I met a client at Caribou Coffee last week to review some logo comps. If you’ve never been to one, Caribou is like Starbucks’ rural, woodsy cousin. Anyway, I picked up my coffee and grabbed a couple of napkins to wipe off the table. I did a double take, and grinned:

Brilliant Branding by Caribou Coffee - napkins that encourage you to write a really, really short novel.

“Yet another thing to stay awake for: Write a really, really short novel.” followed by their tag line, “Life is short. Stay awake for it.”

It’s just a napkin. Two-color printed on one side. But the clever message spoke to a core group of coffeehouse-goers: the artists who camp out for hours, sipping coffee while working on their masterpieces. It relates perfectly to their tag line (which I never noticed before picking up this napkin.) It addresses the key pain point of their consumers. They’re tired. How can Caribou help? By serving you coffee, because “Life is short. Stay awake for it.”

A napkin, by definition, is something to be used and discarded. Yet, by printing a simple message, they are encouraging you to use it in another way — as the perfect place to scribble notes and ideas — which means you won’t toss it. And if you did scrawl something brilliant on this fun napkin, you’d create a positive subconscious association with the coffeehouse.

It’s brilliant.

How can you surprise your customers? How can you show that you “get” them? Are you paying attention to the smallest details, even things that are meant to be discarded?

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2 Comments

  1. Deb Pang Davis on October 11, 2010 at 10:42 am

    Details do matter and this is on my list of how I can differentiate myself. I have a running list.

    You know those hang tags on clothing or any other product? I’ve seen some really smart ways to make hang tags promote other products or be multi-use. (i.e. hang tag changes to a luggage tag).

    Thanks for the reminder!

  2. danielle on October 11, 2010 at 12:40 pm

    Man, luggage tags are smart! Great idea Deb!

    I wonder if I have time to make some before my LA trip… another thing to add to MY running list!

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