Coffee and Donut Shops: spicing up a boring drive

It was a long and rainy drive to Boston last week. The scenery, of course, was ever-changing – the back of an 18-wheeler, the rooster-tail from an SUV, orange detour cones – but despite all that, staying alert and engaged was a challenge. What to do to help make the trip less of a snooze?

How about coffee? Specifically, comparing the coffees of the various donut shops as I snaked my way northward.

First stop: Krispy Kreme. One of their few stores in the area northeast is off I-95 in Milford, CT. Pulling up, I was happy to see the “Hot Now” sign lit up (hot donuts were being made!) – but then, was quickly dismayed to discover that they no longer – as of a few days before – hand out free samples of those delectable rings of sweetness to customers! Hey, that was the main reason my family and I have stopped there all these times on trips to Connecticut! One great branding idea destroyed, probably by some cost-cutter in HQ. Nonetheless, I do like their coffee pretty well – esp. the bold roast. I’d give KK a ranking of 2nd place among my stops this day.

Then, of course, there is Dunkin’ Donuts. For those in the northeast, and especially New England, I should say the ubiquitous DD. Their coffee has always been consistently decent, and today was no exception. Some years ago, they did a limited trial of a DD Dark Roast, and I used to Go Out Of My Way (one of my ultimate measures of brand attachment!) to get that brew. Alas, for reasons that have never been clear to me, they shelved it. The DD cup, on this day, ranked third.

And in first place? Well, we had dinner with some friends who moved down from Canada recently, and they recommended Tim Horton’s. Now Tim Horton’s donut shops are big in Canada, but only recently have they begun invading the U.S., starting (I assume) in New England. Having stored that tidbit in memory, when I saw a Horton’s sign off the highway, I pulled in for my first TH coffee experience. And, I’d have to say that it nudged out the Krispy Kreme brew by a few grounds.

Of course, on my way home I saw the welcome sight of a Starbucks sign, and that cup easily topped the others. What can I say? – I like strong, dark coffee. But I still haven’t found the equal of my all-time favorite, Mill Mountain Blend. Why can’t these folks expand from central VA to north Jersey??

Back to the Past

Every once in a while, my eye catches an advertisement on-line that forces me to click – not because I care one whit about the thing being advertised, but because the graphical design or message is so compelling.

Yes, I’m sick. I know.

This morning, it was a banner ad for Ancestry.com. I thought that the logo, the color combinations, and the typeface were so well put together, that I had to go to the site. And I was not disappointed. A great site design – very pleasing to the eye. Somebody with real talent did this interface.

I have a mild interest in genealogies – nothing inordinate – but if I ever want to dig deeper into the past, guess where I’ll go?

The Power of Imagery

Recently, I asked a graphic designer friend to come up with a couple of graphics using the imagery of pie, for a volunteer organization in which I serve.

She did a great job – and the unexpected evidence was quickly apparent! My five year old was standing over my shoulder as I opened up the files (one of an entire pie, the other of a delectable slice), and then I heard him leave the room and scoot down the hall. Next thing I know, he is pleading with my wife, saying that he’s “in the mood for pie!”

Come to think of it, I wouldn’t mind a slice myself!

(if you’re looking for free-lance graphic design work, by the way, I can certainly recommend my friend Rebecca)

Coming Up with Names

Every once in a while, the conceit creeps in that you’ve seen all the branding/marketing sites out there. Nope. Here’s a very thoughtful site on corporate naming, called The Name Inspector. Written by a linguist with solid experience in naming, this relatively new site has some great content.

Hat tip: Guy Kawasaki

Brand Memories

I was sitting at my desk today, riffling through old memory banks to try to identify brands from other eons of my life (childhood, teenage years, college, young adult) – something has to be very special and memorable to endure the decades.

Then, going to pick up some wine for tonight’s dinner, I saw a name that I hadn’t seen for many years. French Rabbit.

Back when my bride and I were relative newlyweds living in Nashville, and just discovering the pleasures of wine, there was a brand we bought frequently (both red and white) called French Rabbit. Why? Well, it was cheap. And reasonably drinkable, at that young stage in our pilgrimage.

Now they come in this funky new “tetra” packaging. It was still cheap, so for old time’s sake, I picked up a bottle box thingie of Merlot.

It’s red, it’s liquid, and it’s inoffensive. Would I buy it again? Nah – but I still enjoyed connecting with a brand from the past. Even if it was one of the earliest to do the “cute animal” thing for a label!

No Wimpy Wines, part deux

After my recent post on Ravenswood Winery’s marketing approach, I exchanged a few messages with Becky Carroll, who recently wrote up her (very positive) experience with Ravenswood on her blog, Customers Rock!

Giving Citi some credit

It’s easy to pick on the foibles of various companies when they do something wrong. But it’s always nice to point out when a company does something right.

I recently got a Citibank credit card. I had a minor issue to clear up, so I called the toll-free number shown on the card. From there, FOUR things went right:

1. Almost immediately on the automated phone system, the option was given to reach a human being. Having just yesterday been through touch-tone purgatory with my ISP, this was a refreshing change.

2. A person picked up right away. On a Saturday morning. Nice.

3. As I explained the situation, she instantly understood the issue and said she’d take care of it. No fuss, no muss. Nice job, Yvonne.

4. Then, when I mentioned one slight anomaly on the website when I logged in, she said she’d have the web person take care of it right away.

How to build customer appreciation and loyalty? Here’s a good 4-part starting point!

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