Coffee Talk

Brandweek magazine said: “Brands are the express checkout for people living their lives at ever increasing speed.” If you’ve ever stood in the middle of Times Square, you know this is true. A few weeks ago, my wife and I took my nine-year-old daughter on a special birthday trip to New York City. She had recently played Molly, one of the lead orphans, in an all-kids production of the musical, Annie. We took her to see the real production on Broadway.

Like me, my daughter has a Type A personality. Eager to make the most of her New York City experience, she had created a long wish list of sites, stores and museums to visit during our brief trip to the City. As we left our midtown hotel one morning, I was desperate for a good cup of coffee. I saw the Starbucks logo in the sea of branded signs and billboards, and immediately started walking in that direction. Once there, I found a line out the door and what promised to be at least a fifteen-minute wait. My daughter was so eager to stick to our tourism itinerary, I knew she wouldn’t have the patience to wait, so we walked further down the block where I took a risk on a cup of ‘unbranded’ coffee.

Starbucks may not make the best coffee in the world, but we can trust their baristas to make a consistent, pleasant-tasting cup of Joe whether in Seattle, New York, or Hong Kong. We’re willing to wait in line and pay a premium, knowing that our expectations will always be met. The Chairman and CEO of Starbucks says it like this: “Customers must recognize that you stand for something.” All good brands do.

Wal-Mart stands for low prices. Domino’s stands for fast delivery. Charmin stands for softness. As a consumer, we trust that Wal-Mart will give us the best deal; Domino’s will deliver on time; and Charmin will provide the ultimate comfort for our bottoms. I got lucky with that generic cup of java I had in New York; it tasted good and was less expensive than a Starbucks cappuccino. But, had there not been such a long line, I would have gladly paid more for the “insurance policy” that comes with the Starbucks brand.

At Matchmaker Logistics, we like to be upfront about the fact that we are not the least expensive transportation broker out there. We are, however, a brand you can trust. We make sure the job is done right, and in the rare event that something goes wrong, our customers know they can count on us to make it right. Earning trust takes more time and effort then offering low prices, but like all good brands, we have staying power. Whenever I get discouraged by competitors who are taking shortcuts to industry success, I try to remember this story of a business owner who knew exactly how to position his brand:

A retailer was dismayed when a competitor selling the same products opened next door, displaying a large sign proclaiming “BEST DEALS”. Not long after he was horrified to find yet another competitor move in on the other side of his store. His large advertising sign read: “LOWEST PRICES”.

Once he got over his initial panic about being driven out of business, the retailer found a solution that would set him apart from his neighboring competition. He proudly hung a new, huge sign over his front door that read: “MAIN ENTRANCE”!

Linger over your coffee this weekend,