BY M AURA KELLER
Say what you mean and mean what you say for effective branding.
brand in the minds of your customers, all your brand messages across all areas of your establishment must be in harmony. As Sue Reninger, brand strategist and managing partner with RMD Advertising, a Columbus, Ohio-based advertising agency, explains, a harmonious brand is a complete package built on intellect and emotion. "This is critical for any organization because we, as consumers, make decisions based on this total experience," Reninger says. "Some emotional and intellectual experiences we can control others we cannot. For that reason, it's important to build a strong brand from the inside out. For example, I can feel love for coffee an emotional brand. I can also conjure up memories of my grandma making it, drinking it socially and loving it overall. On the flip side, if I hear or experience bad things related to the brand, I won't want to support the brand with my pocketbook. Customer relations, word-of-mouth conversations on the soccer field, etc., all play into intellectual branding. This is why building a brand on both levels is crucial." When brand experts suggest building a harmonious brand that's strong and sustainable from the inside out, they're talking about taking a 360-degree view: From every point of contact and every opportunity. "Retailers should look at the cleanliness of the store and storefront, the tone and dialogue of personnel with
teven Schnitzler, chief executive officer of Port City Java, Wilmington, N.C., is on to something. Simply put, Port City Java is a coffeehouse chain in the relationship business. "We know that having the best coffee in town isn't the only piece of the puzzle we're selling to our guests," Schnitzler says. "It's about the one-on-one relationships we build. Our brand is the entire experience our guests have when they visit a Port City Java. Our brand is the promise we make and the personality we deliver in our cafés. Logos, colors and slogans are part of that, but we believe the everyday interaction is just as, if not, more relevant." Schnitzler and his team spent months developing and refining their brand strategy, image, goals and position in their market. "We had to determine the best way for us to represent our commitment to excellence of products, services, guest satisfaction, pricing and reliability in a message we could repeat consistently," he says. "Full commitment to this plan was critical for success. We're constantly evaluating sales trends and surveying our guests regularly, formally and informally, to see if what we're doing still makes sense. We know promises aren't worth much unless we can deliver on them and if they matter to our guests." Schnitzler's consistent efforts create "brand harmony," a buzzword that carries a lot of merit within today's specialty coffee retail environment. If you want to establish a harmonious
Steps For Establishing Your Brand
Tony Kubica of Kubica Laforest Consulting recommends retailers evaluate the following in their initial steps of establishing, or perhaps reigniting, their brands in today's economy. 1. What's your value statement why would customers want to come to your store? If you don't know, your customers won't either. 2. Establish your uniqueness what differentiates you from your key competition? And how do you prove it so your customers clearly recognize it. 3. Identify what your business is best at doing, Consider
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your service(s) in addition to the products you sell. Also, would your employees say the same thing? Front-line employees can support or sabotage your message. 4. Know what makes you better than your competitors, specifically when it comes to building and maintaining relationships with your customers And just how do you know? Saying it doesn't make it so.