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Brand Building, Boston Style

Pete Semple

“Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives." - Author unknown

carwash entrance prepare to be happy sign

Bostonians: Rude but Caring?

If you've ever visited Massachusetts or lived in the Boston area you might have noticed that New Englanders don't always come across as the friendliest people.

People coming from culturally warmer regions like the South or out West might see them as taciturn to downright rude.

But in the examples below we found three Boston-area businesses dedicated to making sure their brands are held in high regard through their use of humor, promotion of their brand's heritage and pointing out their commitment to cleanliness. 

"QUALITY" NOW THE PRICE OF ENTRY

Even small improvements to a company's product, service or environment signal a commitment to quality that reassures customers, employees and other business partners that they're dealing with a business that cares about them and their experiences.

And quality today is really just the price of entry. Most products and services work just fine to the extent that we consumers only notice when something goes very well or very wrong with our transactions.

Small Touches Build Brands

The way to really stand out is to find thoughtful and unexpected ways to enhance the way customers experience your brand. In fact, opportunities exist to grab customers' attention outside the process of delivering your product or service.

As you'll see in the examples below, impressions can be made while waiting in line, miles from the point of sale, while a business is closed and even in the rest room. Even large national companies engage in enhanced design or brand building touches in ways that have little to do with the actual consumption of their product.

Why is "Brand Building" Important?

Strong Brands

  • Command a premium price
  • Increase customer loyalty
  • Reduce employee turnover
  • Resist competitors
  • Create brand evangelists
  • Are extendable

Boston Brand Building Examples

Pictures and the story of Deluca's market while under construction

Below are some examples we've collected that show the unique and creative ways a few Boston area businesses have employed to showcase their brand's personalities, stand out from their competitors and demonstrate their commitment to quality in memorable ways.

DeLuca's Market, Charles St., Beacon Hill, Boston

DeLuca's market boarded up and under repair

DeLuca's, Boston's oldest grocery store, is a Boston institution with locations on Newbury St. in Back Bay and Charles St. on Beacon Hill.

Sadly, a fire in the Charles Street location closed one of DeLucas' two retail stores. As devastating as that must be, they still decided to take extraordinary measures to keep their brand and locational heritage in the front of customers' minds.

They did this by painting the plywood of the under-construction storefront the brand's burgundy color and completely covering the location with photos and the story of their company's proud history.

They may have temporarily lost sales from this location during its rehabilitation, but they are maintaining their physical presence. It's hard to imagine the community (their customer base) not being supportive and rooting for DeLucas' return when you compare the closed store in these photos with a typical graffiti-covered plywood construction scene.

Bubble Car Wash, Near Mass Ave., Boston

carwash entrance prepare to be happy sign

A car wash makes dirty cars clean. It's a pretty satisfying service at it's most basic level, and throughout Boston's rainy and snowy seasons we Bostonians have plenty of opportunities to enjoy a car wash's service.

That's why I was pleasantly surprised to see the multiple ways that Bubbles Car Wash takes advantage of the waiting-in-line phase of their service to brand themselves. First they get customers excited about running this errand with this eye-level sign that says, "Prepare to be HAPPY". I couldn't help but smile and think, "Ok, this is starting to seem kind of fun".

Carwash Sign Says Bungee Jump Here Friday Nights

As I continued sitting in line for my turn a flashing message board to the left caught my attention. It said, "Bungee Jumping Friday Nites" and rotated through several other silly non-car-wash-related messages ending the series with, "Voted best car wash 12 years in a row".

I'm not surprised they're voted number 1. It's now more than just my local car wash, because I know it's run by a person with a sense of humor who is willing to take these unnecessary but thoughtful extra steps to get me exicted and keep me entertained throughout the delivery of their service.

And the staff here are always friendly and upbeat (and remember, this is Boston!). It's not surprising, they probably have a fun boss. What do you suppose the employee turnover rate is there compared to other car washes?

Framingham Starbucks Bathroom - They'll Clean It NOW

clean bathroom sign

OK, Starbucks is a national company but I had to take a picture of the sign on the back of the bathroom door at this Framingham Starbucks because I've never seen one quite like it.

Many companies have a bathroom cleaning checklist, initialed hourly showing someone looked in on it. And some restrooms have a sign asking you to let management know if the facilities are not clean, presumably so a future customer can have a better experience than you did.

The reason the management of this Starbucks made the list is because they've gone above and beyond a passive commitment to cleanliness by taking it to the level of offering to fix the problem immediately. If management feels strongly enough about the cleanliness of the bathroom to post a handwritten sign offering to clean it immediately, how do you think they approach the cleanliness of the food prep area and the rest of the restaurant?

Considering this location is in a family-oriented community (and that this bathroom is also used by the people serving your food) I think it's an excellent example of a simple, thoughtful improvement to an already strong national brand.

National Brands Show "Nice Touches" Now Price of Entry

two trucks with bread photos and logos

Think these examples are unnecessary niceties put in place by a few passionate eccentrics?

Then take a look at the old-fashioned Coke bottle dispensing area of this Coke machine, and the two Freihofer's tractor trailers with product photos and the logo as two examples of how national brands understand that there is value in doing just a little more than simply delivering quality products.

Coke machine with coke bottle dispensing area

Neither of these two examples are groundbreaking or new, but when you consider the thinking and costs that went into implementing these little extras that have no demonstrable ROI, it becomes clear that the big brands have long been aware of the value of "brand building".