, safe, and easy solution that shows you which switch is which with self-adhering badges that use universal iconography for instant recognition. They’re durable, easy to clean and even come in a glow-in-the-dark option for added safety. They’ll stay on your switch plate until you decide to remove them.

SwitchID was created by Matthias Bollmus and John Schlick both of whom started Napkin Innovations, L.L.C, a think tank for new consumer ideas. Their mission statement: “We are trying to capture the every-day problems and see if there is an opportunity to tackle those through innovative solutions.”

Bollmus and Schlick took action on a simple idea that could solve a pesky problem and TWISTED to find a better way. Just because an idea seems too simple to be good, doesn’t mean it isn’t.

What simple TWIST could make your customer’s life a little easier?

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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.

A Wine Tasting With a Matchmaking Twist

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“Wine… offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.” writes Ernest Hemingway;  but not all wines are created equal…

How do you know what type of wine you prefer, which winery will satisfy your particular taste, what new wine variety you might enjoy? With the multitudes of wines available from around the world and new labels popping up overnight, it’s impossible to taste every one. Liquor stores offer tastings, but they’re infrequent with a limited selection. There are wine-of-the-month clubs, but you either must know what you want to order ahead of time or be at the mercy of the club’s curation – which may not map to your taste preferences.

What if you took a Wine-Of-The-Month Club and TWISTED it with a match-making dating site like eHarmony? You’d get Tasting Room, the matchmaking answer to a wine lover’s or wine newbie’s dreams.

After signing up you receive a 6 mini-bottle tasting kit. You fill out and return a questionnaire rating the samples. This is the start of developing your unique Wine Profile. Your individual preferences guide the customized wine selections in the first case they deliver to you. With each case, you provide more feedback on your taste preferences and their corresponding wine selections become more honed.

Tasting Room saw a missing piece in the wine marketplace and innovated to offer consumers a fun and personalized way to approach and enjoy their product.

Take a look at the missing pieces that customers face in your market. Could your product or service offer the TWIST of a “sampler kit”? Don’t be afraid to ask your customers directly for their feedback or preferences. There are online free services like Survey Monkey that make surveys a snap. Involving your customers lets them know they are important to you and in turn, they’ll become loyal fans.

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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.

 

A Twist That Cleans Up

Q

What do janitors have to do with James Bond 007? Not a lot – that is, until now.

Friends Dan Teran and Saman Rahmanian were perplexed by a common problem faced by start-ups- office spaces could never adapt as quickly as the companies needed them to. It was such a pain to set up a new workspace, move a wall, order new desk chairs, or bring in an exterminator. They brainstormed and imagined the dream office manager as something like the character Q in James Bond films, a quiet genius who understands technology and creates the tools that help Bond do his work. That was how Managed by Q was conceived.

Reading the New York Times article, “Managed by Q’s ‘Good Jobs’ Gamble,” I was struck by how Teran and Rahmanian’s thought process mirrored the BrandTwist technique of twisting with a brand completely outside of a company’s category to come up with disruptive differentiating ideas. With the tagline “We make it easy to run your office,” Q uses wall-mounted iPads with an intuitive app for ordering supplies or other services. Q takes care of all the details, quietly and quickly. Specific operators are matched with companies based upon an algorithm determining best fit for clients’ needs in terms of skills and personality traits.

This TWIST warrants premium fees for what is often considered a generic service with a bonus of supporting one of the company’s core values. While actual sharing in the “sharing economy” is rare, Q’s goal is to provide its employees with a living wage. Q’s business model, hiring full-time employees with fair pay, benefits, 401Ks and training, translates to lower turnover costs of employees and clients- reducing both hiring and marketing expenses. Clients are happy to have consistent, reliable support. And the awesome employees, traditionally viewed as pure cost on the P&L statements, are considered value-added embedded salespeople for Q’s higher margin services.

I am rooting for Q to succeed, as this is a win-win for everyone! Now it is your turn. Can you think of a problem facing your sector? Is there a brand in a completely different category whose approach could be TWISTED to turn your sectors negative into a positive? We always love to hear your feedback.

About the Author:

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Randi Curhan is founder of MissionBoostConsulting.com, specializing in helping you figure out what you really need to do to bring your business to the next level, get projects off the plate, and get it done. A Wharton graduate, former Goldman employee and an MBA, Randi is also a Brand School Graduate and a member of the Brand School Facutly.  Randi’s love of figuring sh** out and getting it done has always made her a valuable part of teams throughout her academic and professional life. Even while taking time “off” to raise her children, Randi was the one to set up fundraising systems, databases, email invitations and graphics for events – which was the beginning of her Mission Boost Consulting.

You can reach Randi via MissionBoostConsulting.com, on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.

Interested in guest blogging for BrandTwist? Contact jamie@brandtwist.com.

 

 

 

 

A Twist to Wash the Gray Away

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At-home, DIY hair coloring products can save you money but can be inconvenient. Gray roots appear like a skunk’s stripe and you have to find the time to head to the store, hope they have the right color on hand, head home, apply, wait, wash and dry. Eventually the color no longer works properly and you have to go through another trial and error process to find a new formula that will do the trick.

Salon treatments are expensive and getting an appointment when you want one isn’t always possible – and, let’s face it – guys may not be comfortable having their hair colored out in the open in a salon.

eSalon understands these downsides to the current coloring options and TWISTED to come up with a fresh solution.

They took the quality treatment you’d get from a salon – think Frederic Fekkai Salons - and twisted it with BirchBox’s customized home-delivery service concept to create an affordable, DIY hair color product delivered right to your door.

They custom-tailor the coloring formula specifically to each individual client… they even put the customer’s name on the bottle.

eSalon looked at an old problem from a fresh perspective and came up with an award winning, simple solution.  (InStyle Magazine named it “Best of the Web” and Total Beauty voted it “Best Hair Color” for 2013 and 2014. *)

How can you learn from this TWIST and make it easier for customers to experience your product? Offer home delivery, same day pickup or an app to place an order. Adding a personal touch, like a sincere thank you note, can let them know you value the unique connection you share with them.

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Finding the right TWIST can help your brand standout. 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.

Brand School is our highly effective, online branding program that will help you grow a stronger personal or business brand. Get more information about the next session and apply for your Brand Health Check HERE.