When one thinks about a company or business, all things visible (eg. logo, billboard, print advertisement) and tangible (eg. product, store-front) tend to be the first image that comes to mind. That’s a typical response of a consumer.
Wearing your consumer hat
But as a consumer of goods and services bombarded by countless “buy me” or “use me” messages whenever we are online or out on the road, the appeal of a product and/or service often goes beyond meeting a functional need and is associated with an emotion.
about shampoo & spice
I will always enjoy using Suave Naturals Tropical Coconut Shampoo because the smell never fails to bring back fond memories of the adventures I had in North Africa. While washing my hair in a very tight hotel shower (even for my 5′ 8″ 140 lb frame) in Algeria was memorable, the scent of the shampoo placed a time stamp in my mind for a period of reckless and enriching wanderlust.
Coming back to the present and out of that tight shower space, here’s a more current personal consumer experience.
I am never without a jar of Trader Joe’s “Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend” in my pantry. When Aldi launched her “Who Needs the Bagel Seasoning“, I was intrigued. Besides “wining” with a shorter name (5 against 7) and lower price tag ($1.95 against $1.99), Aldi’s version is not distinctly different.
So, did I (or any Trader Joe’s fanatics out there) forsake the mother-of-all-bagel seasoning for a similar product? Read on to find out.
putting on your business hat
Recently, I started a brand development project for a new client whose business is selling a special blend of seasoning. After getting close and personal with the product and the owners (over meetings and a meal of course), we concluded that my client’s product will not survive a David-vs-Goliath face off if a more established brand starts selling a similar seasoning.
My client’s product met a functional need. But being a small start-up, it has not established a cult following that makes the business sustainable. Furthermore, there are already tons of seasoning product out in the marketplace (online and in stores) and they cannot rely on the purchase power of just their family and friends.
trader joe’s vs. aldi
With the TJ-vs-Aldi battle in perspective, we were able to catch a glimpse of how a powerful brand story can help build an emotional value between a company and her customers, leading to brand loyalty.
Trader Joe’s “Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend” does not only serve a functional need of making food tastes good (like taking avocado & egg toast or cheddar cheese bread to whole-nother-level). Her 2.3 oz jar comes with an experience no one would expect to get when shopping at a grocery store.
If you have ever shopped at Trader Joe’s, you will know that it goes beyond just checking off a honey-to-do shopping list. Unless you are wearing a brown bag over your head with a t-shirt that says “I don’t want to talk to anyone”, you will be greeted by her staff offering to help and recommend products shortly after you stepped through the door.
Furthermore, the recommendation does not come across like a car salesperson. The staff are passionate about the product! And if you want to try something new, they will be ready to suggest ways to enjoy the product. By the time you walked out with your purchase (which usually comes with a few extra things that are not on your original list), you would have felt like you have made a friend and is excited to get home to try a new product or recipe.
So, compared to picking up a jar of “Who Needs the Bagel Seasoning” at Aldi and feeling rushed as the emotionless cashier speedily scan your purchase, which experience would you remember? Here’s a peek into what makes Trader Joe’s different.
Grocery shopping aside
Before you tell me you are one of those who hate shopping and would rather have no human interaction at a grocery store, I am not addressing you like a consumer but as a business owner. The point I am making is how a business should view creating a unique customer experience as one of her pillars for success.
Your customers will always be able to find a cheaper and better product or service if that’s all you are offering. They will not remember what you have to say about your company and how your product/service will make their life better. But they will remember how they feel when experiencing your brand; before, during and after purchase.
HOW STRONG IS YOUR BRAND
It is a given for any business to deliver a product/service that meets a functional need, while continually seeking improvement to fulfill that as the market changes. And that’s just one of six aspects of a company when I analyze the strength of her brand.
Together with the behavior of your staff and the experience of your customers, these three made up the visible components. Then there are the other three aspects, the invisible components, that drive and sustain a company.
So, wondering how all that works? I will gladly make some cheddar cheese toast, only with TJ’s “Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend” for us to get close and personal for that conversation. Click here to read about my personal experience with Trader Joe’s.