Are you paying attention to the smallest details of your brand?

A few years ago, I met a client at Caribou Coffee to present some logo designs. (If you’ve never been to one, Caribou is like Starbucks’ rural, woodsy cousin.) So 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. Nothing fancy.

But the clever message speaks 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 tagline (which I never noticed before picking up this napkin.) It addresses the key pain point of their consumers: We know you’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, Caribou encourages 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 genius.

How to apply this lesson to your small business

Every single brand touchpoint is an opportunity to show your audience that you understand them and care about them.

We can look to big businesses like Caribou Coffee for inspiration, but don’t feel bad if your branding isn’t as clever or creative as theirs. Big brands hire expensive creative agencies to develop these strategies. It can take months (or  even years) to get the perfect creative campaigns.

For a small business or solopreneur — it’s most important to create alignment across all your brand touchpoints.

First, make it consistent.

Then, look for ways to make it fun and creative.

Pretend to be a prospect — how does it feel to interact with you?

What kind of journey does your prospect take to become a customer? Do they…

  • Fill out a form?
  • Call and leave you a voicemail?
  • Read an ebook and then click through to buy an online course?
  • Do some research on your website to see if you offer what they need?

This experience is a key part of your brand. Do your best to make it seamless and delightful to work with you.

Take some time and step through the process yourself with fresh eyes. Here are some questions to think about:

  • Is the experience consistent and seamless?
  • Are there any spots that feel a little confusing?
  • Do your visuals match?
  • Is the language consistent?

If you’re too close to it and can’t be objective, ask someone you trust to do it for you. Make sure you ask someone who will tell you the truth and not just pat you on the back. Or, you always can pay a stranger to do it.

Not sure where to start? Here are some ideas:

  • Google yourself — What comes up in the search results? Can you optimize the title or meta description?
  • Listen to your voicemail — How’s the tone? Do you sound friendly? …or bored? Do you feel impatient listening to it? Or is it too brusque and short?
  • Review your email signature — Is there something new you could add? Or something unnecessary you can remove?
  • Audit your website — Is it easy and clear how to contact you?
  • Test your checkout process — Make sure it works as expected. Take a close look at thank you pages and confirmation emails.
  • Test your forms — Do they work? Could you change any default language to be a little more friendly?

Key Takeaways

Here are a few questions to consider as you think about how you can apply this strategy to your business:

  • How can you surprise your customers?
  • How can you show that you “get” them?
  • What are some of those “throwaway” touchpoints for your brand? How can you make them fun or surprising?

➡️ If you’re feeling overwhelmed by branding and design, here are the only 3 things you need to uplevel your brand.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article was originally published in August 2010.


  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. 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!

Leave a Comment