Great Brands Sweat the Small Stuff

Great brands may think big, but they sweat the small stuff. They know that all the little things they do or fail to do in person shape brand perceptions far more than the big things they claim through mass media. So they design their customer experiences down to last detail, and usually appeal to as many of the five human senses as possible, since they know those experiences are so much more impactful, distinctive, and memorable than any advertising or marketing program they could run.

sweat the small stuff

I chose this poster design because I wanted to point out the importance of a detail like flooring.  The kind of flooring in your store, restaurant, attraction, trade show exhibit, etc. can make a big impression on your customers.  (A colleague of mine, CB Whittemore, used to write a terrific blog called Flooring the Customer on this very topic!)  Steve Jobs obsessed over the flooring in the Apple stores — insisting on replacing the light wood with a gray-blue sandstone imported from a family-owned quarry near Florence, Italy, even though it cost 10 times more than an alternative that a more “reasonable” person would have accepted.

Sweating the small stuff means caring about details like flooring, as well as lighting, wayfinding signs, display materials, uniforms, smells in the bathroom, door handles, carry-out bags, receipts… Everything communicates.  Every touchpoint matters.

The tools I introduce in Chapter 5 of my new book, What Great Brands Do are intended to help you design extraordinary brand experiences.  You can download templates and worksheets for the Brand Touchpoint Wheel and Customer Experience Architecture here.

Speaking of my book, we’re two weeks into the launch and there’s all sorts of great content for you to check out about it:


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  • Griffin J

    Great blog. As a marketing student, the attention to detail you touch on mirrors much of the content in my Retail Marketing class. Really looking forward to hearing you speak at “The Gathering” this week in Banff, Alberta.

    • deniseleeyohn

      thanks so much, griffin! looking forward to meeting you. — denise lee yohn

  • CBWhittemore

    Denise, thanks so much for the mention. Love this topic and the example of flooring. Details are what allow us to differentiate ourselves and to communicate to customers how much we care about them. Not enough companies and people pay attention to them.

    Congratulations on your book, too. I’m deep into it, enjoying every moment of it!


    • deniseleeyohn

      you’re very welcome, cb — thanks for inspiring me!