Branding experiences
This past weekend, I traveled to Columbus, Ohio, to attend the Ohio State University versus Penn State football game. I had a fabulous time and picked up some great brand building ideas that can apply to many businesses.

Here’s the recap on my adventure and eight branding building ideas.

1) Southwest Airline’s identity is in transition. Brands change.
The quirky, casual carrier has evolved. Their frequent flyer program still works and is one of the best for rewarding loyalty. My plane ticket was free.

Their once low-cost pricing strategy is just a memory and bags fly free soon may be too. Their uniforms have also evolved. The khaki shorts and t-shirts are in the closet and a more formal garb is being sported, maybe to align better with the more upscale pricing. The seats are getting smaller and the people are getting fatter. Unfortunately, I sat next to someone who needed to buy two seats but they did not. Not sure the same Southwest Airline’s lovable brand will last.

2) Mascots play an important role in a brand’s story.
On Friday night, we went to a hockey game. The local team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, won. Watching a game on a high-definition, mega screen confirms if you’re a well-funded sports offering and you don’t have the latest technology (Listen up Tampa Bay Bucs and Raymond James stadium) you are irrelevant and the experience will suck. However, a low-tech brand asset for a sports team can be a mascot. But the Blue Jackets’ Stinger, I’m still trying to figure out. He’s an odd, bug-like booster with really bad teeth and blood-shot eyes. Rumor has it kids love him. Maybe he’s a sympathy brand and they feel sorry for the guy.
Branded mascots

3) College football brands can teach us all a lot.
The Ohio State Buckeyes have a strong brand. With one hundred plus years of tradition (consistency), winning seasons (performance), and a popular coach (leadership), the OSU fan base (brand ambassadors) is as devoted as many religious followers. Pictured with me below is The Buckeye Guy; a super fan since 1977, has his own website, is an enthusiastic character and dedicated supporter. The OSU brand experience was remarkable, emotionally charged, entertaining and full of on-brand touch points everywhere (thanks Rick and Lori).

Buckeye Guy

I spent Saturday afternoon at the Short North Arts District, an artsy, architectural cool, inspirational retail spot located right before you get to downtown Columbus. A great experience, I saw lots of creative and cool ideas that can apply to many businesses. Here’s what I saw:

4) Being relevant helps brands stand out
Most banks environments are boring and corporate, however, First Community Bank, on High Street, showcases local artists on its walls and feels as artsy and bohemian as its patrons.
Relevant art brands bank as hip

5) Uncommon spaces make great billboards
The Zoom Room provides urban dogs with a dedicated indoor space to train, socialize and shop. They are proud of the fact that they train dog lovers, not the dogs, and use their entrance door as a nice billboard to promote services to up-right walker buyers.
Door signage branding

6) Packaging gives brand legs
Memorable, branded packaging gives small stores and businesses added exposure on the shopping strip and lasts even longer if the bag is reusable. Bink Davies is a fun gift shop with lots of unique finds.
Brqnded packaging

7) Great name and art keep brands top of mind
Ugly Tuna Saloona is a campus hangout with a great name and no website. They use Facebook and Twitter as their message and brand communicators. The outdoor art is awesome and serves as a photo background for patrons to forever remember their experience.
Ugly Tuna - great brand

Public art - great brand

8) Holiday market segmenting adds emotional appeal.
The photo below is in contrast to the posed and poised puggie pups in my blog’s opening comments. Short North turns a hallmark day, like Halloween, into a big event for the whole family and where anyone’s dog, or dogs, becomes a celebrity for the day. End result, happy dogs and proud parents spending lots of money at the shops and loving the experience.
Dog's and brands

Brand on!