Thoughtfulness about color is typically associated with creative types. Yet we all think about color when we decide how to present ourselves to the world each day. Whether it’s the color of our clothes, the car we drive or the walls in our homes, our palette choices provide some clues as to who we are – or aspire to be. (I assume this has been on your mind, too, given Prince’s passing and his love of all things purple.)
Mark Twain is credited with observing that “clothes make the man.” I was reminded of this recently by a young man’s wardrobe choice, although not a celebrity and we never saw his face. We were walking to a restaurant around 8:00 p.m. on a Friday evening, just as most stores were closing, while visiting Portland, Maine. As we were rounding a corner, a beauty salon caught our attention, as its lights were still on. I glanced inside, which was challenging as half he windows were obscured by frosted film. The salon’s décor was a simple black and white. There was just one customer and his stylist. The man wore nondescript jeans. But what caught my attention were his shoes – a wonderfully optimistic pair of marigold colored Converse sneakers.
It’s not often that you see yellow shoes. Okay, so this was the Maine College of Art’s backyard, so creative souls inhabit the neighborhood. But it was a chilly, early spring evening so this lovely splash of color couldn’t help but bring a smile to my face with all the possibility it communicated. We associate yellow with optimism and cheerfulness. Yes, warmer days are on the horizon; tomorrow is another day; be brave and live boldly. All those positive sentiments came to mind prompted by a two-second glance at a pair of jaunty sneakers.
Moral of this story is to remember to occasionally try and observe what’s around us as we hurry from place to place. With every visual impression there is a possibility of an idea. Most won’t be inspirational, but some will cause us to think broadly. And some will be worth snapping that quick picture to rekindle – or share – the moment.
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.
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:
Even the most organized of us will occasionally forget something.
You can believe in the kindness of strangers.
Slow and steady – and socks or no socks – gets you to the finish line.
Years ago, I remember attending a presentation by a National Geographic photographer who advised us to “take a look around” and literally turn away from the obvious photo subject to consider other perspectives. And, he promised, a better picture would emerge. Applause to Bowdoin Museum of Art for taking a look around, and instead of assembling a predictable exhibit of home state Maine’s glimmering seacoast, their gallery show is titled “Night Visions” and showcases works of art representing the mystery of darkness. The show spans several centuries and features mixed media – vintage photography of NYC evenings, a rich array of paintings, woodblocks and sculptures, culminating with a 21st century video reminiscent of Hitchcock’s “Rear Window.”
Although visiting museums may not be on your “must-see” sights while vacationing on the Maine coast, think of this detour as a way to avoid sunburns or outlet shopping. This little museum does not charge admission, by the way (donations warmly accepted). Just sharing a little carmen sense; hope you get there!