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December 27, 2010 / tommoradpour

Donald Trump, Candy, Beer and Ping-Pong Balls – Success is in the Details

I read a post yesterday by Julien Smith, co-author of Trust Agents with Chris Brogan, titled Donald Trump’s Top Three Tips For Dominating Your Niche. As a true fan of The Apprentice, I felt compelled to read.

Here’s what I learned:

  • Donald Trump focuses on creating massive visibility by playing everywhere in his niche,
  • he creates extra leverage for his brand through barter and partnerships, rather than via cash-buys (think “The Apprentice”),
  • he exceeds expectations by caring about the details, like what the air smells like in his properties.

The last one really caught my eye. Caring about the details – is that what you expect coming from The Donald? Yet. by controlling every little experience detail, Trump projects prestige wherever you look in his properties… or wherever you smell.


In response to a first version of this post, Carol Weinfeld commented on how businesses needed to have a Unique Selling Proposition to succeed. Excuse the Marketing 101 a USP is what you do that your competitors don’t, or what you do dramatically better than anyone else. I could not agree more.

But having a USP is not enough: you need to project it and demonstrate it in remarkable ways.

The “I stand for prestige” message that Donald Trump delivers by controlling the experience down to the way the air smells, other businesses can also achieve by using details as powerful signals of what they stand for. Here’s three more examples, three ways details are used to project a USP. Interestingly, none of them belong to the luxury categories where you could expect the highest attention to detail.


Recently, I visited the New York branch of Papabubble, a boutique candy brand describing themselves as Caramel Artesans. Papabubble reveal their secret right on the website: “(…) excitement and high doses of imagination. To make a Papabubble candy, you need small amounts of sugar and glucose, lots of quality and tons of attention to detail.”

They’re not lying. What you find at Papabubble are multi-colored candies and lollipops with little faces or messages. What’s remarkable is that the messages are not drawn or printed. Rather, every little shape is created by layers and folds built in the very structure of the candy. And they make it right in front of you, in the store.

Don’t ask me how they do it, you have to see it for yourself.

Do the candy taste better because of the messages? No. But taking the time to fold every little letter painstakingly, shows how much they love their creations. What the details project is that everybody in their store is passionate about candy. And if they are so passionate, the candy must taste better.


Stella Artois prides itself on their 9-steps Pouring Ritual – after all, if they’ve spent over 600 years “crafting the perfect beer“, can’t they expect a few seconds more from every bartender to deliver it the right way? When consumers enjoy that perfectly poured Stella, the knowledge of that ritual makes them feel more special – it’s the way beer is supposed to be served and enjoyed; regardless how how much tastier the beer is in reality.

How many other brands do you know that will spend millions of dollars on an ad campaign telling the world how their product should be served? Not a lot. And of course the campaign’s pure genius is to make a made up 9-step pouring ritual, a reality – it puts extra pressure on bartenders to follow it by making their patrons more aware of… a detail.


SPiN New York is a club in the heart of Manhattan with 13,000 feet dedicated to… table tennis. You don’t need to bring anything to play: they’ll outfit you with paddles and balls, and set you up on one of their 16 courts, err, tables. Now, if you’re like me, you really need 3 balls to play; maybe 5. Play with one… keep a couple in your other hand… when they’re all out, have a swag of beer, pick them up and start again. So the expectation is to be given 3 to 5 balls.

Not at SPiN.

SPiN gives you a full bucket of balls. 50, maybe 100. Too many to count. Too many to play with. And that’s the point, because this unexpected generosity changes the way you engage with the game. Now, you have as many balls as you possibly want, to play more competitively, more randomly, more playfully. Who cares if a ball goes across the room, or if you crush one… you’ll never run out. You can even ping-pong fight your mates if you want.

All that time previously spent picking up balls is now spent having fun & socializing; which is why SPiN does not describe itself as a ping-pong place, but as a social place, where you come to drink and chill before you come to play. A bucket of balls goes beyond exceeding consumers expectations – it’s waaay too much. But it’s the fun and over-the-top generous detail that defines the SPiN experience. Also, I suspect, it’s very unexpensive to provide – why wouldn’t you give consumers a bucket of balls?


Something seemingly unimportant (at least to your competitors) can have a disproportionate effect on how unique your brand experience will look and feel to your customers. So, it’s always worth spending too much time on seemingly unimportant elements of your mix, like proverbial chocolates on the pillow of a hotel room. Or what you write inside your candy. Or the art of pouring your beer. Or how many balls you let your consumers play with.

What details in your business could you over-commit to, to project how skilled, expert, passionate you really are?


Here’s what your customers will think : if they care about these small details in their business, they will care about another small detail… me.



Leave a Comment
  1. Patrick Prothe / Dec 27 2010 17:41

    It’s always the details that make a product / brand stand out. Sometimes you can’t immediately know why it’s better or different. It just is. Take the iPhone vs. Droid – my wife has the Droid but prefers my iPhone – looks forward to when it (hopefully) comes to Verizon. The Droid isn’t intuitive nor fun for her to use. Or Mercedes Benz and how they engineer the sound their car doors make – ensuring it’s a solid, secure ‘thud’. Because you don’t want you MB to sound like a Chevy.

    But it’s these details that so many brands overlook as they pour over their spreadsheets. Focusing on rational benefits but forgetting the emotions. And the details.

    Simple is hard. And so are the details – unless you really know what business you’re in. And what delights your customers. It’s something I harp on every day here.

    Well said.

  2. Zach Cole / Dec 27 2010 20:05

    I couldn’t agree more. I love the point you make about how having a USP is not enough, but instead brands must be able to demonstrate their USPs. There are many lofty promises in marketing, but brands that can deliver on their unique benefits are those that will win in the long run. Great post, Tom!

  3. Carol L. Weinfeld / Dec 28 2010 02:22

    Thank you for the mention. Papabubble is an excellent example, for the painstaking care in which they make their candy, in addition to creating unique flavors.

  4. Lefreddie / Dec 28 2010 07:40


    I am upset. For two reasons. One I’d like to contradict, two I find difficult to like Mr Trump.
    But I so so so so so so so agree about the point you make on details.

    The founder one of my clients said once : ‘ we don’t do extraodinary things, we do simple things in an extraodinary way’.
    So often people search for the killer usp. Something so big ot becomes unhuman and bound to fail, or so big it never exists.
    Simple details have one huge vertue: they are human. They make a product, a place human. They show that someone thought about the human behind the purse, that someone realmy cares.
    There was a great talk on ted that I featured in my blog, I’ll find it for ypu, askibg every company to have a ‘ministry of small’. Because small makes all the difference. Small details in a hotel make it worth talking about, small details like the salt on virgin withe the inscription underneath ‘stolen from virgin atlantic’ make great conversation starters, make all the competitove digference in the world. Because they are jndisputed proof that someone knows what you like and taht there really is someone…

  5. sumnermusolf / Dec 28 2010 16:50

    It’s simply amazing how something simple can have an amazing impact. One way or another.
    Thank you for sharing, Tom. Such an articulate post, with great examples.

  6. donald bebereia / Dec 28 2010 23:29

    Wow those are some very cool hard candies!

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