In a moment of weakness and with blatant disregard for my diet, I did something that I’m ashamed of. I took advantage of the close proximity of McDonald’s (when isn’t it close?) and chose the Happy Meal for its portions and the cute little Hello Kitty toy.
( I got the one that was reading the book—super cute)
As a measure to assuage my guilt I decided to turn this experience into market research. Sidebar: I’m aware that you don’t need another article regarding the marketing genius of McDonald’s. Most of my readers can still sing the catchy “you deserve a break today” slogan and can clearly recall the transition to “I’m loving it”. You want celebrity endorsements? No lack for those either. Interesting fact, Samuel L. Jackson was in their 1972 commercials.
So, if not an article about the marketing genius behind the brand or the ubiquity of the golden arches, then what? Here’s a brief story:
I sat at my desk, quietly eating my lunch with the intention of being done before my colleagues returned. At the end of my meal, I got rid of all signs of the dreaded purchase, throwing the package away outside of the building, when I heard, “Who had McDonalds?” Pretending to be hyper engrossed in my work, I didn’t answer and continued head down until I noticed a colleague at my door. “Did you have McDonalds?” she asked with a wistful gleam in her eye. “Umm, yeah, that was me,” I replied. “Ugh, I’m jealous”, she said inhaling dramatically.
That was the moment. A brand like McDonald’s transcends its logo, cutesy toys and years of history simply by its smell! Perfumes are designed to be recognizable by scent, but fast foods? A colleague told me that she could pick out the smell of Wendy’s fries and I countered her by saying that I doubt she could “visualize the smell”. McDonald’s has a distinct smell. So obvious that some former colleagues called it THE STENCH. They sell burgers, fries and chicken nuggets just like the other fast food chains in the business and while most people have been to more than one “quick service” restaurant there is only ONE with a 100% distinguishable scent to most age groups and particularly for one item.
My mind started to wander and get a little creeped out. Why is the smell so recognizable? They’re just popping stringy frozen potatoes in grease, right? But let’s stay on course. The fact that McDonald’s smell is a part of their brand is something that can’t be duplicated. I’m sure some scientific genius in the depths of McDonald’s University has chemically created this with the thought that you can attempt to go with a different cut of fries, change the look of your nuggets to mirror theirs or even add Southern Sweet Tea to your menu but you can’t make your food as instantly recognizable by scent alone.
Bottom line, every personal brand should have an “easy to identify yet impossible to duplicate” trait. You should want someone to walk in the office, see the work and know that it’s yours—in a positive sense. Your professional output should be as distinct as that fresh out of the fryer, lightly salted super-sized fry. Every great salesperson has a brand and the phenomenal salespeople carefully craft theirs and rework it over time. No, we can’t walk around with a symbol (a la Prince during his angry days) but we can be a standout in many other ways.
A former boss and now mentor was known for being a whirlwind of activity—consistent sound and energy, was the name of the game whenever he was present. If you were dragging that day you could be sure that he wouldn’t be! His physical brand was obvious, he was a BIG guy but his mental impact was even more obvious because he was a BIG guy. His personality matched every bit of his height and if he wasn’t in the office it was noticeable. Many people said that it wasn’t the right match for him, that he was too pie in the sky for this company.
In hindsight, what I realized was that the environment didn’t weather change well but change was their only consistency. More of a CEO than a straight CSO, he was a thinker and the environment struggled with the vision to sustain him. Gregarious, outgoing, and known for his larger than life stories, it was interesting that the employees LOVED him while other “leaders” felt threatened by him. The soldiers, who needed to be in the trenches every day getting the work done so that the generals could determine the next move for the battles, needed his motivation and missed it tremendously when he was gone. Soon, his “scent”, positive outlook– and his recognizable trademark (all out enthusiasm) wore off and morale dipped lower than ever for an extended period of time.
We all make an impact, negatively or positively. Big or small. As a matter of fact when someone says “he didn’t make an impression”, that in itself is an impression! Being unimpressionable may even say more about the kind of person you are than any other description–but that’s a post for another time.
Bottom line we all have a brand trademark. It will reek of negativity or have the powerful allure of positivity. What’s your scent?
(By the way, for those of you who will swear that positivity isn’t a word because the little red squiggles show up: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/positivity)