Eye On The Pie: Branding From an Investors P.O.V.

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

brand pie.

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

big future.

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

believe in.

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