When building a business as a brand it’s important to avoid
a myopic view and consider another important aspect of the
business game as well– investing. After any amount of toil
and hard work to create a valuable product, service or
company the big game is when you go public– when
money-minded people want more, they want a piece of your
For many entrepreneurs who are just starting out or are
flying solo for any amount of years, it’s often inconceivable
that anyone would want a piece of their business in the
future when they are struggling to grow now. For those who
find themselves in this implausible thought or for those who
believe in the ‘brass ring’ of going public there are four
things you should consider now that will enable that kind of
On a recent flight from Los Angeles to Orlando I experienced
a flight of fancy beyond anything I have ever felt before. When
I booked through Delta airlines, I was issued a ticket on a
company I had not heard of before called Song. I thought it
odd but nothing beyond that. That all changed from the
moment I got to the gate.
Waiting for the plane to board, I sensed a light buzz flowing
through people at the gate. They were actually thrilled to be
waiting. I thought that happy gas had been pumped into just
this section because across from us was another group on
another airline waiting to board who were not feeling the
same thing. Then the pre-boarding began.
A male Latin voice came over the intercom and began the
boarding with… a joke– a different experience. He then went
on to announce the boarding procedure with so much joy
that I couldn’t wait to get in line. I wasn’t even in a hurry to get
on the plane. When I got to the door, the woman taking my
ticket greeted me as if I arrived at her home for a party– a
very different experience.
I walked on the plane and heard upbeat music, saw the
colorful comfortable seats, and was greeted by fashionably
dressed flight-attendants by the time I sat down, the first
thing I said to Nanci, a perky brunette from Atlanta, was
“How can I invest in Song?” The plane hadn’t even taken off
When working with entrepreneurs and businesses of all
sizes, I often stress the need to create a brand experience
for the customer from every point of contact. Never was this
point hit home so beautifully… and so fun.
Let’s breakdown my desire to invest in this company just
from just a single contact in four points of connection we
humans can relate to:
One, most airlines are scrambling to cover losses and
willing to slash prices to get people flying again– Delta
included. As they scramble to react, new airlines were
capturing market share with lower price points. With Song,
Delta made the decision to expand rather than dilute Delta’s
existing brand and value proposition. They needed to go in
another direction and create something completely different
to join the battle. Now I wasn’t here too observe this
personally, but it seems to me they responded like a nimble
entrepreneur eyeing a market opportunity, not a giant
digging in. To make big advances, bold steps are needed.
Two, from the very beginning they had me emotionally. From
the moment I was at the gate through when I stepped off the
plane they touched me. I got to choose from a menu of great
food and I got to choose my entertainment– the music
selection was better than a record store. I felt so good I
didn’t even think I was in the air. No emotional detail was
spared. They nailed it big time. It was all planned down to
the detail. I wouldn’t have been surprised if the Captain
came on and introduced Cirque du Soleil (the famed
performers from Canada) would be performing soon. They
had me from… the joke. Create and experience I’ll buy more
than a ticket.
Three, they were able to make this emotional impact on me
because the airline itself came from a deep place of belief.
After the unfortunate events of September 11th, the airline
industry was reeling. Delta employees knew they had to do
something to capture the hearts of flyers or cutbacks and
layoffs were on the horizon. They believed they had to deliver
an exceptional service never before experienced at a price
that the public would pay. No more doing business as
usual, they had to create something that they personally
would want to experience. They took the big business of
flight and made it deeply personal. They were able to get me
emotionally because of their deep belief.
Four, as a smart investor I knew that if Song was able to
keep up this level of experience for their customers in a
dependable fashion that it would indeed become “the airline
of choice” for me. I also knew there are lots of me’s in the
world. At this rate of experience, it would be no time at all
before they expanded their routes and create a powerful
brand presence in the marketplace. A smart investor knows
to follow their own instincts and invest in more than just the
numbers– what they experience as valuable– what they
And all of this was woven together with the CEO’s passion
of music, hence the name. This was by far the best branded
experience I have ever witnessed… no… experienced!
If investors look at businesses from this viewpoint, then
shouldn’t you as a business owner do the same?
Whether you are a small business owner or a new
entrepreneur develop your brand by focusing on
“experience,” doing so will undoubtedly put your business
closer to your customer AND closer to the investment pie.
And you will also enjoy the journey!
Unfortunately, Song is not public… yet. I’m first in line.
Kim A. Castle, Co-founder BrandU(TM), Co-Author of Why
BrandU: Big Business Success No Matter Your Size, and
BrandU(TM) Bible, the only step-by-step workbook for
developing your business as a brand.
© 2004 Castle Montone, Limited Reprinted with Permission