Does Branding Matter? Creating A Thriving Business Without A "Brand"Nov 02, 2022
I recently discovered a gem of a coffee shop here in College Station that suddenly made moving here WELL worth it. (Yes, the fact that my husband is getting his degree here is super worth it but I digress.)
After having completely exhausted the Starbucks menu for the last 10 months, I was thrilled when I found what appeared to be a hole in the wall coffee shop on Google Maps.
I walked in and immediately knew I was in the right place. For starters, the coffee smelled incredible and the atmosphere was unlike any I had experienced before. I felt like a kid in a time machine as my eyes wandered across an array of velvet couches and chairs, eclectic artwork, and bookshelf that spanned an entire wall and had books carefully arranged by color so that it looked kinda like a rainbow. And as a sweet bonus, I was able to drink my coffee from a mug.
I had found all I needed in life and after just one trip, I made an internal commitment to never go to Starbucks again as long as I had access to this place.
Fast forward to December and I decided to shake things up a little. Ready for this? I decided to get my coffee in a to-go cup instead of a mug because I knew I could only stick around for a few minutes. (I know, I'm really living life on the edge. 😎)
As my computer powered up and I reached for my coffee cup, it hit me: This place had no logo.
No logo, no brand colors, no anything.
As someone who owns a marketing company and frequently helps people define their visual brand, I couldn't help but realize that the only thing slightly special about the to-go cup I received was that it had a festive design. Otherwise, all there was to it was a kraft paper sleeve.
So then I pondered over a thought that brings us here today...
Can a business thrive without investing in a visual brand?
The answer is yes. You don't need brand colors or fonts to make business magic.
“Creating an impressive product or service, figuring out the systems and processes that make it work and how you can delight your customer at each and every step will do more for your business than a logo ever could.”
The coffee shop I keep talking about is called Sweet Eugenes and it was founded in College Station back in '93. It's been locally owned and operated ever since.
The coffee shop is jam-packed every single time I go there. Despite the fact that finding a place to sit down involves minor stalking and a few, "Oh, are you leaving?" 's to anyone who so much as reaches for their car keys, I still go. (And apparently so does everyone else.)
So, how? How did Sweet Eugenes manage to "skip out on the business basics" and still be approaching nearly 30 successful years in business?
It's because they chose to focus less on what their coffee cups look like and way more on what it feels like to receive and enjoy a cup of their coffee.
I can't for the life of me tell you what Sweet Eugenes is trying to go for visually. Their website is modern and black and white, though the inside of their shop is old, eclectic, and filled with vivid gold and green couches.
But what I can tell you is that I'm a fan.
I can tell you that their menu is unlike any menu I've seen before. (Try to order a Waffle Latte anywhere else and see how far you get.)
I can tell you that I love how the person who takes my order at the cash register doesn't scream my name across the shop when my drink is ready. Instead, my drink is made as I pay and is handed over to me right then and there.
I can tell you that I love the decor and music they play while I write this blog.
I can tell you that I love how it's always super clean despite being occupied by a ton of humans.
I can tell you that it feels good to go there.
And that is what they are doing right.
Sweet Eugenes figured how to create an impressive product and deliver great service. They ironed out the systems and processes needed to deliver regardless of how packed they get and they know how to make me feel happy from the moment I walk in to the moment I leave.
And those things have done more for Sweet Eugenes' than a logo ever could.
What is a brand anyway?
To be clear, all those critical things I mentioned above ARE a part of Sweet Eugenes' brand. They just aren't a part of the things new business owners think of when they hear "brand" and that's a problem.
New business owners have a list of things they think they need to have in order for their business to be successful: a logo, a website, three social media accounts, a podcast...
And believe me, I get it, those things are really fun to work on... but those aren't deal-breakers for your business, at least not in the beginning.
What is a deal-breaker is how customers feel when working with you. So take your time figuring this out.
The logo can wait.