A brand is more than a name and logo or tagline. Those aspects of branding are important to success, but there's much more to a brand. The name, logo, tagline, colors, shapes and fonts are all important components to a brand, but so are the intangibles —like your attitude.
I remember the day when attitude built an impression on me and ended up having a great impact upon myself and my sign company. In fact, I attribute a lot of our success today back to the day it happened.
I entered the sign business as a young designer fresh out of school and started out in design and sales. I was only there a short time before finding myself in the role of president. The company had just gone through some hard times and was trying to turn things around, but there was a negative mood hanging over it like a big dark cloud. I didn't know a thing about running a business, but I knew with all that was going on, one of the most important things to deal with was the negative attitude.
One weekend I went to the mall to walk and think and look around at all the newest types of signs. I like the creativity with brands that I see at malls. Then I got hungry and decided to get something to eat at the food court. While standing in line minding my own business, a family of 12 got in line right behind me; a mom, a dad and 10 kids from teens to twos.
What caught my attention and made me sort of uncomfortable was their appearance. Their clothes were sort of dirty, dingy, didn't fit right, and I remember looking down instead of making eye contact. That's when I noticed the shoes.
Some of the little ones were wearing shoes way too big for their feet, while the older kids wore shoes way too small with the sides split open and toes popped out the fronts. Then my eyes caught a glimpse of the father's worn out shoes before looking down at my two feet with expensive designer shoes on them.
Here I was all stressed out about the company wearing these great looking shoes while this family and their issues were perfectly happy in theirs. Then I watched as they sat together and ate a meal — perfectly happy and content. It didn't matter what they were wearing or what they looked like. They had the right attitude.
And that's when it hit me. Attitude. Attitude can change anything. And change starts with the right attitude. You can't see attitude. It's invisible. But it has an attribute about it that becomes seen or visible, and when you observe or experience it, it builds an impression.
So when I got home that day, I decided to write a note that went out to all the employees the following week along with their pay checks. I titled that note Living Happily With Worn Out Shoes.
That note had an amazing effect over the next week, so I decided to keep writing more notes that went out every payday to the employees with each note conveying an important, inspiring or challenging message with titles like Humper and Gofer and Salad Man.
Humper and Gofer were job descriptions of my first job with a roofing contractor as a teenager. The humper's job is to hump shingles up the ladder to the installers, and the gofer's job is to go for this and go for that whenever anybody needed anything. I was at the bottom of the company, but my boss taught me the value of serving others and that nobody else could perform unless I was a good humper and a good gofer. He was showing me how to have the right attitude.
Salad Man was about the mess often self-inflicted within an organization when people are not working in sync. It's like going to a nice restaurant for good food, good service and a nice experience, but instead the place is chaotic where nobody working there is paying any attention to each other, just doing their jobs but not really working together.
Salad Man is the one going around putting salads on everybody's plates in the restaurant but isn't paying attention to the timing, and doesn't care. He's serving them before your drinks, after the main course, after desert, or worse, he's serving a salad when you didn't order one, or it’s the wrong salad.
All companies go through times when attitudes are down or service becomes sloppy. When it does, the wrong impressions are built, and those impressions reflect and impact the brand. A correction of attitude can change everything.
Attitude is experienced, not just expressed. Experiences produce impressions. And today, if you want to be more successful in a world of competition and competing brands, you've got to build your impressions while building your brand.
For us, some worn out shoes and a simple note started the process of addressing our issues by correcting our attitude. We ended up branding these notes as Pay Notes.
Pay Notes became a brand, but represented our overall brand. They were part of us, and by branding them, they created standards to live up to, especially as they got popular beyond our own walls with people and organizations signing up to receive them.
As we found our way to brand attitude through our Pay Notes, our customers started to ask us to help them find ways to brand attitude for them. What it comes down to is knowing the values of your customers, then bring them to life visually. In the world of branding, this is called Attitude Branding.
Consider Nike. The Nike brand is about much more than just shoes. To the company’s customers, the swoosh represents a healthy and athletic lifestyle while their motto of Just Do It is all about attitude. Coca Cola and Apple are great case studies on branding attitude as well.
With attitude branding, you contribute to a consumer’s sense of connection where they want to be part of the lifestyle, wear the apparel, drink the beverage or use the products.
Why do brands do this? Because the right attitude can have a profound effect and make a difference for yourself, your organization and your brand. The right attitude builds the right impression.