GLORY IS IN THE DETAILS

Feb 01, 2006 10:30 PM  By

Writer William Feather once said, “Beware of the man who won’t be bothered with details.” I say, “Beware of the brand that won’t be bothered with details.” In my work with direct marketers, consumer goods companies, and publishers, I have noticed that as excellent as they all are in certain areas, they share one thing in common: They overlook critical brand details that could be leveraged to enhance their customers’ experience. Here are nine types of details that, when bothered with, can markedly strengthen your brand presence.

  1. Make it yours. Does your brand have a unique color or shape that you can use throughout your print catalog, on your Website, and even in your ads to reinforce your look? Movie rental service Netflix, for instance, recently sent out a mailpiece in the shape of an oversize movie ticket. Perfect! It caught my attention in the cluttered mailbox and quickly made the “movies” connection. Gifts merchant RedEnvelope, meanwhile, certainly owns red, just as jeweler Tiffany & Co. owns blue.

  2. What’s in a name? Here’s a big missed opportunity. Too many copywriters take the lazy way out and resort to generic product names in their catalog copy. Why say “Dog Toy” when you can be like Orvis and say “Leather Chewcars”? Why not reinforce your brand as you launch an entire product line as apparel cataloger/retailer J. Crew did when it announced its new baby line, CrewCuts? Take inspiration from Ben & Jerry’s (Chubby Hubby ice cream) and OPI (I’m Not Really a Waitress red nail polish) and have some fun with your product names. In doing so, you’ll give your customers yet one more way to connect emotionally with your brand.

  3. Location, location, location. Does your physical location have sensory appeal to your customer base? Many multichannel merchants have product opportunities that go untapped because they do not promote the branding aspects of their sense of place. Freeport, ME-based L.L. Bean is one that does. Native Maine blueberries and balsam fir show up often in its products (gift totes, wreaths, ornaments) as do Maine references (its Maine Guide Wool Parka and Casco Bay Suede Jacket, to name just two products). Does your location evoke strong emotions with your customers? Play on it!

  4. An icon is an icon. Was your company founded on one great product? Is that item still front and center? Has it been line-extended? Updated? Made relevant to today’s customers? Whether it’s TravelSmith’s indispensable little black travel dresses or Lillian Vernon’s monogrammed bags, branded product opportunities are a great way to remind customers that you were there first and that you own the particular product category. Showcase your strength and show off your iconic products.

  5. Remember the Cracker Jack box? The best part was always the surprise inside! The Neiman Marcus catalog is famous for its “guess what’s inside” holiday gifting strategy, but your “brand surprises” don’t have to be that grand. SmileMakers, a catalog of fun prizes for kids, has a child’s voice on its phone message, a surprise that is certain to make its customers smile. Group Publishing, a Christian curriculum company, has its president’s voice on the answering machine greeting callers before they connect to the proper department. While so many companies frustrate their customers with computerized options, Group Publishing connects them with a real live, caring human being once the company introduction is made. This is a welcome surprise to many customers.

  6. Perfectionists unite! Have your merchants labored over the production details of your products? The folks at apparel merchant Lands’ End wanted its customers (and potential customers) to know that someone was really paying attention to all aspects of its new line of career clothes. So instead of a traditional spread showing the clothes on models, Lands’ End chose to focus on the craftsmanship and quality of the suits and slacks. It zoomed in on the stitching, pocket, and button details and proved to consumers that the brand was picky — in a good way. Likewise, apparel mailer Peruvian Connection, which specializes in alpaca knitwear from South America, goes to great lengths to assure its customers that “only a handful of knitters in the world have the knowledge it takes to bring these luxury fiber masterpieces to completion. Our Andean knitters are lifelong craftswomen, who often collaborate on a design by suggesting a stitch, a reembroidery, or a special crochet finish.” What is your company’s brand picky about? Do your customers know?

  7. Think outside the box…literally. Are you leaving a free advertisement unused? You know you have to promote your brand on your catalog’s cover and on your Website’s home page, but what about on your packaging? If your brand name is not clearly visible on the outside of your corrugated mailing box you are leaving behind countless brand impressions. Internet behemoth Amazon.com has not only its name but also its “and you’re done!” tagline on display for all to see.

  8. Mind your manners. Your parents presumably taught you to say “please” and “thank you,” but some marketers need a refresher course. Don’t enclose invoices in boxes without a thank-you for the customers’ business. Store clerks and Websites can also be guilty of this sort of rudeness. Trust me, customers notice. How can your brand make customers feel more appreciated for the business they voluntarily bring you?

  9. Go above and beyond. Some brands just inspire you to be more. It’s really not a little detail but a big detail. In the American Girl catalog, the doll company makes it clear that its priority is building young girls’ self-esteem and confidence. The copy reflects it (“Follow Your Inner Star” is the tagline), the product reflects it (“Every girl has a story”), and the promotions reflect it (“I Can” bracelets). Gaiam, a manufacturer/marketer of healthy-lifestyle products, has a similar strategy in promoting “Simple Choices Make a Difference.” Its brand mantra is evident on every spread. Does your brand have a message that matters?

To quote another author, George Eliot, “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” Take a closer look at all your brand details. I’m certain you’ll see the glory in the details, and when you pay more attention to your brand, so will your customers.


Andrea Syverson is president of IER Partners, a strategic consultancy based in Black Forest, CO.