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Today, the average person sees an advertisement every 11.52 seconds, and about 5,000 ads a day. That’s a lot of ads. Rarely do we process these advertisements or really think about them meaningfully unless we have a personal connection to the brand. That’s why the brand experience is so vital; it is packed with nuance and deep thought to perfectly appeal to their target audience. I set out to experience two brands I had heard a little about but I perceived as wildly different despite their similar products; Rush Bowls and Wonder Juice Bar.
Located on 946 Pearl Street, Wonder Juice Bar stands out among the walk of restaurants and boutiques that surround the area. The exterior is completely white, painted over a wood that gives off a very natural and beachy vibe. Upon entering, the area was extremely spacious, but the quietness of the place was what caught me off guard. I stopped mid-sentence because normal speaking volume was booming in comparison to the rest of the people in Wonder, most of whom were typing away at their laptops or reading over a cup of coffee. One long, elevated table with tall stools framing it was the store centerpiece, with smaller booths along the edges of the spacious room. The back of Wonder shifts into a slab of shiny white marble tiles and mirrors that make the store seem longer than it is. Large cases of pre-pressed juices are strategically placed to entice people waiting in line, and their bare-bones menu was posted in tiny font on the wall. I cautiously ordered a “Banana Chip” smoothie and forked over $8.00, which I felt was slightly steep for the size of the smoothie (about 12 ounces). However, I was pleasantly surprised, although it did have a certain grittiness from what I believe were the “cacao nibs”.
Wonder is a place that knows exactly who it caters to, and won’t bend over backwards to accommodate a variety of customers. The employees wore no uniforms and were largely unhelpful, and spent most of the time sipping on juices they made for themselves. The special of the day was “Activated Charcoal Lemonade”, which included a slew of ingredients that I didn’t recognize but boasted their toxin-pulling qualities. Although I was not a fan of my Wonder experience, I can understand how it works for the company. They cater to wealthy young people who care about their personal health and believe in the cleansing properties of organic juices. They did many things to appeal to this audience, including but not limited to playing current alternative and indie music, offering additives from kale to wheatgrass to something called stevia, and giving the option of pouring their juice directly into reusable glass bottles. What I thought of as boujee was popular with their customers. Wonder was a unique brand experience that emphasized health and quality products, but was lackluster to me because of what I perceived as an exclusive and judgemental vibe and the outrageous pricing.
The next morning around 11 AM, I made the short walk to central hill area of CU to Rush Bowls, a popular smoothie shop with students. I had never been before and had no idea what to expect. What I found was organized chaos. The space Rush Bowls occupied was extremely small, probably due to limited space on the hill. I waited in a long line of mostly freshman girls outside of the store with my friend Sam, eagerly awaiting my smoothie. Inside the store, rap music pounded in my head as I frantically tried to process all of their menu choices. Due to the fact that it was Saturday around noon, a lot of my other peers ordered something called the “Hangover Bowl”, but I chose to get a smoothie called “James and the Giant Peach”. I tried to wait inside the store but the crowding was too intense, and I opted for waiting outside rather than being forced to sit on their small freezer containing pre-made Rush Bowls. When I did receive my smoothie, it was considerably larger than the Wonder smoothie and for a slightly lower price. It was absolutely delicious. Sam and I opted to enjoy our Rush Bowls on the go, because the limited seating area outside was also blasting rap music at a volume that I can’t imagine anybody could have enjoyed.
Although I did have my gripes with my Rush Bowls brand experience, I enjoyed the shop. They promoted a high-energy and healthy lifestyle, and even boasted the skiing accomplishments of one of their employees on the wall. Their taste in music and bustling atmosphere seemed to cater to college students, and the employees were very nice and helpful despite their manic running around the cramped space to try to make smoothies at top speed. Sam noted that Rush Bowls seemed “kinda sweaty”, but I think the craziness and loud bustling volume is a tactic to dissuade people from loitering in the limited space the store has. The brand essence for Rush Bowls is high energy and honest. Their affinity for rap music and their central campus location suggests to me that they are targeting college students as their audience (which was backed up by the large number of students in the shop), and although the bowls are a little pricey they have a fairly strong pull when it comes to healthy food options on the hill.
Both my brand experiences at Wonder and Rush Bowls emphasized to me the importance of how a brand positions and markets itself. Each place, although very similar in products, focused on different product strengths and catered to different groups of people. Perhaps this is why I enjoyed Rush Bowls more; I may have felt more comfortable with college students and a high energy environment. Wonder seemed focused on creating a peaceful, zen experience for their customers and creating a space where customers could come and relax, while Rush Bowls portrayed their “never stop moving” mantra through both their messaging and their hectic but practiced demeanor. My experiences with Wonder and Rush Bowls were both strikingly unique and allowed me to begin to understand how great an impact your brand positioning can make on your target audience.
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