This past week, Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Inc., stepped down from his role. Mr. Jobs is credited for revitalizing Apple and turning the company into a world leader in technology and entertainment. Their products and stores are simply amazing – each with a remarkable look, feel, capability, and user experience. In fact, Apple, with the charismatic Steve Jobs as the chief sales/spokesperson, is able to sell products people did not even know they needed until the company invented it. The Apple "brand" is synonymous with cool and excellence. Yet, it takes more than that for one's brand to be successful.
I recently read an article by Dan Pallotta titled, A Logo is Not a Brand. His thesis – “brand is everything and everything is brand.” Pallotta writes:
Brand is your strategy – your aspirations and the progress you make toward them
Brand is your call to action – what do you ask of your constituents
Brand is your customer service – if people get caught in “voice mail hell,” cannot figure out who to talk to, or not get the information they requested, what does it say about your organization
Brand is the way you speak – using jargon and acronyms will contaminate your message
Brand is the whole array of your communication tools – website, voice mail, mailings, which all must be of the highest quality
Brand is your people and the way they represent one’s organization – Friendly? Welcoming? Interested in you?
Brand is your facilities – is your place clean and uncluttered? Does it look and feel alive?
Brand is your logo and visuals – every organization deserves great graphic design
Large companies like Apple take their brand very seriously. Think of them in the context of the above descriptions and they hit a bullseye in almost every way. Yet, no matter how big or small, every organization/company can make their brand stand out. Let me share a recent local experience with you.
For my wife’s birthday we went to The Hangar at Oaks Amusement Park to see Portland’s own Rose City Rollers. Yes, we went to women’s roller derby! (This was her idea! She had remembered that on our flight from Philadelphia to Portland when my family moved here one year ago, the Rose City Rollers were on our plane following a tournament in the area – my wife was fascinated by them.) Now, I must admit this was not the same roller derby I remember as a child when the attractive blond-haired, blue eyed Los Angeles Thunderbirds would compete against those mean nasty New York Bombers on television. Those matches resembled professional wrestling with “good guys and bad guys” competing against each other in pre-determined matches. Instead, this was real!
The local Wheels of Justice (Portland’s “A-level” team) took on the Boston Derby Dames. We had special tickets (purchased online at the team’s website in a very simple and direct manner) and sat in the "Rock Star section" where we were treated to excellent rink-side seats. Although the facilities were not necessarily the cleanest (port-a-potties were the bathroom of choice), nor most comfortable (metal high-rise bleachers one would see in a high school gym), the ambiance was perfect for a night of roller derby. The crowd was colorful (and I do not mean just the tattoos), fun-loving, knowledgeable and supportive of the home team.
Beyond the fun of watching the match and seeing the true athleticism and skating skills of these women, it was the actual experience that cemented their brand in my mind. Signage was everywhere. Rules were displayed in easy to understand language on the scoreboard prior to the game so everyone could better understand what was happening on the rink (do you know what the “jammer” does or what the role of the “pivot” is?). A representative from Voodoo Donuts (one of the team's many sponsors) was in our section and heard that this was our "first adventure to The Hangar" and the next thing we know he handed us four donuts with the team’s mascot in frosting free of charge. The people who worked the arena and for the team could not have been more helpful and welcoming every step of the way. Following the match, because I bought my tickets online, I received a simple survey from the team asking about my experiences and what I would like to see at roller derby in the future. They made the entire experience (before, during and after) so enjoyable – and hit on every point of Pallotta’s article.
By the end of the night, my family was hooked. Who knows, maybe we get season tickets next year? But what I can tell you – if you want an experience that will solidify a brand in your head – skip the Apple store and go see the Rose City Rollers.
Ultimately, "brand" is caring about your business/organization at every level and in every detail, from the big things like mission and vision, to your people, your customers, and every interaction anyone has with you, no matter how small.
(Since I am sure you are wondering, the Wheels of Justice rolled all over Boston’s team and won by a large margin.)