My Shocking First Brand Test Case

Good brands are more influential than good staff.

Jim Stein
Published Date: April 15, 2024

I’ll share a personal story that taught me a great lesson about how much brand matters. When I was a young teenager, I started working directly with the public via part-time jobs. Over time, I started to notice how good brands were more influential than good people. I was impressed by how often potential customers wanted good brands regardless of whether the salespeople were any good. I also noticed that the best salespeople used their own communication to build up the good brands even more.


I became sold on the power of building and nurturing a distinct brand, and at 19 years old, I got my first chance to play the brand game. I was in Boulder, Colorado and decided to start a Christmas tree lot. I named the lot “Our Mother’s Best Trees” (a reference to Mother Nature) and set about creating a distinctive logo. I wanted our location to match the look and feel of our brand, with striped poles, signage, etc. To further differentiate my brand, I didn’t buy my trees from the local wholesaler; instead, I traveled to Washington for fir trees and Wyoming for pine trees. The human part of unique branding was easy because I personally served many of the customers. I even promoted the “Mother’s” brand in local newspapers and on the radio.


An original sales tag from “Our Mother’s Best Trees”

The first year was successful, with $13,000 in gross sales. The following year, I started a second location with the same brand and sign. Sales grew and each location generated more than $20,000. In my third year, as an “all grow’d up” 21-year-old businessman, I was ready for my first real Brand Matters test. I opened two new locations: one with the “Our Mother’s Best Trees” branding and the other with a new “Happy Trees” brand. Happy Trees was in a good location. I assigned one of our top managers to run it, supplied it with the exact same trees as the “Mother’s” locations and priced the trees identically. I even ran separate advertising for Happy Trees.

Here are the sales results: Mother’s Location #1 = $27,000; Mother’s Location #2 = $29,000; Mother’s Location #3 (new) = $23,000; Happy Trees Location (new) = $11,000. Same trees. Same prices. Same quality staff. Yet the new location sales that used the “Mother’s” brand more than doubled the new location sales of the “Happy” brand. Indeed, brand matters. Premium wins.


Next up: How to Elevate Your Brand.

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