One of the most important lessons I ever learned about brand loyalty I owe entirely to the 80s. But before we time warp back to a decade when Popples, Giggles and school photos with laser-light backgrounds reigned supreme, let’s first journey back a mere 12 hours.
Think back to last night. That whole comfy pants, lounging around unwinding from a long day, channeling surfing while surfing the web all at the same time (don’t deny...) scene. Do you remember any of the commercials you saw on television? Did any of them inspire you to care about a brand? Even if you can name a couple of the brands featured in the commercials, will you remember or care about them in a decade or two?
That wasn’t even twelve hours ago, but I’m willing to bet I can take you back 20-some years with the help of one video (and a brand) you’ve never forgotten.
But first, let me set the scene. Allow your mind wander back to the days when t-shirt clips, bubble necklaces, jelly shoes and Reebok pumps meant you were fashionable. A time when every kid wanted “Pillow People” on their bed, New Kids on the Block in their boombox, a Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper in their desk - and we all envied the kid with the Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine.
Like most kids of my generation, my first inklings of brand loyalty were born in my living room.
It all began sitting on the floor in front of an episode of Mister Rogers. I was never one to just sit and watch TV, it was mostly just filler background noise while I did something more important - like drawing. So there I was, dipping my hand in and out of a plastic bucket full of colorful wax nubs in varying sizes (with the exception of white, which was mostly intact, because, let’s be honest, it was the most useless crayon ever invented - except during Halloween, aka: “black construction paper season.”) Life was good - and it was about to get even better.
Though there seems to be a bit of debate amongst Gen-X and Gen-Yers about exactly who took us there first (Was it Sesame Street? Mister Rogers?), you’d be hard-pressed to find one of us who doesn’t clearly recall the magical moment we were transported from the Crayola box to the Crayola factory.
A quick mining of the YouTube comments reveals that I am certainly not alone in this sentiment…
“This video is the reason I love crayons so much.” “I wanted to live in that factory when I was a kid.” “This is one of those Sesame Street moments that people dont forget.” “Entire generations nowadays don't know what this is actually about. And that's terrible.” “Amazing product placement for Crayola - turning an entire generation of 80s babies into Crayola loyalists!! “I used to look into my crayon after seeing this vid hoping it would magically show me how mine were made.”
Sure, there are some who might contest it was nothing more than one of the craftiest product placements to ever capture the minds, hearts and loyalties of young audiences. I, on the other hand, believe Crayola simply opened the kimono (and their doors) to welcome an entire generation of children to not only use their product, but also become part of the magic.
20-some years later, I still find myself drawn to brands that offer a glimpse behind-the-scenes. A few of my favorites...
Stonyfield Farms: Once upon a time, I didn’t know (or particularly care) where my yogurt came from. It was just something to get me through breakfast. Then along came Stonyfield Farms. A couple clicks into the series of videos featuring family farmers who provide milk for Stonyfield products, and suddenly I'm a yogurt passionista. I now not only know where my yogurt comes from, I know who it comes from. I know its story from farm to fridge. I have a vested interest in the success of their farmers, and every time I find myself standing in the dairy aisle reaching for Stonyfield, I feel like I’m making an investment in those families and their story – one spoonful at a time.
Jeni’s Ice Cream: As a former Columbus, Ohio resident, I’m certainly not impartial when it comes to ice cream. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams (pardon the pun) takes the cake. And while the product itself is – as the name suggests – truly splendid, it was their honest, transparent, passionate approach that stole my heart.Â Jeni’s blog provides a glimpse behind the scenes of this Columbus staple, welcoming Jeni’s fans to the table to experience the food, friends and farms that come together to make Jeni’s so gosh darn splendid.
Burts Bees: I love just about everything about Burt’s Bees. Their products, their philosophy , their philanthropic spirit. As a result, I have a bit of a brand crush (my bathroom cabinet can testify.) I was particularly delighted to discover that they’re now featuring employee spotlights on YouTube. The videos offer a glimpse at into the lives, jobs and passions of people at all levels in the BB hive, giving fans a chance to meet the people who make the products – and company – exceptional.
Crayons taking shape in Pennsylvania. Lip balm from North Carolina. Ice Cream from Columbus. Yogurt from family farms around the country. What do they all really have in common? Â They don’t just push their product, service or message into the world of their fans, they open the door and welcome their fans into their world.
We can all learn something here. And the lesson is very simple.
It's time to open the kimono. That begins by opening your door and inviting people in. It's time to turn your brand's fans into family.
Which brands would you add to the list? Who has opened their doors, invited you to experience how they do what they do, shared their magic, introduced you to their people or made you feel like family?