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A Christmas Story

James Warren December 06, 2020
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“Think of a time when you had a great — truly great! — experience with a company or brand’s product or service. What was the situation? What made it so good and memorable? How did that make you feel?”

This is a storytelling prompt we use at Share More Stories to understand how a group or community defines great customer experiences — and ultimately turn those into great brand memories. We use these types of insights to help brand leaders understand what it takes to be positively memorable to their consumers. 

Sometimes, our greatest memories associated with brands aren’t as much about the brands themselves as they are about what the brand’s product or service helps us facilitate in our lives. To some, that may not sound like a great brand story, but to me, this is what makes truly great brands, great! They become experience platforms that facilitate our aspirations, meet deeper emotional needs and express our values. 

One of my great brand memories involves buying our Christmas tree from Sneed’s Nursery last weekend, as we have done most of the past few years. But this brand memory is rooted in events that have happened over the span of four decades of my life. 

When I was very young, my sister and I used to take the lead on decorating the tree. And then when I was a teenager living in NYC, it was typically my job to pick up a fresh tree and decorate it. And eventually with a young family in Queens, New York and later in Princeton, New Jersey, the annual tree decoration traditions continued. 

After resettling in Richmond 17 years ago, our family spent a few years alternating between nice fake trees and whatever fresh trees I could find at the last minute. As my sons got older, one lost interest in decorating, while the other seemed to fill my old role as lead tree decorator. After I remarried, My wife relished the decorating of the holiday season as we blended Christmas and Hanukkah traditions, always happy to dive into anything that would create family memories. And finally, once our youngest son was born — my first Christmas after my mother passed away — Christmas took on new meaning for me. I became more focused on remembering. Our daughter followed a couple years later and as they both got old enough to participate in the tradition, they began playing a bigger and bigger role in selecting and decorating our Christmas tree. And a few years ago, that led us to Sneed’s Nursery (on a friend’s recommendation), and we’ve been going back ever since. 

This most recent time, we pulled into the gravel parking lot and discovered for the first time a huge back half of their nursery and grounds. The smell of pine, the outdoor fire pit, and in general the fragrance of all things outdoors and garden and the holidays filled the air. The kids took off chasing after roosters and inspecting the fountain. Almost everyone greeted one another with nods and warmth in their eyes, smiles you could detect behind their masks. My wife and I picked out a tree, and then a wreath, and then ribbon for a bow. We waited while a nice young man tied the tree to the car’s roof rack and then we headed home. Everything about spending an hour at Sneed’s, just once a year, feels good. It feels like family, it feels fresh, it feels like fun, it feels like love. 

It was a little late by the time we finally got home and started on the decorations, so we did it over two nights. But on the second night, our little ones did what their older brothers had done for years, and what my sister and I had done years ago, and that’s hang the ornaments on the tree. Each year we buy one or two new ornaments, and so the tree eventually becomes our memory book. It’s a chance for us to reconnect across time, across generations and remember things that make us feel good, like having my mom with us. 

So what does this have to do with Sneed’s? It could’ve been anyone, right? Truthfully, at first it could have been almost anyone. But once that first powerful, positive memory is created and the emotional attachment with the brand that facilitated it occurs, then it’s really hard to displace it. Sneed’s becomes the physical and emotional place that enables these memories to occur. Of course, the quality of the product, the friendliness of the staff — those are a given. My loyalty is the result of my experience. We look forward to the experience because we know it’s the beginning of a month of experiences. Sneed’s is now part of our tradition and if I were running Sneed’s, I’d think that’s a pretty good place to be. 

So, that’s my story. I’d love to hear about one of your great brand memories. It could be more specifically tied to a brand or product, or a little less direct, like mine. 

What say you?


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