Posts tagged “amsterdam”

Putting the brand into the details

We had a fun strategy session yesterday with a local small business owner, uncovering their unrealized business goals and exploring how they can grow. One area that we kept coming back to (and one that honestly I think we could always do a better job at in our own practice) was to consider all the ways that people interact with your brand and to approach each of those creatively, considering how that interaction could be differentiated, improved, and made more relevant to your brand. Here’s a couple of examples.

In Amsterdam, Albert Heijn is the leading grocery chain. As tourists, we needed a cheap SIM card to drop into our unlocked mobile phone. The different options were commodities, all priced identically. But this packaging swayed us. It’s a grocery store’s branded mobile phone service and it is packaged like something you’d find at a grocery store! How charming! Sadly, the printed instructions and the voice prompts were all in Dutch. Worse, even our Dutch-speaking friends weren’t able to get us up and running; we had an account with a zero balance. So while the packaging was persuasive at purchase time, the idea of getting mobile service from a grocery chain now seems rather stupid and I’m only reminded of how we wasted 15.00€.

The bathroom signage at the Belgian Comic Strip Center in Brussels use the same vernacular that the organization celebrates. This is a very simple detail, inexpensively realized, that added a small moment of delight to a necessary errand.

See more pictures from Amsterdam here and from Belgium here.

Localized Wayfinding

Airport Wayfinding, Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, May 2009

The first time I ever encountered localized parking designation was my childhood visit to Disney World; the tram drivers reminded us we were parked in Goofy 7 or Mickey 7 or something. Of course, I still enjoy taking note of it (see a recent post here). The highly-localized version above was entertaining and both confusing and educational (the herring icon makes no sense until one discovers that the Dutch really love their herring). Now, this confusion is inevitable when traveling and (as I’ve written about before) can be a great opportunity for learning. And practically, most people that park at the airport are locals, not incoming tourists, so there is little impact on the experience from not understanding the reference. Indeed, since nothing about the icon is meant to convey its function, serving only to label a particular region, visitors can still make use of the bird-on-a-post (?) icon perfectly well, without any understanding of its meaning.

Make your hardware work for you


A vendor in Amsterdam’s Albert Cuyp Market uses spring-loaded clips to hold together the baskets of fruit, then cleverly uses the clip handles as a place to display a fruit sample. Instead of being a negative (unsightly and potentially hurty if banged into), it now is a positive, emphasizing the appeal of what they are selling.

Related: Making do, revisited

See more of my Amsterdam pictures here.

What’s In A Business Name?

Lunchroom Hannibal, Amsterdam, May 2009
Don’t order the fava beans with the chianti.

Challenger Copyprint, Amsterdam, May 2009
Not the most encouraging association.

Synergy Project Management, San Francisco, July 2009
Needs a better illustration of the concept of synergy besides a plain ol’ pipe!

we bring you a pizza, Amsterdam, May 2009
U-Wash Doggie, Los Angeles, February 2009

Some names tell you what the business does.

Hand Car Wash, Los Angeles, February 2009
Trashy Lingerie, Los Angeles, February 2009
Ethical Drugs, Los Angeles, February 2009

Some names tell you something about how they do it.

See more pictures from Amsterdam here and Los Angeles here.

What do you want to have?

Window sign, Amsterdam, May 2009

It’s pretty clear from the list of items available who this store (adjacent to a nice hotel) is catering to

Gifts, wannahaves, cold drinks, candy, souvenirs and: toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, nailclippers, lighters, shavingfoam, adapters, batteries, toys, Delft blue, jewelry, magnets, T-shirts, caps, bags, kitchenstuff, dolls, etcetera ..

But what the heck is a wannahave? Seems to be Dutch slang for a desirable artifact (obvious, I guess). There’s even Wannahaves International

WHS International BV is owner, Publisher and exploiter of the international brand Wannahaves(r). Wannahaves primarily targets young modern men in age range 18-34.

And to that point, the navigation on their website includes: Gadgets, Games, Babes and Lifestyle.

I guess I’ve learned a new word!

Meanwhile, photos from our trip to Amsterdam are slowly going up here.


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