March 01, 2016

When A Brand Surprises People

My cube at Lands' End was in a great spot - building five, up against the atrium, sun pouring in from the glass rooftop. It got so bright at my cube that I put tagboard up to block the midday sun ... allowing me to see my mainframe dummy terminal (black background, green text).

The tagboard drew attention. It looked like garbage. The two men running the company, founder Gary Comer & Dick Anderson, would stop by and ask my why I had a piece of junk blocking my cube? I would ask them sit in my seat, and try to read my monitor without the tagboard. 

They let me keep the tagboard.

So when Mr. Comer brought a prospective Congressman into Building 5 in the summer of 1992, I participated in a quick drive-by. "Kevin, I'm not telling you how to vote, I just thought you'd like to meet the future Congressman from our district."

Of course I was being told how to vote.

But Mr. Comer also thought it was important to give employees Christmas Eve off, even though he held different religious beliefs. He also paid half of our annual bonus prior to Christmas, knowing how important that was for many of his employees, even though the fiscal year ended in late January and the annual numbers that determined bonuses were not final yet.

When you see a consistent mix of blue and red, it all blends together, and is purple. Customers are tolerant of a consistent mix of blue and red.

When we see a consistent purple, it's surprising to suddenly see blue or red. The consequence is abrupt customer behavior. It's kind of like when JCP reinvented itself into a 30% comp store sales drop. Purple turned into something else.