A feel-good brand in a bummed-out world.

by John Furgurson on August 20, 2009

It’s being dubbed a “”depressed economy.”  There are nightly reports on our current “ecomonic dulldrums,” and the  “downturn” in consumer spending.

But if you sift through all the doom and gloom you’ll find that some brands are thriving in this “challenging economic environment.” 

How do they do it? Here’s the secret:

Make people smile!  It’s as simple — and as difficult — as that.

WWLogo - smallIf your product or service can elicit genuine smiles, you’ve got a winning brand. Because happiness is contagious.  And when people are experiencing stress caused by circumstances beyond their control, that little dose of happiness becomes more valuable than ever.

Disney does it best. There’s also Great Wolf Lodge. Powell’s Sweet Shoppe. Stuff-a-Bear Creations. These are brands that are built on smiles. Locally, the brand that wins the happy, happy, feel-good contest is Working Wonders Children’s Museum. Hands down.

No other business in town elicits more smiles, more Kodak moments, than Working Wonders. (On sunny winter days, Mt. Bachelor comes in a close second, but that’s more of a grown-up playground.) For kids under 11 nothing can match the hands-on play and make-believe worlds of Working Wonders.

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But I have to admit, I’m completely biased. My wife and I started the non-profit on a whim and a prayer seven years ago.  Back when there was nothing, I mean nothing, in town for young kids to do.

First we raised enough money to build some traveling exhibits. Then we went around to every summer event and introduced kids, and their parents, to our brand of educational play. It caught on. Before the days of Facebook or Twitter, it went viral. We launched in less than one-third the time, and for one-third the cost, of most children’s museums.

And every day we’re open, we see a lot of smiling kids and eternally grateful parents. Here’s an unsolicited comment that demonstrates how happy customers help tell the story of a brand:

“I have a 3 1/2 year old daughter.  What we value most is the way Working Wonders grows along with her – there is always an activity that’s just right for her latest developmental stage and current interests.  She draws confidence and comfort from the stations that remain the same (the grocery store being her favorite) and extends the ways she interacts with them each visit.  The new additions (the creations in the science lab!) keep her curious and provide her with exciting new learning.

I love that Working Wonders is set up to encourage parents to explore alongside their child, rather than “having a break” while their children play independently.  Activities are interesting to learners of all ages, and you can watch the bonding that happens during play.

I love how Working Wonders models ways to be a better community, such as recycled art, and gentle reminders to leave each place just as you found it in consideration for the next person.  Working Wonders also gives a tremendous amount to the community – I teach parenting classes, and they have donated 10-punch cards to each of my families.  How wonderful for me to be able to help parents with their parent-child interactions, and then give them free passes to the best play to try out their new skills!”

You can see the smile on the daughter’s face just by reading her mom’s comments. Look how many times the word “love” appears. That’s brand loyalty.

Unfortunately, in the non-profit world brand loyalty doesn’t always translate to financial viability. For children’s museums, loyal, repeat customers aren’t enough. They also need loyal, repeat donors. Because admissions aren’t enough to sustain the organization, and right now, those donors are harder to come by.

Over the last five years Working Wonders relied heavily on corporate sponsors to help meet its annual fundraising goals. But most of those companies were in the building industry — the most hard-hit by the recession.

So I’m doing something I’ve never done on the Brand Insight Blog… I’m asking directly for your financial support.  Dig deep, and give big! 

Working Wonders is an essential community asset, partnering with more than 20 social service agencies throughout Central Oregon. It’s the go-to resource for early childhood education, and it needs your help. Now, more than ever.

There are many ways to give…

Sponsor an exhibit in the museum. Commit to a corporate sponsorship. (It’s a great branding opportunity for any company that targets young families.)  Pledge to an annual giving program. Leave an endowment. Provide financial backing for a Working Wonders event. Or give an in-kind donation.

If Working Wonders doesn’t generate enough support by October 1st, it may not survive to see an economic rebound. So give now. The smiles you’ll get back are priceless.

Visit www.Working Wonders.org to donate.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

GoogleGuy August 24, 2009 at 9:40 pm

This was a really great read, I am very glad I came across your site.

careers advice August 29, 2009 at 3:43 pm

Good to see that people still know what they are talking about. So much BS around these days!

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