Friday, November 11, 2011

a conversation about branding with stanley hainsworth

Advertising is very much a learning experience. Even the advertising greats received valuable knowledge from their predecessors. Before today’s advertising legends, there was David Ogilvy. And, before Ogilvy, there was Claude Hopkins. Each generation gives the next lessons from which they can draw upon in creating better advertisements, and stronger brands.

Over at Fast Company, Debbie Millman, president of Sterling Brands, sits down with a man who helped build Starbucks into one of the world’s most powerful brands. Stanley Hainsworth, who has served as the creative director at Nike, Lego, and Starbucks before leaving to start his own agency, knows something about branding, and making brands superpowers in the marketplace.

The whole interview (available here) is full of expert wisdom worth an entire read, the following excerpt is the most valuable for those seeking to build a brand with staying power. Hainsworth describes how Howard Schultz took a coffee shop in a crowded marketplace, and turned it into a global icon [parts bolded for emphasis]:

When Howard Schultz first came to Starbucks, he wasn't the owner of the company. He joined a couple guys that had started the company. He went over to Milan and saw the coffee culture and espresso bars where people met in the morning. He saw how people caught up on the news while they sat or stood and drank their little cups of espresso. That inspired the vision he crafted from the beginning--to design a social environment where people not only came for great coffee, but also to connect to a certain culture.

Howard was very wise in knowing that Starbucks was not the only company in the world to make great coffee. On the contrary, there are hundreds of other companies that can make great coffee. So what's the great differentiator? The answer is the distinction that most great brands create.There are other companies that make great running shoes or great toys or great detergent or soap, but what is the real differentiator that people keep coming back for? For Starbucks, it was creating a community, a "third place." It was a very conscious attribute of the brand all along and impacted every decision about the experience: who the furniture was chosen for, what artwork would be on the walls, what music was going to be played, and how it would be played.

Differentiation. That’s the key.

Starbucks didn’t just make coffee. Starbucks made an “environment” for coffee. It was this differentiating factor — a conscious decision, executed to perfection down to the very art that was hung on the walls — that moved Starbucks beyond its competitors and into branding glory.

What differentiates your brand from your competitors? How are you creating an emotional connection with your consumers? Read the interview, and take a lesson from one of the masters of branding.

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