Today is my last day in Florida. In a little over 24 hours I’ll be in Washington, and even though graduation was three weeks ago I feel that this is officially the end of my college years. I feel excited to move, but at the same time it’s sad to realize that some of the places so familiar to me now won’t be part of my life in Washington. Seeing the movers pack my Publix grocery bags and my three tubs of Chick-Fil-A sauce (yes, three!) was bittersweet since I’ll never fill the bags with Publix groceries again or dip waffle fries into the sauce (there are Chick-Fil-A’s in Washington, but almost two hours from where I’ll live).
Part of me says that it’s odd to feel an emotional attachment to a brand. It’s just a grocery store and a fast food place. But another part of me says that these feelings are a sign that Publix and Chick-Fil-A are doing something right from a branding standpoint. Ultimately, the goal of branding is for a company to be more than just a grocery store or a fast food place. Branding is meant to turn a company into part of the consumer’s lifestyle. Otherwise, it would make no difference to the consumer if he or she shopped at Publix or at Wal-Mart, or ate at Chick-Fil-A or at McDonald’s (these comparisons just makes me shudder, further proof that Publix and Chick-Fil-A have worked their magic on me). Brands want to become irreplaceable to the point that no other brand seems like an acceptable substitute.
To me, Publix is special because I’ve shopped there from the time I was learning how to live on my own and cook for myself, and I made the leap from omnivore to vegetarian in their produce section. Chick-Fil-A reminds me of spending time with my college friends, since we tended to eat there when we went to the mall or snuck food into the movies (provided it wasn’t Sunday). Now that I’ve stopped eating chicken, I go for the waffle fries dipped in Chick-Fil-A sauce and the milkshakes. Last year I even participated in Cow Appreciation Day with my co-workers, a day when dressing as a cow gets you free chikin (as the cows would say).
I would recognize a Chick-Fil-A cow or Publix-brand frozen fruit anywhere in the world. I strongly associate both places to a great time in my life. It’ll take time and good branding for me to have the same emotional attachment to the new places I will discover in Washington. What brands are a part of your life?