Take the time to get it right – you’ll be glad you did

OK, it’s time for a tea break. You’ve been working way too hard, so kick back, put your feet up and let’s have some green tea. But which one? Well today, I have two for you to choose from. Here’s number 1: And here’s number 2: Quick! Don’t think about it. Don’t rationalise. Just make a split-second decision. 1 or 2? If you’re anything like me (and if so, you have my condolences) you’ll instantly plump for number 2. Why? Because it’s jaunty, slightly irregular, and looks less corporate. It’s got a left-of-centre, independent-thinker, doesn’t-follow-the-crowd feel about it. And yet it’s the very same tea: Clipper Green Tea with Lemon. It recently underwent a makeover and now looks more funky, fun and friendly. Note, by the way, that v2 has lost the Fairtrade logo from the front of the box (it’s tucked away elsewhere). Why? Well probably because it wasn’t so important to green tea drinkers. And how did the Clipper people know that? Simple. They asked their customers (revolutionary, I know). They cheekily slipped this card into the old boxes, and enticed people with a bagful of goodies: And they got their answer.

The shock of the new

Shopping online or off is a confusing experience. We look for signs – indicators that tell us what to think, what to do, how to behave. We look for patterns, because they make us feel safe. We look for the familiar. Take books. Now we all know we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but we all do – whether we like it or not. Let’s do another test. It’s time for some 19th century bodice-ripping. Which of these two books would you rather read? This one: Or this one: The first is sure to be heavy going: long sentences, archaic language and  detailed intrigue. And the second? Well that’s a bit…Bridget Jones-like, isn’t it? A bit chick-lit, girl-about-town, we-all-know-what-she-really-wants. And of course, it’s exactly the same novel, word for word.

Up close and personal

Let’s take a big company. A big, serious, behemoth of an organisation, with branches all over the world. Unilever: it’s an umbrella company for brands that touch the lives of people across the globe. It could – like so many other parent companies – have a bland, dowdy, corporate feel. But it doesn’t. Just check out their brands page. The whole site has a light and airy feel, with splashes of colour and playful graphics. And everywhere, but everywhere, people are smiling. Who would have thought that washing up was so much fun? Or doing the laundry? Or brushing your teeth? What’s your first impression? And how does it compare with Dupont? Not as favourably, does it? Granted, Dupont’s product range isn’t as consumer-oriented as Unilever (don’t you just love the promise on their home page: Spend less time on insect control…) but they could still make it more attractive.

First things first

When your first impression could be your only one, it’s worth making the effort. Think of somebody you don’t particularly like. Chances are you didn’t like them on sight. Why? Often, it’s not easy to explain. Maybe they dressed down, or up, or in an old-fashioned way. Perhaps they looked you up and down or scored points at your expense. They may have said something – or forgotten to say something. And that was it – you formed a first impression. However hard you’ve tried, you can’t shake it off. Well, it’s the very same with your company, your brand, your products, your service. It’s what happens with everything you do, say, write, present, include and exclude. You create an impression. And that can take just a split second. When somebody reads your home page, opens your brochure, talks to you on the phone, hears about you from a friend or sees your AdWord, what’s the first thing they think? First impressions count – because first impressions last. It could be your one and only chance to gain somebody’s attention and trust. Make sure you don’t waste it.