A Timeless Brand

277px-Pan_Am_Logo_svgWhile vacationing on Maui in April I bought my son a vintage Pan Am ball cap that became a conversation starter over the following weeks. For those of you not familiar with Pan Am or if you have tucked a childhood memory in a corner, let’s just say that it was the embodiment of travel for the better part of sixty years and a cultural icon of the 20th century. The blue globe logo as its mark, identifying each aircraft with the word “clipper” in the name, distinct uniforms that mirrored the style of the time, and the “Worldport”, an architectural tour de force, for its flagship terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport, contributed to its iconic appeal as a timeless brand.

This tattered hat started a conversation with a retired flight attendant, who gently steered me away from that term, and recounted her last flight as a lead stewardess. It brought about a lengthy chat with a retired captain about flying the 747-SP to Japan. Lastly, there were the shared experiences traded between some of the older surfers and sun worshippers parked next to us on the beach or by the pool.

Was it all good? I venture to say no. But the customer experience Pan Am managed to deliver at its height in the 60’s and early 70’s is forever engrained in the psyche of the travelers. A mental snapshot of a by gone era that was innocent and sophisticated at the same time.

TWA brings about some of the nostalgia of Pan Am; however, I think that it was a legacy of the will power Howard Hughes brought to bear that keeps it in the running. He was not trying to out Pan Am with TWA. He just thought that he could do it better.

If you are still reading this post, here is the fun part. What happens when you try to out Pan Am with your own airline? You get Braniff International.

I am not going to go into Braniff’s history…you have Wikipedia for that. Let’s just say that entering the 60’s Braniff was a bit boring and the executives wanted to shake things up. And they did that by hiring Jack Tinker and Partners, with Mary Wells as the account lead (if you’ve watched Mad Men you can figure out who is based on her).

Mary and team differentiate the brand by hiring architect Alexander Girard, designer Emilio Pucci, and shoe designer Beth Levine to launch the “End of the Plain Plane” campaign.

The livery was now a single color on each plane, selected from a palette of bright colors. The fleet eventually used over 15 color with 57 variations of Herman Miller fabrics. The schema was applied to aircraft interiors, lounges, and ticket offices. Girard also designed furniture for Braniff’s ticket offices and customer lounges. Beth Levine developed plastic boots and designed two-tone calfskin boots and shoes and Emilio Pucci designed the Pucci Pant Dress uniforms.

Did it work? No it did not work as a timeless brand unless you are a marketing nerd and fan of fashion.
Even though it did not resonate past the 60’s and early 70’s, the effort that Mary Wells and her team put into differentiating the Braniff brand is legendary. But sometimes it is those who define the market early that set the tone by diligently managing every detail that their brand represents.
What brands that are no longer here resonate with you?

A final note; I was at JFK in 2013 watching the old Worldport being demolished to make way for a brand new terminal for Delta. What a shame. That terminal was unique and timeless.

Hawaii Social

Kaanapali Maui Honua Kai Resort
Kaanapali Maui Honua Kai Resort (Photo credit: Dave Dugdale)

I was sitting on a beautiful lanai in the breeze of the cooling afternoon trade wind, at the Honua Kai resort just two weeks ago, jotting down notes for this long overdue post. I was thinking about how well the businesses and people in Hawaii have tuned in to social media. This should not surprise me, especially knowing how Hawaii quickly took to SMS and had one of the highest engagement levels with text-based programs like American Idol when I worked in the mobile industry.

Over the last three years, in our trips to Hawaii, I’ve seen the digital footprints of resorts, small local brands, and local shops grow. They are not just using Twitter, Foursquare, and Facebook to broadcast out, but are also using the social web to make a connection with the customer on a personal level.  While on our family vacation, I had the opportunity to have a “talk story” session with Jill Mayo (@JillzBeanz)  who not only drives Social Marketing for several local brands and resort, but is also a hub of IRL—in real life—connections.

Although to Jill the adoption seems slow, to me it seems faster than the mainland. Small businesses are making effective use of Foursquare to drive offers and highlight events. Twitter is used to connect with customer on a hyper-local level to raise awareness around services and goings-on with the brand or resort property. The Honua Kai, for example, leverages their @HonuaKai handle to broadly converse about the resort and share information, and they manage a concierge only handle (@HKConcierge) to raise awareness around concierge services, share local events, and connect with guests one-on-one. This is quite a nifty idea and I wish others would adopt this hyper-local approach. Honua Kai’s marketing manager, Darren McDaniel, is doing a great job curating not only “traditional” kinds of hotel-related content but is also curating the stories of guests, and connecting the online experience with real life.

Jill believes that local brands in Hawaii are still experimenting and there is room for greater engagement. I fully agree. But I am also excited by the spirit of experimentation and not having pre-set ideas about how Social Marketing can drive loyalty. After all, the best sales person is the one that is not working for you; she is the advocate—the one whom others trust to give them the unadulterated skinny.

I like what Jill had to say about taking the brand breaking the fourth wall to connect in the real world and drive unique experiences that foster loyalty and advocacy. Perhaps it’s the fact that in Hawaii the spirit of ohana (family, in an extended sense of the term) allows the opportunity to take a simple 140 character message and make a connection on a human level.

Wouldn’t be cool if we could all get together next year for a Social Marketing conference on Maui? Let me or @JillzBeanz know.

Full disclosure: my wife and I stay at the Honua Kai and actively compete on becoming the mayor on Foursquare the moment we land.

Some interesting handles to follow in no particular order:

Aloha and Maui No Ka Oi

What does all this have to do with Surfing?

Teahupoo, Papeete, Tahiti
Teahupoo, Papeete, Tahiti (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Looking back on 2012, I was remembering what excited me about it and realized that I kept getting stuck on being stoked. To those that don’t know the meaning of the word “stoked”, it is simply to be intensely enthusiastic, engaged, and exhilarated about something. In my small circle of Northwest surfer friends, this feeling is the essence of being alive.

What does all this have to do with marketing, technology, or business? If you are not stoked about what you are doing then you need to make a change. Plus, it gives me the opportunity test out some surfing lingo:

Here’s what I was stoked about in 2012, and will be glad to do in 2013:

  • Catch every wave:  You can just paddle out there and wait for the perfect wave. But my recommendation is that you paddle hard and ride as many as you can. I did that in 2012 and will continue to do it in 2013. From a business perspective this means looking at every opportunity not for what they are at that moment, but for the promise of them evolving into something amazing.
  • Ride to shore: You can always kick over, but I like riding to shore, seeing my family, and paddling back with the full panorama of the ocean in front of me.  In other words, keep sight of what is most important to you and see the big picture.
  • Duck dive: Sometimes you need to go through waves rather than paddling over them. Duck diving is the way that surfers dive under an oncoming wave as they paddle out. This tactic allows you to maintain the progress made by paddling out by not being washed backwards by the wave. Same thing applies to business. Sometimes you have to go through obstacles rather than going around them in order to maintain your trajectory.
  • Paddle out: This is just something you have to do not just in surfing, but in life as well. Don’t stay on the sideline, jump in, take a risk, and enjoy the ride.

Yes, I know it is late January, but I genuinely thought about what I need to do. What are you going to do? Surf, or stay on the beach?