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The Marketing Retrofit Company For Manufacturers

Years ago – a decade, in fact – Kevin Kline starred in a movie called LIFE AS A HOUSE. It was about an estranged family, splintered from divorce and dreams unrealized. In the movie, a house renovation ends up bringing that same family together in unexpected ways.

The house becomes a symbol: the heart of the family. This inanimate object (in the magic of movies) was able to reshape each family member’s behavior – helping them feel safe, familiar and ultimately, connected to each other again. Yes, its cry-worthy:

I thought about that on Thursday night as I was driving up north through central California. Some stretches of highway seem so isolated in the dark – just flat with lots of cow smells. Color comes by way of freeway signs for restaurants, motels and gas stations. Even if you’re not getting off on that exit, you are inevitably a little excited to see those signs coming up on the right.

The colors, the brands that you know; the “food” you want to eat; the places you would stay at; and the gas that you put in your vehicle. I’m an ARCO girl. Why? Because I like no-frills. I’m a get-in-get-the-gas-and-get-out kind of person. Besides, the way gas prices keep climbing, ARCO usually has the cheapest gas.

On a particularly lonely stretch of the 5 freeway, I noticed I was getting low on gas. “Low” for me, is anything below half a tank. Especially on that road. Sometimes its so deserted, you wonder if you’ll ever come across a town again? It was dark – black as coal – and a little windy to boot.

I started enabling my inner fatalist, wondering, “What if I get stuck out here? Who would pull over to help me besides a serial killer? Remember DUEL in 1971 with Dennis Weaver?

Suddenly, there was my lifesaver: THE ARCO STATION. I knew I’d see the familiar Blue and Red, be able to get my gas without a TV commercial talking to me at the pump, and not pay an arm and a leg – because EVERYONE KNOWS that extra 7 cents a gallon will JUST PUSH YOU OVER THE EDGE!

So, I pulled off into a town-I’ve-never-heard-of, and was embraced by the friendly, low prices of the blue and red. My fears were assuaged, as I was no longer in danger of being chased by a psychotic truck driver in my non-existent Plymouth Valiant.

When I drove away with confidence and a full tank of gas, I thought about how relieved I was that ARCO was there. In the sea of darkness of a lonely California highway, I found a familiar brand – just like the one around the corner from my house. Indeed, they DID have the cheapest gas from miles around. Most importantly, I was in and out quickly (so the highway serial killers and psychotic truck drivers couldn’t catch me). Am I a brand evangelist for ARCO? You bet your sweet bippee!

I started to think of all my favorite brands what they make me feel like.
Here’s a short list:

Apple – Cool. The coolest “what’s next”.

Starbucks – Thirsty. Really good brewed iced tea.

Target – Relaxed. Everything I need.

Crate & Barrel – Intrigued. Beautifully designed things.

How does your brand make your customers feel?
Is your brand their lifesaver?
If it isn’t, would you like it to be?


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