Road trip season is upon us, flooding my concentration efforts with memories of Spring times past. Family vacations as a child and now with my own children. Camping trips to the Colorado mountains.

And branding lessons. Because when your job is essentially creative problem solving, are you ever really on vacation?

One particular branding lesson I’d like to talk about is the importance of the bathroom. Before you jump to conclusions, I’m not talking about the tiles arranged into the company logo.

See, branding isn’t just your logo, business name and favorite colors. Branding is the consistent message communicated by every aspect of your business. Including the bathroom.

The idea comes from branding cattle. Yes, your cattle may have the Circle MWI symbol on its hide, but your ownership means more than a one time impression.

When you own cows, you treat them a particular way. You have a specific diet, medications, grazing strategies, income and output, types of cows, etc. And when you sell a cow at market, your logo stands for the entirety of the cow. Your customer knows what they’re getting.

Branding your business includes not only your logo, but everything your logo represents. That’s why, when Midwestern Interactive sits down with our client, we want to know your business inside and out, and make sure everything we do falls in line with your brand.

So what was it that made me realize the importance of the bathroom in branding? On a roadtrip past, a friend of mine insisted we stop at the same chain gas station every time we had to make a pit stop.

What brought him in wasn’t the name brand donuts, selection of bottled coffees or inexpensive sunglasses. It was the bathrooms. He knows no matter which store he stops at the bathrooms are always clean.

And since he’s stopped anyway, it’s a great time to get gas and pick up snacks. Cha. Ching.

But of course roadside pit stop chains focus on their bathrooms! That’s obvious!

So let’s talk about your business. No. Let’s talk about your customers. Because your customers are your business.

And by customers, I mean anyone you’re trying to sell the idea of your business. Those who buy your products and services as well as suppliers who like the business they do with you, the public whose opinions affect local commerce issues, and even your employees whose productivity is motivated by your company culture (aka internal branding).

People from each of these groups, at one time or another, will need use your bathroom. And a customer in need is a customer indeed.

Consider the following ways a bathroom can reinforce the company brand for a number of types of businesses:

A chiropractor or counselor’s office whose bathroom is private and homey. Comfortable, even.

A big box chain who has private family bathrooms for the thirty-something-mother-of-small-children with purchasing power. Convenience. Safety. Take your time.

The family-night restaurant targeting a new generation of involved dads by installing changing stations in the men’s bathrooms. Quality family time.

The corporate headquarters stocks stocking their bathrooms with higher end soap and toilet paper, giving the white collar employees of a dirty industrial company the feeling of prestige and importance.

Or to reinforce inadequate branding, one ply toilet paper communicates cheapness, cutting corners, and devaluing the employee or customer.

So what does this have to do with software and web development?

Midwestern Interactive makes great sites and powerful software, but it’s more than just a dog and pony show. We ensure a company’s brand communicates consistently throughout the entire user experience.

You can make your website pretty, but there are back end pun intended… that are just as important.

Navigation on your site must anticipate your customer’s needs. Communication must be convenient and effective. Your intranet must be perfectly customized for your employees’ individual needs.

So next time you go to see a man about a cow, give attention to your customers’ and employees’ minutest experiences.

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