Cookie cutters have earned a bad name outside of the kids-and-moms crowd. They symbolize sameness and a lack of creativity.
In brand management parlance, however, delivering a cookie cutter experience is a positive. It represents a promise made and a promise fulfilled, time after time. The best cookie cutter experiences can be found at your local Apple store, Starbucks or Target. Each have created a repeatable experience through purposeful choices, training and execution.
The problem comes when organizations use someone else’s cookie cutter.
In my past agency experience, and again now that I’m in the job market, I find that many organizations demand experience in their particular industry as a prerequisite to contracting an agency or hiring an employee. They believe there is secret knowledge that can be gained only by working in that industry for years and years. The decision makers at these organizations put very little value in the ability to ask the right questions; to discern different, inviting and relevant brand characteristics and to create and implement an integrated, strategic plan that really connects the organization to its biggest fans to create profitable, long-term relationships.
In other words, they are more interested in somebody else’s cookie cutter. They believe the best ideas for their brand come from a competitor’s brand. It’s easier to borrow something from another brand, to apply another’s brand standards or creative thinking…it’s just not a good idea. It’s not productive or authentic.
Paul English, co-founder of Kayak.com understands this truth. He recruits programmers who don’t have travel experience because he wants fresh ideas, not bad habits.
Blogger Joy Johnston asks “what new ideas are you eliminating by excluding someone who can bring a different perspective to the table?
Andy Komak even reminds us of the conflict of interest issues that “industry experience” can create, particularly in the agency side of the equation in his blog post about SEO expertise and industry experience.
Brand happens as your customers, vendors, employees experience your organization. The brand is formed in their minds based on the unique, purposeful and repeated exposure to what makes your company unique and relevant to their needs. That means the best ideas for one company are not going to be found in the competitor’s experience, but from your own brand.
So go ahead, look for an agency or an employee who can create you own cookie cutter. Build a tasty, one-of-a-kind experience, and deliver it consistently over time. When you get it right, your customer will come to expect that experience, they will seek it out and they will pay more for that promise!
Flickr photo by CreativeTools.