How does your brand look, feel, and smell?

I was at the mall today with my wife and 8-month-old, shopping for some clothes for the little one now that the weather is cooling off. I had a Macy’s gift card and remembered that I needed some new cologne – so I took my son with me to check out the scents while my wife went looking for baby/toddler socks.

I always hate the cologne section, because there’s always someone pushing you to smell all 97 fragrances. My sinuses are bad as it is, so once I smell two or three, I can’t distinguish between the intricacies of one to the next. And the coffee beans don’t help. The first sales person I came across (who I desperately tried to avoid) wafted a new smell strip in front of me every five seconds until I escaped to the next counter.

The next sales lady began by asking whether I was looking for a gift or something for myself. Once she established that I was all about personal preference, she asked if I was looking to replace something or whether I wanted something new. I told her I needed something new and she followed up by asking what my favorite and least favorite past colognes were and why.

By asking questions – the right questions – she made me more comfortable, she learned about what I was looking to buy before she ever tried to sell me on anything (or everything as the first one was doing) and she showed that she cared about my interests as much as she did her own.

She learned that I like lighter, but distinctive colognes that have some staying power: John Varvatos, Vera Wang for Men, Calvin Klein, Eternity for Men, Drakkar (way back in the day, before even the rumors about its power over women). And she learned that I don’t like the loud, nose burning scents like Obsession. Then she introduced me to three Burberry colognes.

And look at the “smell strip” she handed to me. It wasn’t a small piece of paper, or even a cleverly designed piece of paper. It was a neatly tied bow in the fabric that Burberry is so well known for. Talk about great branding. Look how it stands out in relation to the others that were offered to me. And the image matched the identity. The cologne bottle was also wrapped in fabric and the smell is nothing like all the others that smell so similar. It’s not overpowering, but it stands alone and makes a statement. Needless to say, I bought it. And I’m blogging about it.

How do you make your company’s products or services stand out? Have you thought about all of the ways that you can distinguish it from the competition? How to make it look, feel and actually be more valuable?