The most beloved products are of good quality, consistent, and make the buyer feel excited about their purchase. The most excitement that can be created is usually linked back to a meaningful story, a connection to a community or an organization, or inspiring a sense of purpose and hope.
We all want to trust that once we are in a certain tier of product looking through various brands, we don’t have to worry about quality and consistency. I know that once I have a cluster of companies I trust to make an honest effort at putting out a well-made product, I have more freedom to explore the differentiators that are far more important to me. What are the stories and creative elements (design, naming, identity) that make things unique and special?
The ability to take shared experiences and concepts and weave them tastefully into a product is a critical skill. It's the difference between good and great products. Products that do more than they promise they'll do without even trying. Products that offer experiences in tandem with their stated purpose. Often times this experience comes in the form of capturing and creating nostalgia - telling a story that brings you to a brings you to a different place, often your past, or even makes you feel a connection with something you may have yet to do.
I once had a conversation specifically related to this with a barista at one of my daily stops. Speaking to her in the morning had become a highlight of my routine. We had gotten onto the topic of ice scream flavors as summer was starting to approach, and landed what our favorite flavors of Jeni's were. After exchanging flavor pairings for a bit, she mentioned the only thing about Jeni's that makes her hesitant, is that she feels it's wrong how they package and sell your childhood back to you. I think about this discussion a lot and her point when examining the same "experience" I was having where I never had that thought before.
I now understand her concern. She was worried and frustrated to see another company making millions off something we all had within us. Of pretending to share in something that is so honest and so real for being a normal person. But I don’t agree with her. Not because I think a company like Jeni's is perfect or a mom and pop shop, but because I don’t know enough to judge the intent and authenticity of that company. But I can judge what they have been able to elicit for me and those I share those experiences with. They create physical spaces that go beyond fresh scoops. They create products that go beyond enjoying ice cream. I don’t think about that company without thinking about summer, my friends, and late nights walking around Randolph Street.
It's a better world with products like that. And I hope to get better and better at doing my own due diligence so that I can separate the half-hearted efforts from the smaller more authentic companies that cannot contain their ability to capture and create experiences. In the meantime, products that can make you feel something beyond itself just makes life a little more special.
"Do what's right."
Maine Beer Company does a fantastic job of this. Their labels are elegantly clean and simple. It's an impactful player in the industry that still feels like a family business. And their labels all tell a story of where the name originated. Reading the story on their bottle "Lunch" while enjoying a moment outside, I felt connected to their business and to coastal Maine. I felt connected to the east coast whale they reference in the story. I imagined myself in a different place. I have had none of these experiences. But they crafted it for me. They took me there - and through that moment of quiet reflection I thought more about myself and who I wanted to be and what I hoped to achieve with projects like G+D.
I try to remind myself to judge by intentions first. I think products that impact that nostalgia factor, particularly one's that originated from humble beginnings, really do want to be genuine. I see that in the simple quote that adorns each of MBC's bottles - "Do what's right.". Does anything really sum it all up better than that?
People want connection. They want hope. They want inspiration. They want experiences. It’s a tricky dance of respecting and playing with people's emotions. But being well-intentioned and authentic, if you can help inspire special moments from people's past or create new one's in the moment, that is a worthy cause that I think we all could use a bit more of. Even now as I'm enjoying a doughnut from a local shop around me, I'm thinking about how fantastically well-made it is and about my family. This shop didn’t exist when I was a kid, and we don’t particularly spend much time here. But it feels like it's always been there. And always will be. It helps me remember what is most important to me.
See you tomorrow.
Inspirations: Hospitality Industry, Jeni's, Maine Beer Company
Quote: Maine Beer Company