The Coffee Stain Theory and Branding

By April 22, 2014General

Your brand.  That treasured sense of self that your company strives to project and perpetuate every day is as fragile as it is critical to your success.  That’s why one should never discount the details when dealing with anything brand related.

Your brand is far more than your logo, website or tagline.  It’s how you and your employees dress, the condition of your building/offices/grounds, how your phones are answered (or not), the words you use to describe the company, even the quality of paper and printing on your letterhead and business cards.  All these things and many more tangibly effect the impression you make on the market.  So never compromise on what might seem to be a minor thing.

One of my favorite illustrations of this fact is The Coffee Stain Theory:

So you decide to take a trip and go to an airline’s web site.  The site is easy to navigate and you quickly find the flights you want at the time you want for a great price.  You go to the airport, sail through security and encounter courteous staff at the gate. The plane boards efficiently, you get a spot overhead for your carry-on and settle in.  The plane takes off smoothly and on time.  Your impression of this airline is fantastic.

Then you lower your tray table.  Right in the middle is a nasty, dirty coffee ring stain.  Yuck.  Bad enough that you’ve got to get someone to clean this up, but it calls into question the cleanliness of the rest of the plane, and even how well the engines are inspected and maintained!  Your impression of the airline so carefully cultivated to this point is dashed.  By something as seemingly innocuous as a coffee stain.

Over dramatic?  Maybe.  But, maybe not.  The point is that the devil is in the details and you need to treat everything that represents your business with care and respect – lest your customers and prospects begin to wonder how well your engines are maintained.

Author Fred Driver

More posts by Fred Driver

Leave a Reply