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Root Canals and Donuts: A Branding Lesson.

Doug Stucky - Tuesday, November 17, 2015

I know you are probably thinking this has to do with eating donuts and then having to have a root canal. Well, that may be the case, but not what this article is about. This story is about branding and how even something as unpleasant as a root canal can actually have a brand. The rest of the story relates to the donuts and what affect brand experiences have on us.

Like many of you have experienced, I too had to have a root canal about 10 years ago. I remember being somewhat fearful leading up to it not knowing exactly what to expect.

When I got to the Endodontist (big word, meaning expensive specialist of pain, torture and root canals) office I had the usual paper work to fill out. Sign this, update that and so on. Then comes the fun, not the actual procedure but the 15 to 30 minutes you sit there in the waiting room waiting, and thinking and waiting and thinking how bad is the going to be. Minutes feel like hours.

Then you are escorted to room with the big light, as if an interrogation as to why you need a root canal is about to happen. The doctors comes in stuff gauze in your mouth and tries to talk to you. The actual procedure was a mouth numbing experience, but overall not a big deal and certainly not what I had built up in my mind. Thinking back on the anticipation, this must be a daily thing for the their office. People not excited to be there, afraid of what is about to happen, and certainly not looking forward to writing a check for the experience.

Fast forward to a few weeks, and yes, I am again in need of another root canal (insert too many donuts joke here.) I went to the dentist who confirms my suspicion and then suggests several Endodontist specialists and proceeds to tell me that one of them handled my first root canal years ago. Without thinking my response was, “I will call him, I had a good experience with him.” Now, two minutes before that I could not have told you his name, but I remembered leaving there feeling like I had been well taken care of, and somehow was able to the justify the cost as value. The point is that experiences matter.

A good experience is what branding ultimately is about. Products and services that meet or exceed our expectations and create a positive experience that will bring us back. Even for a root canal.

The second part of this point about experiences is that they lead to memories. Obviously, positive experiences lead to good memories and negative experiences lead to bad memories. Often people say they have tried to mentally block out a badexperience. Yet, to know they are consciously trying to do that means they still remember the bad experience. A good experience on the other hand, is desired to not only be remember, but experienced again. Why else do people travel to the same place over and over again, become repeat diners at their favorite restaurant, or go back to the same Endodontist?

In anticipation of not being able to enjoy solid foods after my up coming tooth surgery, I rerouted my plans to make sure I drove past my favorite donut place. I was half way through a chocolate glazed and the memory of going to a donut shop as a kid came over me. My mom would take me there on special occasions. This was a pre-chain donut place, a standalone, totally unique experience. Glass windows let you watch as the donuts were cut and dropped into the fryer. Then the conveyor would move them out under the glaze. Hot and fresh (your mouth should be watering at this point.) There was a bakers door, a half-door with top half open and the baker was dressed in all white would personally select and hand me a fresh baked donut. I would get a carton (looks like what milk came in at school) of orange drink to go with it. That experience happened over 40 years ago, and at the time I had now idea that it was some form of branding, but it was. It was the best kind of branding… an experience that lasts a lifetime.

Look at your company’s brand experience, is it positive in everyway. Will it be remember for a lifetime? If not? Why not? As brand leaders, we should strive to make every experience our customers have with our brand at least as good as the guy selling root canals and hopefully more like the baker in the donut shop.

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