Brands That Sneak Up On You: Plumgood Food
When PlumGood Food opened its grocery operation in downtown Nashville in late 2004, I read about it in the news. The plan seemed overly ambitious, but I had high hopes for them. It was almost like rooting for the underdog, what with all the failed grocery delivery businesses we've heard about in the years since the dot-com bust. I honestly wasn't sure how long Plumgood could survive.
What I was sure about was that I wouldn't be joining their customer ranks, ever. I like to shop for store brand items, often buying whatever happens to be on sale. I'm choosy with produce. I take my time wandering up and down the store aisles. I couldn't bear the thought of paying someone to shop for me and bring groceries to my doorstep--it seemed indulgent and unnecessary.
In the meantime, Plumgood rolled into town and quietly built a presence: neat purple trucks spotted about town, clever ads in the weeklies, the occasional billboard. They also had a website so beautifully designed and consistent that I showed it to the students in my Web Usability class.
I was highly aware of Plumgood in all its organic brand-coolness, but I was not giving in. Not for me.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, my husband was diagnosed with a food allergy that prompted us to trash half the items in our pantry. While it's been fascinating to learn about the origins and composition of different foods, and discovering how many different kinds of flour one can mill at home (who knew?), eating has become downright complicated. We're on a special diet, whether we like it or not.
Suddenly the appeal of Plumgood grows by leaps and bounds. Not only do they carry a lot of items that are safe for us to eat, but their website makes it easy to check ingredient labels online. I place my first order, the process is delightfully smooth, and they come through with outstanding service. They even let me send a e-coupon to friends who haven't purchased before, so I can share my experience. Better than good. All the pieces fall into place, and I become their latest and greatest fan.
When did this happen? I'm convinced that this fandom of mine was built over many months of exposure to the message. When it finally came time for me to interact with the brand, the seeds had been sown. The company not only fed and met my expectations but easily exceeded them.
All this to say: you must think of your customer relationship as something that is born and cultivated well before you know her name, long before she steps up to shake your hand. Immerse your potential buyers in a clear, consistent brand message, and be prepared to surpass their expectations. You never know just when they'll coming knocking on your door.