David Kessler

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Brand eXperience.

X. Where Experience Meets Design is Brian Solis’s new book, one I suspect will be a big seller. Why? Because product and brand experience are critical customer care-abouts. Another reason? Advertising and marketing agencies can bill for it; it’s a business. Brand experience was a smart business the first time I ran into it at Megan Kent and David Kessler’s Starfish Brand Design. They were, and are, big fans of what Mr. Solis is now branding X.

Dare I say brand experience will become the pop marketing term of the 20 teens? Maybe not a whirlwind term such as “transparency” or “authenticity,” but it’ll be a thing. Bet on it.

That said, anyone can talk experience. Anyone can even build an experience. But for it to be meaningful and make deposits in the brand bank, it cannot be random. A brand experience needs to be on brand strategy – defined as an “organizing principle containing a claim and three support planks.”

Experience in brick and mortar and online are manageable, but certainly not easy. Without a brand strategy it will not only be messy — it may be counterproductive. Let’s see where Mr. Solis takes us. Off to order the book.


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Last year, I did some consulting for a really smart athletic wear company. The CEO grew up in a niche, understood the market opening and built a company to fill that opening. Focus is a critical component of marketing and this CEO had it. Brand planners and brand experience consultants are always on the lookout for focus.  

Marketers sometimes fall into a trap to expand that focus beyond what they know (and love) which can be the beginning of the end.  Line extensions – endemic line extensions, that is – are okay, but things like sales growth numbers and market growth data can intoxicate a leader.

During this consulting gig the company owner brought me in to help create an “insanely great” retail shopping experience.  Since the owner already had the focus down, this “ask” was a brilliant next step. As brand experts Megan Kent and David Kessler would tell you, building a strong brand is not about just about the creative, it’s about the total experience.  And that’s execution.  That’s deeds not messages.  

One is most likely to build an insanely great retail brand experience if s/he follows the brand idea. Go generic, e.g., customer care above and beyond, and you have no muscle memory.  Or you are compared to Nordstrom.

Of course, production and pricing must also come in to play but they, too, are decisions informed by the brand plan.  Peace.

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I went to a workshop yesterday hosted by Starfish Brand Design in NYC.  It not only reenergized me, it reminded me there are still some really smart people in the branding business.  Starfish preaches that a powerful branding idea is, indeed, indelible but they don’t just preach theory, they make it happen.  Unlike some brand consulting companies, Starfish doesn’t stop at the paper strategy — or after the logo, mission statement, and style manual have been delivered.  They don’t rest until clients “get” the branding idea and as a company “live” the branding idea.


Starfish goes into overdrive when it comes to helping brands manifest, operationalize and broadcast their unique selling proposition. That’s their point of difference. (My peo-ple!)


Megan Kent and David Kessler, along with the other Starfish tentacles, have a genetic predisposition toward understanding selling culture. They know which parts of the brain light up during the different steps to a sale and apply that learning to help companies sell more stuff. They’ve got the tools and know the tricks. Glad to have been invited to the workshop. Peace!




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