Sunday, August 24, 2008

Brand Candy

"And to make this seminar even more comfortable, we have bowls of M&M candies available ... with the brown ones removed for your protection".

With that one line, I was able to create intense curiosity in the minds of about 75 people who attended "The Branded Networker" several years ago at a regional conference. Since the program was split over two days, attendees were kept somewhat in suspense, to the point where people would approach me out of the blue at the evening social, offering their theories. For the first time in conference history, there were more attendees on the second day of the education session as more than 100 people showed up for the last half of "The Branded Networker" and discovered the mystery behind the "Brown M&M's".

As any fan of the rock group Van Halen can tell you, the standard performance contract during their glory days in the late 70’s and early ’80s contained a provision calling for them to be provided with a bowl of M&Ms, but with all the brown ones removed. David Lee Roth explained the method behind the madness in his autobiography, Crazy From The Heat:

"The contract rider read like a version of the Chinese Yellow Pages because there was so much equipment, and so many human beings to make it function. So just as a little test, in the technical aspect of the rider, it would say “Article 148: There will be fifteen amperage voltage sockets at twenty-foot spaces, evenly, providing nineteen amperes . . .” This kind of thing. And article number 126, in the middle of nowhere, was: “There will be no brown M&M’s in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.”So, when I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl . . . well, line-check the entire production. Guaranteed you’re going to arrive at a technical error. They didn’t read the contract. Guaranteed you’d run into a problem. Sometimes it would threaten to just destroy the whole show."

Van Halen's recent reunion tour with the detail-obssessed Roth grossed more than 93 million U.S. dollars, making it the most successful tour in the band's 30 years. It also marked the first tour with 15 year-old bassist Wolfgang Van Halen on board joining his father, guitarist extraordinaire Eddie Van Halen and uncle drummer Alex Van Halen. Nearly one million fans attended the tour during 74 arena shows throughout the U.S. and Canada, including a crowd estimated at 90,000 this past July in Quebec City.

History even repeated itself during the Detroit stop on the tour when Wolfgang Van Halen requested “no Brown M&M’s” in his dressing room as a tribute to his father. The caterer ensured all of the brown ones were then placed in a bowl and left in Eddie’s dressing room.

The "Brown M&M's" story is a great example of developing a unique signature to attach to the everyday things you do in your business. It speaks to the need to pay strict attention to the tinest of details that impact your brand experience - in a way you can have fun with!

What sort of branding signals could you create in an effort to make delivery of your product or service even more "seamless"? Are there other brands that have effectively applied this approach in making sure customers are served in the way they intended?

Looking forward to seeing how you "Jump" on this posting.

p.s....We will keep you updated on when "The Branded Networker" will be offered again this fall.

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