I was driving home from an appointment recently and needed to pick up a few things for dinner. Normally I’d go to the store by my house, but happened to pass a Fresh Market and decided to stop. As soon as I walked through their doors, I felt at home. It was a sensual blast of nostalgia, warmth and visual enchantment.
I started thinking, what is it that makes a brand stand out from its competitors? How do you create an atmosphere that makes a customer want to
visit and buy or even hang out? There are many reasons and I came up with five that seem to ring true for most of those brands I love and trust.
- Culture: Brands we love grow on us over time and become part of our lives, almost like friends. Top level management must create a culture where employees are hired and trained to reflect the brand’s values at all times. A culture must exist that pulls us in and makes us want to return. It starts with the CEO and works its way down to every employee through training and passion.
- Consistency: If the brand is brick and mortar, strictly online or both the experience needs to be the same with each and every customer interaction. The coffee at one Starbucks must be the same from one to the next. The layout at each Apple store must be similar and the environment at every Fresh Market must remain the same. We’re creatures of habit and consistency makes us want to return to a favorite brand time and time again.
- Emotional Connection: In physical stores a brand can activate all the senses in their customers. In my Fresh Market example, the smells were of cinnamon and fresh-baked bread, soothing music played, people offering samples of food and I could touch items I might like to purchase. Internet stores don’t have this advantage, but can use colors, content, sound and the way they display their products to make that connection.
- Understanding their customers: Brands must understand who their customers are to ensure they create the atmosphere to make that emotional connection. Age, income, geography and more must all be understood if a brand truly wants to create an atmosphere conducive to building loyalty.
- Convenience: Internet stores have an advantage of being open 24/7 and always ready to greet their customers. For brick and mortar stores, convenience doesn’t mean a store on every corner. I will go out of my way to find the store of a brand I connect with knowing the experience will be worth perhaps the extra drive time to get there.
Seth Godin wrote, “A brand’s value is merely the sum total of how much extra people will pay, or how often they choose, the expectations, memories, stories and relationships of one brand over the alternatives.”
Starbucks, Amazon, Zappos, Apple, Disney or ? Tell us what brands you love and why?