Sunday, January 28, 2007

Branding with Attitude

Have you ever considered that the impression you get from going to Starbucks or In-n-Out Burger is better because the people that work there are nice to you?

The customer experience is such a huge part of the brand that these retail operations give their employees extensive training and look for candidates that have a "good attitude".

CiCi's Pizza, a Dallas based pizza buffet trains their managers to create a fun and friendly experience for their customers. Energetic employees yell "Hi, welcome to CiCi's" when someone enters the restaurant. They empower their employees to go the extra distance to make the dining experience enjoyable.

With 'Brand Experience' becoming a major component of how customers evaluate a brand, don't be surprised to see this trend taking off. Consumers have less and less time in their busy lives so the few minutes of interaction that they have with a sales person or drive thru window person are critical.

Brands that seem to be suffering are the large retail chains like Circuit City where uninterested red shirted staffers ignore shoppers and seem truly "bored" with what they are doing. McDonald's is probably the best example of the "Worst Brand Experience" on the planet.

In Southern California you would be lucky to encounter a McDonald's counter person or drive-thru operator that speaks english and has any enthusiasm for what they are doing. These companies need to wake up and realize that this is the front line and consumers are going to rebel against this lackluster customer service.

Watch for Experiential Branding to be a buzz word in the next few years.

— Ross Patrick

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Branding 101

Many clients confuse advertising with the term "branding". I've also seen many cases where designers and clients get caught up with focusing merely on the logo as the main brand attribute. When a product category begins to get crowded, the components of a brand become more sacred. These components, or brand attributes make up the sum total of a brand's personality. They define every aspect of how that product or service is interpreted by the consumer.

Brand Attributes
The 5 pillars of branding:

1) The Logo
- for some companies, the logo is definately the rallying point. It is recognizable and stands for all of the things that the company does and more. It can have an emotional impact far beyond mere products and services.

2) Color - Choosing a color that represents a company is important. It can set the tone for how a business acts and how it is perceived. Blue seems very corporate. Red, very serious. Green, environmentally conscious? Orange, happy!

3) Visuals - the biggest problem in this every shifting brandscape is the lack of commitment to a "look". Many companies are schizophrenic when it comes to the "images" it presents to the public.

4) Voice - often overlooked as one of the most important assests a brand can utilize. The tone of voice is the key to revealing the personality of a brand. Is it funny? Authoratative? Sensual? Does it have swagger?

5) Shape - some brands have managed use the shape of their product as a branding device: the Coke bottle, the Volkswagon Beetle, the Eiffel Tower(Paris).

Essentially, these are the key equities of a brand and they need to work in unison with one another in order to tell the full story of a product or service.