As a marketer, I am a student of human behavior. I am always looking at what factors influence people in their choices, and I start with myself. What I find often surprises me.
Every Saturday I train my trampoline skills at Trapeze School New York. Last week after trampoline practice, on my walk from Pier 40 back to Union Square, I stumbled across Clean Table, a new food establishment in the West Village.
This place is adorable: a hybrid coffee shop/smoothie bar/healthy food take-out/corner grocery with rustic charm, great light, plenty of seating and free wifi, it defies classification into a neat “box.”
That may be one of the reasons I took an immediate liking to it.
I was drawn over by the blackboard outside that promoted its cornmeal porridge. I ventured inside and decided to give it a try.
The cornmeal porridge was AMAZING.
It hit the spot after trampoline practice. I wanted the recipe. The guy at the coffee bar introduced me to Chevonne, the young woman who made it. In a short conversation we connected about food, spirituality, and finding your way in the world.
As I left Clean Table, I stopped to take a photo of the front of the shop. Even in the West Village, it stands out, with its rustic wood accents and ivy blanket.
The Subtle Factors that Influence Us
As a marketer, I am a student of human behavior. I am always looking at what factors influence people in their choices, and I start with myself.
The West Village has no shortage of cute places. On my walk from Pier 40 back to Union Square I often pass small coffee shops and restaurants that look adorable. I rarely stop to go inside. In the back of my mind was the question:
What had compelled me to walk into this place today?
Then I noticed the door.
It was open, allowing the fresh air to enter on this unseasonably warm October day.
Suddenly I realized that this was the influencing factor in my decision to step inside. It was inviting. Encouraging. Welcoming.
An open door. So subtle. So simple. And yet, it was everything.
Your Message is More Than Words
Consider the contrast between a business that leaves the door open on a warm fall day and a business that requires its potential customer to press a buzzer to enter.
Consider a business with an easily-found location versus a business with a location that’s slightly tucked away and harder to find.
Businesses do this even when they are closed. Some storefronts have grates pulled down over them and some simply have a locked door. Some place a sign in the window announcing the business hours and when they’ll be back. Others have no posted hours.
Some businesses provide an environment where customers can touch and play with the merchandise and others place everything behind a case.
Each of these elements — and countless other subtle decisions — reflects a choice that the business made about how to communicate what it’s about.
Each decision communicates a different message.
There Is No Right or Wrong
My point is not to say that one is “right” and one is “wrong.” This isn’t about right or wrong. It’s about noticing the choices and noticing what they communicate.
Each element is a touch point that communicates a business’s values. Each element is a touch point that communicates a business’s brand.
Your Brand is Not Your Logo
A lot of guidance out there advises entrepreneurs that when they start a business they need to have a logo and colors and a slogan. In this age of “personal branding” we are advised to “become a brand.” What gets lost in that conversation is a clear understanding of what a brand is — and what it isn’t.
Your brand is not defined by your colors or your logo. A brand is created as a byproduct of decisions you make about how you do business. It is the manifestation of your values put into action. Your logo and colors do not create anything; they are shortcuts to trigger a reminder of what you stand for.
The question to ask yourself is whether your business is communicating a message that is aligned with your values.
Here’s a tip: you can’t tell from the inside.