Which came first: Maine or Lobster Rolls?

From time to time, two brand categories become so commonly associated that it’s hard to separate them. Think movies and popcorn, country music and cowboy hats, beer and pretzels. While you can certainly enjoy one without the other, together, they’re just better.

A fundamental branding tenet is making emotional connections with your target audience, and I think that’s what these paired experiences have perfected. This came to mind recently, during my visits to Maine this summer – the state where the license plates read “vacationland.” You can’t help but relax, whether you’re visiting the rocky shoreline, sparkling lakes, craggy Acadia National Park or enjoying the art and food scene in Portland. Speaking of food, when we think of Maine inevitably a lobster roll comes to mind. That’s part two of the paired branding experience!

Interestingly, there are many variations of lobster roll recipes, which contradicts branding’s consistency principle. What remains the same, however, is the authenticity of eating a fresh catch from local waters, preferably while seated dockside. And maybe having many recipes encourages continually sampling this simple dish, which means seeing more of Maine. Sounds like everybody wins!

Right now, the Maine Maritime Museum is hosting a history of lobstering exhibit, with a video featuring a Portland-based chef showcasing his lobster roll recipe. While his lovely dish is a little fussy for me, it is a fitting sea-to-table ending for this exhibit celebrating both vacationland and the lobster.

So branding isn’t always about a uniquely differentiated company or product. Sometimes great branding is about a memorable pairing, with room for personal interpretations. I hope you get to enjoy a lobster roll sometime soon – and better yet, on the Maine coast.

 A consistently top-ten rated lobster roll from Five Islands Lobster, Georgetown, ME.

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Brand X(tinct): Remembering CDs

On a recent Friday afternoon, I found myself trapped in my car creeping along with weekend-getaway traffic. If I’m driving alone, I can typically entertain myself with NPR programming and singalong radio. However, NPR was pretty stuck on covering the prior evening’s Republican presidential debate and “Shut Up and Dance” was seemingly the only song on most stations. So I decided to do something I hadn’t done in years – listen the the CDs I threw in the car when I bought it five years ago.

I don’t know about you, but Spotify is the only way I consume music. CDs seem so quaint, but has it really been that long ago since they were our main music source? Given that most of these CDs were personal playlists, I had no idea what I was in for. My musical surprises included my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding playlist, lots of U2 and workout pop tunes. Slipping the CDs into the player and scrolling through the recordings filled me with nostalgia, not just for the memories associated with each song, but for the reminder of the evolving styles of music listening over the years.

From boom boxes to 5-foot tall speakers, to CDs and walkmens, iPods, and now streaming audio, it’s all about the love of the song. And sing along I did — and eventually, I drove out of the traffic jam and got to my weekend destination — and plugged in my Beats Pill wireless for more music.

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Sockless in Cape Elizabeth: To run or not to run?

Last Sunday, I laced up my running shoes to join 6,400 people running Maine’s Beach to Beacon 10-K. A lovely course that winds its way along the shoreline, it features world-class runners along with recreational participants, like me. I’ve been running since college, but I’m a lot slower these days, an honest reminder that time just doesn’t stand still.

On race day, we settled into the car just after sunrise for our hour ride to catch a bus to the starting line (yes, you can get tired just finding your way to the race!). As we approached the parking area, I reached down to put on my running shoes, but realized I’d forgotten to pack socks. Those who run can only imagine how foolish I felt. I always carry two extra pairs in my gym bag but was going to have to run a 10-K sockless. Naturally, given the early hour, there was nowhere open to buy an emergency replacement. My only hope was that  more mindful fellow racer would have an extra pair that I could buy or borrow.

We parked and my search began. I went from car to car as bodies were sleepily opening doors to join the bus line, but no one had an extra pair. Next I approached the quiet group queued in the bathroom line –but again, no one had a pair. With time running out, I realized I was going to have to run sockless so joined my group to board the bus.

As I joked about my packing mishap, a woman standing nearby transformed into my guardian angel as she said, “You can’t run like that” and magically handed me the extra pair she’d packed for her teenage daughter.  She’d been among those I’d previously asked and maybe she didn’t hear me, or maybe she needed to be sure her daughter didn’t need them. Regardless, she saved me from blisters and more.

Moral of the story:

  1. Even the most organized of us will occasionally forget something.
  2. You can believe in the kindness of strangers.
  3. Slow and steady – and socks or no socks – gets you to the finish line.

Happy running!