Friday, March 29, 2019

Differentiating on the Unexpected

Opaque is an all in the dark restaurant. With the help of a giant crane, Dinner in the Sky serves just that, dinner in the sky. Southwest Airlines differentiated itself based on a sense of humor. Build-A-Bear Workshop decided to involve the customer in the creation of the product. Von Maur department stores feature live pianists. And the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, TN features a duck march in its lobby every day. Having conducted hundreds of focus groups, I can say with almost certainty that no customer ever recommenced those unique brand differentiators. And those differentiators would not rate well vis-vis more expected benefits in quantitative studies either. They were the result of out-of-the-box thinking and organizational risk taking.

Any brand can do this, but few do.

Let's see just how crazy we can get. Consider a financial institution brand. Let's just envision what we could do with the brand at its bank branch locations.

Simple, closer-in ideas:

  • Serve coffee
  • Provide free snacks
  • Provide a wide variety of magazines
  • Provide self-serve coin counting machines
  • Add public rest rooms

A little further out:

  • Add massage chairs
  • Feature fish aquariums in the lobby area
  • Include a fountain in the lobby area
  • Have televisions streaming the latest news and stock reports
  • Co-locate with a coffee house
  • Co-locate with a post office branch
  • Add passport services
  • Add legal services
  • Feature live music on Friday afternoons and evenings

    Really crazy ideas:

    • Sell convenience store items
    • Wash people's cars while they are inside the branch
    • Polish people's shoes while they wait
    • Produce a light show at noon each day

    Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list. But it gives you an idea of what a brand could do. These are not things a bank or other financial institution would typically think about or seriously consider. And yet, one or more crazy, out-of-the-box signature items might be just what it takes to thrust the brand ahead of competing brands. And the competitors would not have seen it coming.

    While I used financial institutions as an example, this could apply to any brand in any product or service category. Consider exploring this approach for your brand. If nothing else, if will likely prove to be a fun exercise. But, at best, it might actually transform your brand into something new and extraordinary that no one had previously conceived.