Culture vs. Brand

When the local newspaper published a story about the cyclist who was killed on El Camino Real near Atherton I didn’t recognize the name, but I thought I recognized the face. Then at Menlo Park Peet’s there was a picture frame with the picture, and a hand-written note of condolence and a reference to the person’s favorite drink. I must have seen the man in line for coffee, or sitting at a table with fellow cyclists, with bikes lined up outside.

Peet’s had a nice display about Turkish Coffee, with an attractive sign, and special paraphernalia to make it, and special cups to drink it, and glass bottles of cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods, and cards with instructions. The display was intended to reinforce customers’ self-image as connoisseurs, with taste and skill that can be easily acquired with packaged products and step-by-step instructions, and thereby to sell additional products. The display seemed to me like a good example of branding, executed with attention and professionalism.

The photo of the late customer seems like culture. I’ve also seen this custom at Palo Alto Peet’s. A sign that the slight ties among people who serve and make coffee, the vague recognition of each other’s faces from the morning’s ritual, counts as part of our ordinary sense of community. This seems to me like a sign of values that encourage recognizing the humanity of our fellows. I’ll ask the manager how the memorials get suggested and posted.

One thought on “Culture vs. Brand”

  1. I love this post. Thank you. There’s something very touching about gestures like this, especially when they’re allowed to happen at relatively large companies, like Peet’s. It doesn’t hurt the company, and probably helps them a great deal. But more importantly, it reconnects the people there to humanity.

    Thanks for posting this.

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