Why Brands Like American Girl Build Fans Not Customers

Great brands touch consumers hearts, not just their heads. They go beyond rational proof points and connect on an emotional level, and that’s why it’s the last criteria for the brands we choose on our BrandTwist Safari. So our Safari attendees can see brands that get this.

These brands know that branding is a relationship, not a transaction.

Ever feel so passionate about a brand you can’t wait to tell your friends all about it? You’re on a mission to get them to try it too so you can share this experience? When you feel and act this way, you’ve become a brand ambassador and your relationship has gone way beyond the “client zone” to something deeper.

I remember back in the day my friend Shari couldn’t believe I had not yet tried Netflix (this was back in the red envelope era). Every time I would see her she would pester me about it. I actually had a fleeting suspicion that she might be getting a commission from them. Not until I tried the brand and realize how much it changed my ability to watch TV and movies on my terms- did I understand why she was being so persistent.

The difference between fans and buyers.

When we choose brand experiences to visit on our guided BrandTwist Safaris, we look for brands that have fans – not just buyers. Brands that understand the emotional need they are filling – and who work hard to keep that relationship healthy.

American Girl Place is one such experience we will be visiting on our upcoming Safari.

BrandTwist Brand Safari TWIST American Girl

This brand really gets that they are not just selling dolls. They are fostering important friendships. The entire brand experience is designed around this special bond.  From the cafe where you can dine with your doll, the hospital where dolls are treated with special TLC, the Hair Salon with its pampering services for both girl and doll -even the clothes where you can dress like twins – American Girl is fostering a unique friendship. And not surprisingly, given this bond, commanding a premium price.

Your business can learn so much from TWISTING with American Girl and other brands about building deeper, and more profitable relationships with your customers

Join us in person in NYC as we visit Microsoft, American Girl, and more on our Brand Safari.

TWIST Book Julie Cottineau

How to Create Brand Ambassadors

“Launching A Business Is Essentially An Adventure In Problem-Solving”. Richard Branson

Great brands change people’s lives. They make it easier to get things done, open our eyes to new solutions, connect us with like-minded communities and help us to accomplish more. One of the things we a explore on BrandTwist Brand Safaris is how exactly brands solve their customer’s’ problems – and what lessons can your business learn and TWIST with to create loyal brand ambassadors.

Does your customer have a problem with too many options?

Birchbox is a great example of a brand that has solved the issue of how to choose from the hundreds, if not thousands, of new beauty products that seem to pop up every day.  They’ve taken the overwhelm out of the beauty shopping experience by curating customizable sample boxes that are delivered each month to your doorstep. You then decide in the comfort of your own home what works for you- and then can easily click through on their site to buy any of the products you’ve tried in a low commitment trial size.

BrandTwist Blog template (8)While the brand exists mainly online, they have a brick and mortar store in SoHo. This is one of the favorite stops on our Safari. Our attendees walk away inspired with new ways to make it easier for their customers (in categories way outside beauty) to make confident choices.

Sonos, another favorite Safari stop, is also a great example of a brand that helps their customers solve the problem of what sound system to buy – by showing their product integrated into real life scenarios. This is a big TWIST from the big box electronic retailers where the components are stacked on shelves with no way to evaluate the product.

At the Sonos brand experience store in SoHo – you enter into different rooms where you can sit back and enjoy the music – in different set ups with different components- and make a smarter choice about what’s actually going to work in your home.

The starting location for our next Brand Safari, Microsoft, is another example of problem-solving. In addition to enabling customers to engage with the computers, software, and even video game systems before they buy, they offer support and classes to solve the problem of not being able to take full advantage of your purchase.

Today’s buyer in any category has almost too many options. How can your business TWIST lessons from these solution focused brands to help offer real value to your customers?

Our next BrandTwist Brand Safari is coming up, be sure to reserve your spot now to save as part of our Back to School Back to Brand Building event.

 TWIST Book Julie Cottineau

Why Every Touch Point Matters in Your Brand

One of the things I love about BrandTwist Brand Safaris is we get to experience first hand many different touch points and then TWIST this inspiration with your brand. The importance of the multiple touch points is that transcending the ordinary and walking the talk isn’t enough if they only happen in one place.

So when we go into this immersive experience of a BrandTwist Brand Safari we’re able to explore the importance of inspiring at every turn.

Great brands maximize all brand touchpoints to convey a unique experience. They don’t just rely on traditional media to get across their message- they build their brand promise into the product or service experience.

Can a vomit bag surprise and delight?

In my book TWIST: How Fresh Perspectives Build Breakthrough Brands. I talk about One of my favorite “surprise and delight” moments with Virgin Atlantic’s use of “vomit bag” moments.

Virgin ran a promotion on Virgin Atlantic when they used the vomit bags in the seat pockets as marketing messages. These bags are in every seat back on every flight. But they are usually plain white and a missed opportunity – right in front of passengers for the six-plus hour flight.

Virgin Atlantic branded the bags its signature red, and included engaging copy about how flying used to be fun, then became terrible, and Virgin’s mission was to make it fun again. It began with: “How did air travel become so bloody awful? First, they took away the meals. Then the pretzels. And then the peanuts. All seven of them….” It ended with: “Flying should make you feel like you are a virgin again (flying-wise of course). It should feel new. And on Virgin Atlantic Airways it always will.”

This is a creative touch point. Taking a moment that is a necessary part of the experience (it’s literally an FAA requirement) and using it as a moment to surprise and delight the customer and support Virgin’s brand promise that this is a different way to fly.

Virgin America also uses other touchpoints such as the purple mood lighting, the unique safety video, and any time seat ordering inspires at every turn and show (not tell) the experience is a “Breath of Fresh Airline”.

Snapple literally inspires at every turn with the messages under their caps. All bottles need caps, but Snapple uses this moment to engage the purchaser and stand out from all of the other beverages – and present the brand as a truly refreshing choice.

One of the things I love about BrandTwist Brand Safaris is we get to experience first hand these touch points and then TWIST this inspiration with your brand.

BrandTwist - Nespresso Brand Safari

Nespresso, for example, offers a coffee bar in its experience store in SoHo. It’s the first thing you see when you walk in. Coffee specialists (employees are brand touchpoints too) treat you to the latest flavors. The wall of colorful capsules also transforms product inventory into pure art.

Want to discover your next “vomit bag” moment. Join us for our next BrandTwist Brand Safari and notice how great brands don’t just market to you, they immerse you in the experience at every turn.

TWIST Book Julie Cottineau

Walk Your Talk by Living Your Brand Promise Every Day

Last week we talked about the importance of Transcending the Ordinary, the issue is though that it can’t end with one idea or one-touch point. It’s critical that you are living and breathing your TWIST. That’s why this week I’m sharing two brands who walk the talk.

What does “Walk the Talk” mean?

Brands that “Walk the Talk”  are brands that live their brand values – they don’t just talk about them, they bring them to life through their actions and behaviors. Employees are a key touch point for the brand and important brand ambassadors.

REI is a great brand to visit on a BrandTwist  Safari. It has many touch points which help set this brand apart and are on proud display in the stores, in walking the talk. One of the brand missions of REI is “dedicated to inspiring, educating and outfitting for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship”. They showcase this in the store, but also share it with the “employee in action” wall. This is a whole wall of photos showcasing employees participating in outdoor activities.

 REI BrandTwist Brand Safari Brand Inspiration

Do you walk the talk even when it’s the opposite of what everyone else is doing?

One of the most publicized ways they speak to that mission is the award winning #OptOutside campaign. Instead of opening their doors on Black Friday (or even Thanksgiving) they forgo the sales and urge not only customers, but employees to go outside. This also speaks to their business model. In 1938 REI launched, and in their own words they chose to begin a “consumer co-op, rather than a publicly-traded company, enables us to focus on the long-term interests of the co-op and our members. We answer to you—our members—and run our business accordingly.”

Do you and your employees walk the talk?

To really ingrain this experience at every touch point it starts with employees. Microsoft, for example, starts every morning with the Microsoft team doing a “Stand Up” meeting where they get the employees excited for the day- sort of a pep rally based on the brand values. And they end the day with a similar “Stand Down” meeting- recognizing and celebrating the positive on-brand behaviors of the team members during the day, and no doubt discussing how to continuously improve.

 How can your business be inspired by great brands like Microsoft and REI to “Walk the Talk”? Are you brand values celebrated front and center? Are you and your team living them every day?

TWIST Book Julie Cottineau

Transcend the Ordinary and Rise Above Your Competition

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 6.59.13 AMNow that we’ve got you planning your next Brand Safari it’s time to figure out what to look for. Over the next few weeks, we’ll talk about what we look for on our BrandTwist Brand Safari’s, kicking off with T – Transcend the Ordinary.

Today we’re going to talk about how brands like Coco-Mat and Microsoft transcend the ordinary with their customers by allowing customers to experience their brands in a way that’s different from anyone else.

Let’s start with talking about what it means to transcend the ordinary, I think it’s about looking for brands that go beyond what’s expected. Transcend ordinary experiences to provide something fresh. It’s about how your clients experience your brand. Coco-Mat and their flagship store is a great example of this.

Can buying a mattress be relaxing?

On a recent Safari, we visited the iconic Coco-Mat store in SoHo for some hands on inspiration that attendees then TWISTED with their own businesses. Coco-Mat has shaken up the mattress category on every level by providing mattresses that are customizable by layer and made with all natural materials- like coconut fiber (hence the name). No metal springs are used. That’s not even the best TWIST though.

Cocomat Brand Safari BrandTwist Brand Experience

They also have TWISTED the sales experience and transcended the sometimes stereotypical pushy mattress seller to a more thoughtful and zen experience. Their sleep specialists invite you to spend a few hours or even the night in a special “nap suite” in their SoHo store. They will make up the bed with the exact mattress you are thinking of purchasing. So you are sure that it’s the right fit. There’s a bathroom with shower in the suite and calming scents and decor.

It’s shifting an experience that can be stressful and frustrating and instead allowing you to experience the ease of their company at every step. It’s a completely unique experience that turns category norms on their heads. How can you relieve any friction in your buying experience for your customers- and make the process of engaging with your business as smooth and “dreamy” as possible?

How does Microsoft transcend the ordinary?

The idea of letting potential customers experience your brand instead of selling them on the idea is something Microsoft has done well with their flagship store in New York. Which is exactly why we’ll be hosting a Brand Safari in the NYC Experience Store there in September.

Microsoft experience stores give potential customers the opportunity to interact with the products. This helps them fall in love through learning more about the features. This is evident in the innovative Youth Spark coding camps.

These camps not only serve the community (another way to transcend) but it also gives consumers the opportunity to engage with the product, and fall in love with a product.

How can you transcend the ordinary?

Now it’s time for action, look for brands that turn the category norms on their heads. Remember, the best brands to TWIST with are outside of your category so get creative. Think about brands you love or have experienced that provide the opposite of what you expect (ex. a zen mattress buying experience instead of a stressful one).

Then TWIST this with your business. How can you tackle head on and rise above the common pain points in your category to provide a fresh, memorable and compelling brand experience?

Don’t forget to stay tuned, we’ll be talking about Walking the talk when we return with our next post.

Can’t wait to experience the TWIST for yourself? Grab one of our limited Safari spots for September here.

TWIST Book Julie Cottineau