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A couple of data points in the discussion of "brand." Posted on 11/25/2001.

This past weekend, taking a powder at the home of a restauranteur, I discovered Restaurants and Institutions magazine, "The Leader in Food Service." Apart from my interest in hearing how people in a particular industry talk to and advertise to each other (and, in this case, obsess on things like making sandwiches, the versatility of rice and grains, the wonders of soup), I was intrigued by a feature on the surgence of Krispy Kreme. (Yes, I know "surgence" is not a word, but I'll back-form as I see fit. And verbize in the process, as I just did with "back-form.", you're home for recursively referential wordplay. PUNish me before I do it again.)

Krispy Kreme's fortunes have exploded the past few years--adding stores, increasing sales, and going public with a stock that seems impervious to current market conditions. Much of the strength of their development has come from their amazing brand. A key line from the feature is:

"The strength of the Krispy Kreme brand is that our customers have made it strong," he says. "It's not been through advertising campaigns or contrived marketing or our going out to create an image. The brand is what customers have made it."

Thousands of miles and many industry sectors away lies General Motors. BusinessWeek details changes occurring at the top levels of GM (Subscribers only, sorry), and how the "car guys" are taking over from the "brand guys." From the article:

"The shift marks the first time in years that "car guys" are in charge at GM's key U.S. unit. Zarrella, who spent four years as head of sales and marketing and three as president of North American operations, had championed a brand-management philosophy that relied on consistent brand imagery and strong marketing, rather than innovative styling, to sell cars. The approach has largely failed: During his tenure, the company's share of U.S. vehicle sales slid a disastrous five percentage points, to 28%.

I find these two data points affirming. It suggests that folks are getting that you can't simply shove brand messages at people and expect them to lap it up like thirsty dogs. While this seems obvious, it's surprising how few in Big Corporate America seem to get it.

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Peter, in light of your interest in brand awareness, I would suggest reading "22 Immutable Laws of Marketing", and "22 Immutable Laws of Branding" if you haven't already. They both agree with the stories in this post. Great stuff indeed. (and Krispy Kreme rocks!)
Posted by Don Makoviney @ 11/27/2001 09:18 AM PST [link to this comment]

Right on, Don!

Al Ries and Jack Trout are my marketing heroes. I've read every book they've written (though some of them tend to be slightly repetitive).

I'd like to add Positioning: The battle for your mind and Marketing Warfare to the books Don has mentioned.

I keep telling people, your brand is not what you want it to be, it's what your customers make it. Not many people seem to have learned that lesson, unfortunately.
Posted by MadMan @ 11/28/2001 01:47 AM PST [link to this comment]

I think about Krispy Kreme a lot (sweeeet greeeeease), but their success is not entirely based on their word-of-mouth cred.

I was surprised at the precise interior design at the locations I have been. This isn't some two-bit doughnut company from a backwater burg in the Carolinas that lucked out on making something good, they've put a lot of thought into their positioning and yes, their branding.

There's this trend I've seen in branding. Now, I'm not a branding guy, so it's just my observation, but there's this trend of brands that focus on capitalizing on the 1950s aesthetic. I like to call it the "10 minutes into the future" look. It's a throwback to the 1950s optimism that the future held all the solutions to today's problems. We still believe that, deep down, science will save us all, but in the 1950s, I think it was a more popular view than ever before. There were so many technical innovations making everyone's lives better (especially the mundane, like dishwashers and ovens and faster cars, etc.) in such a short time period, that in the 1950s the future was the brightest it has ever been and that just slightly ahead future, the one that Tomorrowland at Disneyland used to embody (before the recent redesign) was where all our problems would be solved, and our lives would be even better.

Think about that sort of idealized "insert object name here of tomorrow" view makes you feel good. It's the best of the 1950s without all the other baggage (repressive puritanical ideals, racism, sexism, etc) the 1950s represented. The proliferation of 50s style diners capitalizes on this as well, but if you compare a Mel's Diner in San Francisco (gaudy chrome everywhere and sappy Happy Days-style things on the walls drive their point home with a sledgehammer) with the Krispy Kreme in Mountain View, you can see KK has elevated that aesthetic to a much higher level. They use a color scheme reminiscent of the Chevy Bel-Air classic cars. It's also very brightly lit (almost as if it were a special display room of General Electric's new line of light bulbs), and the only color besides a calming 50s aqua is white. Everything is white, the floors, the crisp outfits on every employee, and the walls, in an effort to show how brightly the future is at KK.

This is quite literally the doughnut shop of tomorrow, today, and looking around at their interiors and exteriors, there's no lack of forethought in any of it.

Make no mistake, branding played quite a big part in their success. I think it was just so subtle and well done that it didn't impede their word-of-mouth travelling. Their interior design is high design, something that required endless committee deliberations and possibly psychologist consultations. I think Krispy Kreme's success in non-branding is that they did it so well without anyone realizing it.

(and In-N-Out burger is trying to pull off the same branding play)
Posted by mathowie @ 11/28/2001 12:06 PM PST [link to this comment]

Mathowie wrote: "It's a throwback to the 1950s optimism that the future held all the solutions to today's problems. ... There were so many technical innovations making everyone's lives better such a short time period, that in the 1950s the future was the brightest it has ever been...."

Sounds like the late '90s to me, when e- anything was going to replace the old ways of banking, voting, etc. I'm sure I'm not alone in noticing lots of '90s nostalgia already, and not just the "best of Classic Alternative Rock" albums with two-year old music. It's remarkable how well certain materials, color schemes, and furnishings can be associatated with a prosperous period--Starbuck's has refined a 10-year old interior decorating style into an aspect of their brand, for sure.
Posted by Andrew @ 11/29/2001 01:03 AM PST [link to this comment]

Let's also not forget the impressive doughnut-making apparatus behind the glass. That also hearkens back to the '50s view of mechanizing everything (think Rube Goldberg). It's interesting...tying your brand to the optimism of yesterday looking at tomorrow (a world which never came to be but was epitomized by the science-fiction bubble worlds of the era). As mathowies car show photos show, car makers are also attempting to evoke that '50s nostalgia for the future.
Posted by timo @ 11/29/2001 12:04 PM PST [link to this comment]

Krispy Kreme succeeds for the same reasons as In and Out burgers. Quality and consistency permeate their operations.
Posted by Some Guy @ 12/02/2001 09:43 PM PST [link to this comment]

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