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During my teenage years, I worked at a local frozen custard stand. Our uniforms consisted of button downs and bow ties. We punched in with paper time cards. Orders were taken and called out in paperless fashion. It wasn’t quite Mayberry, although it did have a distinctive charm marked by nostalgia. Coupled with delicious frozen custard and an assortment of toppings, its charm led to loyalty within the community, regularly displayed by the lines of patrons stretching to the edge of the lot. While the frozen custard was delicious, I’m convinced it was the charm that compelled folks to wait in line outdoors in the Midwest heat.

A business’s charm is, after all, very much a part of its brand.

The brand – the charm – of the frozen custard stand was not built on a brochure or website. Its brand was, more than anything, the experience it created – the enthusiastic greeting by each bow-tied employee; the speed with which concretes, sundaes, and cones were dipped, topped, and handed out; and the pride each took in the desserts and service provided. This was a special destination, where families gathered to celebrate small victories after soccer games and indulge out-of-towners with a local treat. Familiar faces (and orders) contributed to the close-knit, neighborhood atmosphere that made the shop part of the community and kept its patrons returning for another scoop.

Well over a decade later, I visit the stand from time to time; almost all of the employees are unfamiliar and the once “cash only” sign perched in the window has been replaced with major credit card company logos. Despite these small changes, the charm is the same: the same familiar greeting prefaces each order, two cherries still top each “famous” sundae, employees still sport classic blue and black bow ties, and the lot remains bustling with families and teams from the community. The consistency and sentiment imbued by both its product and environment have built a brand that, over the years, survived the rerouting of a major thoroughfare and the competition of a national fast food/ice cream store opening just up the street.

While the local frozen custard shop may have lost its prime location along the highway and the advantage of being the only dessert stop for miles, it hasn’t lost its charm. And the line is there to prove it.

For companies of all sizes and kinds, charm is invaluable. What is your business’s charm? Is it recognizable and compelling? Does it differentiate you from your competition?

If you’d like a fresh perspective on what your business is doing well – and what you could be doing better – get in touch. We’d love to listen to your challenges and discuss how we can help.

Nicole Hill drives visionary change for businesses and brands, from global enterprises to entrepreneurial startups.