Purple Goldfish Hall of Famer–Trader Joe’s

Hall of Fame Class of 2011–Trader Joe’s

Taking your children just about anywhere these days can be tough. Most places aren’t exactly “kid friendly.” I don’t know about you, but I find the grocery store to be one of the least kid friendly places out there. That is, unless the grocery store accounts for children as part of their business plan. Very few do, but businesses who know best seem to know that if the children are happy, the parents are happy. And if the parents are happy, businesses know that they’ll be frequented again and again–simply because they offered that little extra to parents. At least, that’s the case at Trader Joe’s.


When it comes to a good customer service experience, taking care of the customer is the number one way to make them happy. What many businesses forget is that oftentimes, while the customer base itself is not made up of children, it IS made up of people who HAVE children. Trader Joe’s has not forgotten it–in fact, they’ve embraced it since the 50’s. In addition to offering a variety of free samples (at several dedicated sampling stations) examples of Purple Goldfish for kids have included a stuffed whale (if you find him, your child gets a treat out of a treasure box and then you get to hide the whale yourself for others to find) and miniature carts.


If you’ve never gone grocery shopping with a small child, you can count yourself lucky. They want to sample the food (even the food that isn’t there to be sampled–like fruit) and they want to push the (often huge) grocery cart. Any grocery store that can get ahead of these basic needs parents experience simply by walking through the door is a solid place to do business.


When you take care of the needs of children, you take care of the needs of parents. While this seems like an easy concept, many businesses forget that children are often part of the equation for their customer base. 

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – There are a lot of reasons to love Trader Joe’s–and they don’t all have to do with children. Watch this video to learn more about what makes Trader Joe’s great.

Purple Goldfish Hall of Famer–AJ Bombers

Hall of Fame Class of 2010–AJ Bombers

Customer service doesn’t always have to feel special–sometimes it just has to feel fun. That “little extra” you give customers, which also makes service feel easy and carefree, is sometimes the only thing your most loyal followers want. At least, that’s how AJ Bombers feels. Perhaps that’s why they don’t just offer their customers free food (peanuts) but also deliver it by way of metal WWII Bombers. 


Happiness with a side of burgers. That is the AJ Bombers way. They strive to be a family friendly, fun eatery where no reservations are necessary. Adding to the atmosphere of fun is that “little extra” they describe as their peanut delivery system.


Everyone loves free food. It’s a fact of life. Whether it’s a free bag of popcorn, a free basket of peanuts, or a free meal free food equals happy customers. As a restaurant, AJ Bombers is well aware of this–and ensures that every customer who enters their doors gets free food delivered in a memorable way.


Great customer service doesn’t always entail grand gestures or expensive take homes. Sometimes, great customer service is done simply, ensuring it can be done for everyone over and over again.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Curious as to how those bombers work? Watch this video.

Purple Goldfish Hall of Famer–Lexus

Hall of Fame Class of 2010–Lexus

Good customer service shouldn’t feel like a luxury. While it’s great when you find a reputable dealer to buy from, it feels even better when that dealer continues servicing your car needs long after you’ve driven off the lot. Perhaps that’s why Lexus offers concierge service to their buyers, including a courtesy car wash and vacuum, following maintenance services.


Lexus is a company that takes pride in their innovative, thoughtful designs and the relentless performance of their vehicles. What’s more, they were founded on the principal of being dedicated to always offering top-notch customer service. Showing that dedication through actions more than words, Lexus takes pride in their happy customer base all over the world.


Lexus goes beyond standard, striving for the unexpected. Washing and vacuuming our cars takes up time and money–and it’s almost always necessary after our cars leave an auto service shop. Lexus takes the inconvenience of dust, dirt, and oil out of the equation, ensuring their customers are back to doing what they love–faster.


While customer experience shouldn’t feel like a luxury, it often does. Luckily, Lexus wants to ensure that all of their customers, no matter what kind of vehicle they’ve purchased, leaves the Lexus dealership feeling a little bit happier than when they entered.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Here are a few more ways Lexus makes customers feel like more than dollar signs. 

Purple Goldfish Hall of Famer–Five Guys Burgers and Fries

Hall of Fame Class of 2010–Five Guys

Dining out is a treat–and we just love to treat ourselves. However, there have been times that I’ve gone out an ended up rather disappointed that I had to part with good money for a meal. Whether the food I ordered wasn’t up to par or the service left something to be desired, going out to eat can sometimes be a gamble. Yet whenever I think of the times I’ve gone to Five Guys, I always feel a smile on my face. How can I not when every time I go in I’m gifted with bonus fries, unlimited toppings, and free peanuts?


The founder of Five Guys, Jerry Murrell, knew early on that what would impress customers had nothing to do with decor–and everything to do with food. From the beginning, his goal was to serve customers fresh (never frozen) juicy burgers. Between the great food, the freebies, and the smiling service Five Guys went from a single restaurant in Washington D.C. to a franchise scattered across America. 


Founder Jerry Murrell says it best. “We figure our best salesman is our customer. Treat that person right, he’ll walk out the door and sell for you. From the beginning, I wanted people to know that we put all our money into the food.That’s why the décor is so simple — red and white tiles. We don’t spend our money on décor. Or on guys in chicken suits. But we’ll go overboard on food.”


In today’s world, it’s easy to get carried away spending money on your marketing. However, as Five Guys proves, you can keep your mission and marketing budget simple but still experience huge success.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Love Five Guys? Here are ten things that you may not know about them.

Purple Goldfish Hall of Famer–TD Bank

Hall of Fame Class of 2010–TD Bank

A lot of companies like to lay the claim of being customer-centric, though not many live up to the hype. After all, when it comes to what I teach with Purple Goldfish it’s those little actions that speak far louder than words ever could. TD Bank not only has longer hours than other banks they’re also open seven days a week. In addition, they’ve pulled together a number of ways to communicate that they care about their customers including automated thanking machines and throwback Thursdays.


TD Bank’s “About Us” page is incredibly telling. The very first line reads, “If something matters to humans, it matters to us.” TD Bank calls this “Banking Human” and they’ve done business that way from the very beginning. To TD Bank, their customers aren’t just money in an account–they’re people. And while TD Bank is constantly searching for new ways to say, “thanks for banking with us” their actions of staying open late and on weekends, lending a hand in local communities, and taking care of their employees speak volumes.


TD Bank shares that they understand the weekend (and even after work) is when their customers tend to get things done. They recognize that one of those things is usually banking and for that reason, they keep their doors open late and on weekends. It’s just one way they’re Banking Human.


In today’s technology driven world, it can be easy for companies to rely on the convenience of technology to help customers. TD Bank uses technology to enhance the experience of their customers, but they’re committed to not letting technology take the place of humans.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – TD Bank prides themselves on being there for people through some of life’s biggest moments. To say thank you to their customers, they turned a trip to the bank into a true customer journey.

Purple Goldfish Hall of Famer–Southwest Airlines

Hall of Fame Class of 2010–Southwest Airlines

I fly a lot for business. It seems that whenever I talk to people about air travel these days, however, there’s always a gripe. Poor customer service, rising costs, and increased delays seem to be a black cloud hanging over the majority of the airline industry. That being said, I personally look forward to my flight experiences. Southwest Airlines, with their happy staffers, bags fly free policy, and no change fees policy, are a beacon of light in the darkness.


Perhaps you’ve noticed the huge heart that Southwest Airlines uses in their branding. True advocacy comes when you reach the heart of your customer–and Southwest Airlines knows this. In an industry that seems solely focused on their bottom line, Southwest Airlines continues to value their employees who in turn value their customers. Their customers value service and that is what this airline is all about.


In 2016, airlines made a reported $3.35 billion in baggage fees alone. Given that that stems from roughly $25 per bag, you can only imagine what a $200 charge fee is capable of making for an airline. Southwest Airlines is committed to putting that extra money in the pockets of their customers–and they know that such service gets them customers for life.


When it comes to serving your customers, it’s important to look past your bottom line. This doesn’t mean that you have to go broke trying to please customers, but it IS important to realize there’s a big difference between being in business because you love it and being in business to make money.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Southwest Airlines helps to make a couple’s special day even more unforgettable.

Purple Goldfish Hall of Famer–Stew Leonard’s

Hall of Fame Class of 2010–Stew Leonard’s


The power of giving and a little word of mouth can go a long way.  It can be an easy fact to forget once you become wrapped up in budgets and bottom lines–assuming you ever knew it at all. Stew Leonard certainly didn’t realize this back in the year 1969 when he was asked to go to the local elementary school’s career day and talk about his dairy store. In his first session he had only three students sitting in–two of which he knew. At the end of his talk, Stew reached into his pocket and dug out three coupons for free ice cream and handed them out to the kids. That little act–that one tiny freebie–required Stew’s next session to be held in the school’s auditorium!



Stew Leonard opened a dairy store in Connecticut back in 1969. He’d grown up the son of a dairy farmer and his father delivered fresh milk daily by truck. However, in the 1960’s things were changing for the dairy business and Stew knew he needed to change with it or go out of business forever. That’s when he envisioned a retail dairy store where kids could watch milk be bottled while mothers did their shopping. In the words of Stew himself, “Where kids go, customers follow.”


Make no mistake–Stew Leonard didn’t hand out coupons for free ice cream with the intent of selling out his next speaker session at the elementary school. Nonetheless that is where he found himself. Ultimately that tiny giveaway spoke to the core values that Stew had held all along: “Create happy customers… by selling the freshest products at the best prices in a friendly, fun atmosphere.


Even the smallest investments can be seen as a big draw for customers. One of Stew’s most popular Purple Goldfish proved to be a free ice cream with the purchase of $100 or more in groceries. It was that little extra that kept families coming back to his dairy store for years after he first opened his doors.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – here is a tour of a Stewart Leonard’s for those who have never had the opportunity to visit one.

Purple Goldfish Hall of Famer–Safelite Auto Glass

Hall of Fame Class of 2013–Safelite Auto Glass

I can still recall that stomach sinking feeling that came over me when I realized my car had been broken into. There was nothing extraordinary about what happened. I hadn’t left anything massively valuable in plain sight. Cars get broken into regularly. Yet, when it happens to us, our entire world is turned upside down. We think of our vehicles as these safe, indestructible shells when in reality, they’re vulnerable just like we are. Safelite Auto Glass not only understands this, but they seemed determined to make me feel like a VIP, with vacuum and wipe service, on a day nothing else seemed to be going right.


Safelite repairs, Safelite replaces, Safelite does a little extra–and it doesn’t cost them a single penny to do it. After replacing your damaged window, Safelite Auto Glass simply cleans your windows, vacuums up any glass fragments, and sends you on your way with one less thing to worry about.


Purple Goldfish, also known as anytime a business goes above and beyond to provide that “little extra” to their customers, doesn’t have to be extravagant. It simply has to be memorable. Once a window on your car is replaced, our next biggest concern is broken glass. Safelite takes that worry away and then goes one step further in wiping down the brand new glass.


Getting auto glass replaced doesn’t have to be a big headache–and Safelite proves that with their outstanding customer service. By taking care of all the worries that surround a window replacement on a vehicle, Safelite is one giant leap ahead of their competition.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – here are even more reasons why Safelite is above and beyond their competition.

Purple Goldfish Hall of Famer–Zappos

Hall of Fame Class of 2010–Zappos

Sometimes winning customers can take more than having what they want–it can mean sending them somewhere else to help a customer. At least, that is one reason Zappos has found as much success as they have. They also offer free shipping both ways, free upgrades, and a 365 day return policy. These little extras have paid off big with customers of Zappos over the years– and no one recognizes that more than Zappos themselves.


Zappos was born in 1999. The original idea was to create a website that offered the absolute best selection in shoes in terms of brands, styles, colors, sizes, and widths. Since 1999, the company’s aspirations have evolved, but their goal to be the company providing the absolute best in online customer service has never wavered. Zappos delivers happiness.


The CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh, has never confused customer experience with an expense. He says, “Our business is based on repeat customers and word of mouth. There’s a lot of value in building up our brand name and what it stands for. We view the money that we spend on customer service as marketing money that improves our brand.”


Many times, a business will get so caught up in what they’re spending to bring customers in, they can forget that it isn’t always about the almighty dollar. When you view “spend” as “customer experience” instead, it can make all the difference in your bottom line.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – here is Rachael Ray putting the customer service of Zappos to the test during the busy holiday season.

Beyond Expectations – Leveraging the Power of the Gift in Marketing and Sales

I recently read a fantastic article by Mark Bonchek of Orbit on HBR. Mark wrote about “How to Thrive in Social Media’s Gift Economy.” It touches on how brands should utilize social media to further relationships through non-monetary value exchange.

Background on Gift Economy

For over 99% of the history of mankind we’ve lived in small tribes. These tribes consisted of between 10 to 50 individuals. Groups that lived by hunting and gathering. Existing through a concept called by anthropologists as a gift economy. Each member provided for others and status was achieved through the concept of gifting. Cooperation was the route to success as a whole. Status was not a consequence of how much you had, but rather how much you gave away. Giving for the benefit of others with no expectation of immediate return. Trade existed, but only with outside groups. This trading was inherently competitive and thus only done with strangers.

Enter Today’s Market Economy

Today we are firmly entrenched in an exchange based economy. With the adoption of money, almost everything is now traded freely. Trading involves trying to get the best deal, typically at the expense of others. The basis of exchange is inherently antagonistic with the aim of giving less and getting more. The market economy is a zero sum game. You give me A and I give you B. Transactions strive to be equal, leaving no additional place left to go in the relationship.

Yet, there are still examples of gift economy models that exist today. On a larger scale there is Wikipedia, github or Linux. Examples of tribes that contribute (without compensation) to ultimately benefit the whole. On a smaller scale, there are instances of volunteering or helping out family or friends that touch on these concepts. Mark uses a fun example to distinguish between the two:

Consider the example of moving into a new apartment. When friends help you move, you express your appreciation by providing pizza and beer — really good pizza and beer. When you hire professional movers, you pay with money. Offer your friends money instead of pizza and beer, and they are likely to be offended. Offer to pay the movers in pizza and beer, and they won’t unload the truck. Your friends are operating in a gift economy; the movers in a market economy.”

A Hybrid Approach

zappos-free-shippingThrough my work on the Goldfish Rule (differentiation through added value) I believe you can leverage gift economy principles on top of the market transaction. Adding the unexpected extra to the exchange. Little things that help your brand stand out and further the relationship with the customer. Take Zappos for example, it is common practice for Zappos to upgrade shipping to overnight. Purple Goldfish #493 tells the story of a woman ordering shoes for her son at 10:00 p.m. and then receiving them at 9:00 a.m. the next morning. Imagine what it feels like to unexpectedly receive your shoes within 11 hours.

Here is an infographic showing the proposed middle ground between a gift and market economy:

goldfish hybrid economy

Giving More than Expected

As a business why would you want to incorporate gift economy principals into your market exchanges? I believe there are 3 distinct reasons and corresponding benefits of giving more to exceed expectations:

  1. beacon-300x191Positioning – stand out from your competition. If everyone is providing x, the fact that you provide x + y (gift)  differentiates your offering. Less than 30% of consumers buy on price. You want to tap into the 70+% who are looking for value and a strong customer experience. Benefit: Differentiation
  2. Loyalty – giving the little extra (gift) enhances the customer experience. It creates a bond between the business and the customer. The benefit of that bond include increased loyalty and ultimately patronage as a form of repayment. Benefit: Retention
  3. Reciprocity – Part of giving extra is to create goodwill (inequality).  That inequality is repaid by positive word of mouth or word of mouse. The best form of marketing is via positive word of mouth.  By giving a signature extra (gift) you provide something for your customers to talk, tweet, blog, Yelp or Facebook about. Benefit: Referrals

The gift or little extra is about the respect for the relationship.  It becomes a beacon, a sign that shows you care. It’s a physical sign of goodwill and customer appreciation.

Investment, not an Expense

Why do the little extras (gifts)? Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, sees the little extras as an investment in their brand.

tony hsieh investment quote

What say YOU?

Two questions:

1. What is your opinion? Can you have a hybrid model (market plus gift)? Or should you focus on leveraging gift economy purely with social initiatives (read Mark’s post for some great examples from Nike, Vail and Kraft). Or is this all just a lot of hooey?

2. Any good examples of brands that are utilizing the hybrid (goldfish) or social media gifting approach?

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) –  Here is a slideshare that provides further background on the Goldfish Principal. In includes the theory, the ingredients and the 12 different types of goldfish: