Imagine I’m having a massage at the new place in town, the one with the cool logo. A girl in a sharp uniform shows me to a relaxing smelling room and smiles while she gives me instructions. I’m looking forward to this.

Just as she starts the massage I get tense. It’s not because of her technique, it’s what I can see in the corner. Dust. Just sitting there. Looking back at me.

They didn’t see the dust? Or did they see the dust and not care?  My eyes start to scan the room – I wonder what else they didn’t care about? How clean is the sheet touching me? How clean is the person touching me? Are they qualified?

I no longer trust this place.

When most people think about branding, they think about a logo – the graphic representation of who they are and what they stand for. As a graphic designer you’ll never hear me say that logos aren’t important – I think they are, but as part of your brand they are just that – a part of your brand.

For me a brand is made of small things. Clever little things that make me smile, make me feel understood – small touches that connect people. Your brand isn’t just your logo – it’s all the small things added together. And yes, it’s the dust in the corner.

You can have a brand new beautiful shiny logo that wins design awards and treat your customers badly. You can have a wonderful marketing campaign and not reply to emails. Every business – from the individual making a living from their kitchen table to the huge global players – gets a chance to get the little things right.

The little things – the way you answer your phone, sign off your emails, or inform me of problems – become your brand. They all make up my opinion of your business, and my opinion (together with the opinions of everyone else) creates success or failure for most businesses.

The clothes tags at Parish Ink reinforce their brand and make me smile.
The clothes tags at Parish Ink reinforce their brand and make me smile.

Your brand makes me trust it:

When your label makes me smile because you’ve thought of that little extra thing to write on it.

When the open and closed sign isn’t generic.

When I get an extra surprise I wasn’t expecting.

When your business card shows me your personality (and what you do).

When you answer your phone like I’m the most important person to call today.

When your packaging is as exquisite as your product.

When I get that you understand my customer experience.

When you have thought of the little clever things then I get to relax. I trust you.

When you call me the moment you know there is a delay / error / problem (rather than waiting for me to find out).

When your 404 page makes me laugh, and not feel frustrated.


And I start to worry:

When there are obvious grammatical errors.

When you leave Christmas decorations up all January (or beyond).

When I see you ignoring another customer.

When I can hear your staff gossip and grumble while I sit in your lobby.

When you have a dead plant.

When you haven’t dusted your fake plants (although I’m not sure fake plants have a place in any business).

When you mumble when you answer the phone because I’m just another interruption in your day.

When your phone number or email address is crossed out on your business card.

The handmade open / closed sign at Saint Cupcake in Portland shows the personality of the store.


These little things don’t take cost much money or even time or effort, but they do require you to care about your customers. Give some thought to their experience – what they think of your business is your brand.

Your 15-minute brand makeover

1. Take 15 minutes and experience what your customers experience.  For example:

Sit in your lobby,

Lie down on your massage table,

Send your helpline an email,

Go through the same process as your customers, see where you are missing the chance to make them smile or show you care.

2. Notice what you feel. it will give you an insight into the little things.

3. Change something. Make it better.

4. Repeat often, noticing the customer feedback (you are aiming for delight)

Repeat this exercise anytime you have a spare 15 minutes. There may not be a better way to spend your time than trying to always improve the customer experience.

todd's car wash hangers
Todd’s Car Wash provide Thank you hangers with candy for each car as they leave clean and shiny.

I’d love to know:

What little things have made you love a brand?

Have you ever been surprised by how much difference a small change has made to your business?

How do you delight your clients?