Sunday, January 28, 2007

Orange or blue? The power of brands

Today I had to go to the store to buy a new toilet seat and a portable electric heater. I brought along Charlie, my almost-4-year-old.

As we neared the store, Charlie started saying, "Orange or blue. Orange or blue. Orange or blue." (Like a good marketer, Charlie knows the value of repetition.)

I told him, "We are going to Home Depot." (For non-US readers, the two predominant DIY stores in the US are Home Depot, the orange store, and Lowe's, which is blue.)

"Orange or blue?"

"Home Depot is the orange one."

"I like the blue one better."

And there, in a nutshell, is the power of great brands. Charlie knew that we were going to Home Depot or Lowe's. He can't read more than a few words, hasn't ever bought anything at these stores himself, and probably hasn't even seen a commercial for them. Yet he knows that Lowe's is the blue store and Home Depot is the orange store. More than that, the color is his shorthand for the entire store and the experience of shopping there.

When I asked him why he liked the blue store better, he said, "I don't know." But something about the decor, or the lighting, or the shopping carts, or the signage made a difference to him, and made him place the Lowe's brand at the top.

Brands are elemental.

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