SANDWICHES ARE INTERFACES…
…and interfaces are brands
The folks over at iA Blog do a great job describing an ex-pat user experience at McDonald’s, more later about why this matters:
"16 columns submenu horizontal, I think, standing at the counter at McDonald’s. I scroll left and right and put a simple cheeseburger in my mental shopping basket. 16 columns, yet so usable. “Cheezubaagaa kudasai” I hear myself say, and glancing at the cashier display and the French fry machine interface, I hold my breath: Wow. Why did I never realize? Being a foreigner in Japan, I decide to go to McDonald’s because at McDonald’s I don’t need to deal with language. I could get much better food in a similar price range if I were ready to think, read Kanji and explain myself. But I’m not, as I’m hungry."
The complete article, though a couple years old is still extremely pertinent for anyone developing user experiences and should be required reading for any service company setting out on a branding project. It also got me thinking about lunch.
I have a favorite deli, “JB’s Place” where I get lunch regularly. I order the same thing every time. Smoked turkey and bacon, with cheddar on Dutch Crunch, hold the onion. The folks who make the sandwiches are cool and the owners work there everyday. The whole experience usually takes about five or ten minutes –from locking up my bike to leaving with my sandwich. They sell the newspaper so there is usually a copy lying around. I’ll read a bit while I’m waiting if it’s busy.
I generally take my sandwich to go, but sometimes I forgo the bag (small, white, paper) they offer me each day. I put the sandwich (wrapped in butcher paper) on a plate, or sometimes I use the bag as a plate. 75% of the time, I take the tomatoes off of the sandwich, or at least, the two biggest slices. I eat at my desk.
For me, the experience just fits. I can count on it being pretty much the same each day and I tend to enjoy the little variations. Sometimes a moment to read the newspaper or an extra slice of tomato is just what I need.
My vision of the JB’s brand is not their logo, or any ad campaign they might do, or their rating on Yelp. It’s the faces I see there, the chit chat, the smells, the sounds, the consistency. From a user experience standpoint, JB’s is just right for me and apparently many others –it’s consistently busy. I keep coming back and I tell my friends about how great JB’s is.
For a small deli, your service and your product is pretty much all you have to offer. Those two forces will make or break your business, regardless of how “cutting edge” your ads are or how sexy your menu looks. Like McDonald’s, JB’s found a need they could meet (hungry people seeking good food made by pleasant people.) They delivered on that need in a way that works for real people, and they do it consistently.
Amazingly, some large businesses completely forget about delivering a consistent product with good service yet they spend small fortunes on ridiculous ads talking about how great they are. “Fly the friendly skies” –are you kidding me? My last flight on American Airlines was like a ride in a beat up old station wagon. The flight was delayed for an hour because the cockpit door wouldn’t close. Then another 20 minutes because they forgot to get oxygen tanks or something? Service staff had only slightly more charm than your average parking meter attendant, but it wasn’t their fault. Their job is to fend off people who dislike the airlines deceptive pricing and undelivered promises. If these organizations put more effort into crafting how their experience feels and acts, rather than how it looks and talks, they might find themselves actually connecting with their customers.