Springboard From Your Brand Filter
"The content of this blog contains excerpts from Andrea's new book, "ThinkAbout: 77 Creative Prompts for Innovators."
Do you know why your brand does things the way it does? Or why your particular collection of products/services are part of your offering vs. your competitors? If so, have you taken the time to formalize and communicate this rationale in some type of creative and memorable format for your brand leaders and merchants?
One of the most important ways I strengthen my clients’ brands and product lines is by collaborating with their leaders to craft these clarifying fit charts. These are simple, defining visual road maps or infographics that help identify the brand's differentiators with a few key words or phrases. This works for product lines as well. Once these fit charts are done, they provide the guardrails for all sorts of brand and product creativity. Let's look at where this lead for one omnichannel retailer:
For 20-plus years, the merchants at Tommy Bahama have asked one clarifying question as they created a brand "that elevated relaxation to a fine art." The question: "What Would Tommy Do?" Tommy's identity is even a tab on the company's website.
Known for his charm, wit and perpetual tan, Tommy Bahama embodies the island life. An intrepid traveler, he speaks nine languages fluently and can flirt in dozens more. He once caught a 200-pound yellow fin using only a coconut shell, some broken sunglasses and the drawstring from his swim trunks.
The legendary Tommy Bahama is just that — a legend, a personification of an idyllic life. Inspired by the refined, unhurried attitude of coastal life, the brand's founders created the character to define the very essence of its brand. Even today, Tommy Bahama lets its fictional namesake's debonair lifestyle guide almost every decision.
As the product developers at Tommy Bahama create a varied assortment of island-inspired goods and services to "Make Life One Long Weekend," they do so through this filter that simplifies, focuses and concentrates their efforts. "What kind of cologne would Tommy wear?" See several options depending on his mood: TB for Him, Set Sail for Martinique, Signature, St. Bart's and Vintage Paradise. "What kind of bike would he cruise around the island on?" One with an electric motor of course … no stress! "What cocktail would Tommy drink at his island restaurant's happy hour?" Perhaps a Painkiller #2 or a Bahama Mama!
Asking these questions internally and creatively and collaboratively answering them together as part of the merchants’ decision-making process leads to products and services that have an authenticity to them that make people forget that Tommy Bahama is but a legend.
The "What Would Tommy Do?" filter has led to other brand-enhancing decisions such as creating a National Relaxation Day (Aug. 15), its island email program, placing recipes for island cocktails on its website and even video clips about "How to Hula" featuring one of its online merchants. The Tommy Bahama filter is an important lens that doesn't constrain, but rather serves to allow more creative merchandising and brand sunshine in. Tommy, no doubt, would approve of this filter process!
What filter are you using as your products/services fit chart? How does this filter focus your merchandising energy and provoke brandwide conversations? Perhaps your filter is intuitive and not formally documented. Would it be helpful to formalize it in some way?