The first store I can recall going to is Mikie’s Corner Store. Mikie was my first brand ambassador and I was four years old. His place offered me everything I could imagine and a whole lot more than I could afford. When I was seven, we moved from Parkdale to High Park and I got to know Pete’s Sunny Bar. Pete’s store was right across from Annette public school and he held me and four other generations of students captive until he died a few years ago. Now his daughter does the same. In high school, there was Mr. Yonka’s Variety Store. I bought my first pack of cigarettes there. Summer jobs and University took me downtown to a whole new world called Yonge Street.
What Yonge Street looked like in the '70s
...and what it looks like now
All those people, lights, sights and sounds drew me away from the corner stores I had grown up with and exposed me to a whole new world of products and services – most of which I had never imagined. My old ‘brand loyalties’ were severed as I explored the shops and bars of Yonge Street by night and worked or attended school a few streets over by day. I was 16.
As a little boy my loyalty was to a Mikie’s Corner Store and the brand my parents told me I could trust.
- Psychology played a big part in my shopping destination and purchase decision. As a teenager I sought out stores that allowed me to experiment with new people, products and services that my parents did NOT approve of. Discretion became an important purchase variable.
- Psychology played a big part in my shopping destination and purchase decisions. As a young (and then mature) advertising professional, I remained on Yonge Street another 20 years working for agencies like Foster, MacLaren, Baker Lovick and Ogilvy & Mather. The street changed, my needs changed. Now I knew what I wanted, when I wanted it and how I wanted it. I found a handful of stores that served me well and they still have my business today.
- Psychology still plays a big part in my shopping destination and purchase decisions. The world wide web works the very same way. On any given day there are some people who are using the web for the first time, and some who are closing their web browser for the last time.
We need to think of the online experience as an extension of the off-line experience – and vice versa – because cognitive dissonance comes into play when you offer customers on and offline experiences that are not congruent.
Whether you’re building your online brand or offline brand presence, get to know all of your customers: the young and the old, the new and the regular, to ensure that you understand what they are buying and how they are using what they buy. Their product and service utility insights will help you ensure that your brand is mentally ‘visible’: that I can find it, stay with it for life, or come home to it after I’ve gone through my exploration phase.
Aspirin™ is the first brand my mother introduced me to and is still my friend. I use it the same way she does. Duct tape is different. A few years ago my son made me a gorgeous silver duct tape kilt. He changed how I look at that product, where and how I now position it. The two safest places for a brand are in the user’s heart and mind. Streets and web addresses change, but, like any good friend, you’ll track down those you care for the most.