The 4 Second Brand.

As I floated in the pool minding my own business, an American fellow poolside vacationer conveyed his 4 second brand story.

He also told me his entire life stort, but the 4 second brand story had started with the most recent events in his life and he was working progressively backwards without pausing to draw breath (as Americans are prone to do).

“I just bought a [tumble/clothes] dryer. It took me 4 seconds.” He announced to anyone who would listen, mainly me.

“Really?” I asked. That was my first and only mistake, because it provided the opportunity for him to tell his aforementioned life story. As a B2B marketing professional I should have known better. You’ll be relieved to know I’m only gong to paraphrase the first part. Feel free to read the rest of this blog in the American accent of your choice, but for authenticity, aim for a slightly Southern States drawl.

“Yeah, we vacation in a condo here every summer. Last year the dryer developed a fault so at the end of our vacation I asked our property agent to have it repaired. We arrived last night, almost a year to the day, and the dryer isn’t there. I called the agent and she didn’t know what had happened – the repair should have happened months ago she said. She hadn’t been involved, she couldn’t remember who carried out the repair, she didn’t have confirmation that the dryer had been fixed… she was pretty much clueless.

“She called the cleaner, then called me back to say the cleaner didn’t know where the dryer was. She called the repair company, then called me back to say the repair company didn’t know where the dryer was. She called two other repair companies she uses, just to be sure, and called me back each time to let me know that the repair companies (that she wasn’t sure if she’d asked to repair the dryer) didn’t know where the dryer was.

Eventually, she called me and said the dryer must have been stolen. Yep, stolen. There was no forced entry so someone with a key had supposedly let themselves in and instead of emptying the place of large screen HD TVs, electronics and furniture, had decided to carefully remove the laundry room door, steal a busted clothes dryer – and lock up on their way out.

“I suggested that maybe she’d just lost the dryer. No, it had definitely been ‘stolen’, there was no other explanation. I was getting purdy upset by this stage and said, ‘Ma’am, I have four kids and a whole mess of laundry that ain’t gitt’n any cleaner. Can you please just get me a new dryer? She said she’d arrange for an appliance vendor to call me and sure enough I got a call later that day from Art at Arty Aardvark’s Appliances. And that’s when I bought a dryer in under 4 seconds:

‘You the guy who’s had his dryer stolen?’

‘Wellllll… let’s just say ‘yes’ for now.’

‘Ok, well, I got an Amarat dryer for $400 or a Whirlpool for $450.’

‘I’ll take the Whirlpool.’

“Art delivered it that afternoon and boom, we’re back in business.”

There was a pause as the guy looked at me expectantly to ask a question, or comment. Or say something, anything. I had nothing. So I started with “Wow,” and continued with the only other thing I could think of – “Why’d you pick the Whirlpool?”

He just shrugged his shoulders and said, “Who the fuck’s ever heard of Amarat, man…?” Then, with a smile and a wave, he drained his margarita and headed for the tiki hut.

If, as B2B marketing professionals, you have ever had cause to question your brand ‘agility’ or your investment in brand marketing, remember the 4-second rule. Put your own business brand in the context of this story and ask yourself whether, given the choice between you and your competitor, your brand would be the instinctive 4 second choice of your prospective customer. That’s the task ahead of you.

Good luck. I’ll be at the tiki hut if you need me.

Scot McKee