Candie Kemp of Corgi Town USA: “Flatter your customers”

Flatter your customers. They are the best. They are unique. They have special needs, and your LifeStyle Brand knows just how to pamper properly. Exclusivity plays into this. Apple presents their brand as sophisticated, sleek, innovative and nothing short of necessary. As such, their branding illustrates their customers the same way: forward thinking, industrious, as well […]

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Flatter your customers. They are the best. They are unique. They have special needs, and your LifeStyle Brand knows just how to pamper properly. Exclusivity plays into this.

Apple presents their brand as sophisticated, sleek, innovative and nothing short of necessary. As such, their branding illustrates their customers the same way: forward thinking, industrious, as well as hip and fashionable.

As a part of our series called “5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Very Successful Lifestyle Brand”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Candie Kemp.

During college, Candie Kemp started her career in hospitality as a night auditor at the front desk of a hotel. Candie got her first corgi, Lilo, in her twenties. More corgis followed over the years: Zelda, Hammer, Booger, Digby, and Chuckles.

While traveling in sales for audio visual production companies, Candie realized how much she enjoyed meeting people from all over the globe. Booger, her third rescue corgi, accompanied her on her business trips to meet and serve audio visual clients.

Candie currently lives in Gilbert, Arizona with her three corgis: Booger, Hammer, and Chuckles. She also plays drums in punk bands for fun, enjoys movies, concerts and comedy shows.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

Thank you for having me! I was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma where I lived with my mom. My dad had moved to Arkansas, so I spent my summers there. When I was in high school, I moved in with my aunt and uncle. It was with them that the first corgi in my life, Kyra, came to live with us. She was a stumpy creature with a long back and huge ears and was one of the best pets I ever had. During my tenure working at a wireless carrier, I decided that I was “adult enough” to get a puppy of my own. I picked Lilo out of a litter 4 weeks after his birth and brought him home when he was 8 weeks old. He was the most precious corgi boy there ever was. Lilo was intelligent, sweet, intuitive, fun loving, loyal, and absolutely wonderful — the perfect dog. I later moved to Arizona where the weather is much nicer.

Can you tell us the story of what led you to this particular career path?

I always loved hospitality. When I was little, we would take vacations with my grandparents. I learned that I loved to travel. I loved the entire experience: seeing different landscapes, hotels, bed and breakfasts. After high school, I started working in hotels at the front desk. I really enjoyed meeting people from all over!

As I got older, I realized I had a knack for sales and that relationship building was very fulfilling to me. When I met the love of my life in the form of a little corgi named Lilo, I begin to meet other corgis and came to the realization that I was a huge dog person! While working in audio visual, I traveled often to meet and serve clients. My third rescue corgi, Booger, had very bad separation anxiety. I decided that I would just take her on business trips with me. It was at this time that I started to notice a need for TRULY pet-friendly hotels that cater to the professional traveling pet owner.

Booger was small enough to fit in a carrier under the airline seat, and she has always been super friendly. Everywhere I would travel to, I had to search to find pet-friendly hotels. That became easier over time, but I did not like leaving her in a hotel room. She would be alone, anxious, and I worried about the risks associated with that. Some cities had doggie day care locations, but, finding one took time to research and decide on the right fit. There was also the added time commitment for pick up/ drop off. Moreover, the day care facilities usually closed before I could get back to bring her home.

I imagined a place in which a dog was welcomed in the room, had his own yard, and and could stay at an attached day care or overnight center. The vision was for people like me, who treat their dogs like royalty but also want a clean and comfortable place for themselves to stay. If the owner had client dinners or appointments at less-than-dog-friendly places, the pet could be left in a pet-centric cabin, or left with the staff at the day care or overnight facility. No need to worry about a pet not getting appropriate stimulation, potty breaks, and being fed on a schedule. Pets would be watched, cared for, and loved while the pet owner was away. Owners could join their pet in comfortable facilities when they are finished with work or play. These were all amenities that I needed when I was traveling with Booger. Through these experiences is how the concept of Corgi Town USA was born!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

At this point in time, I feel like the funniest mistake has yet to be made. Part of starting a business is making millions of tiny mistakes and learning from them as you go. I stay in that state. Truth is, I find everything funny, so there is ALWAYS a reason to laugh! The day I stop making mistakes and learning is the day I’ve become too cocky!

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Marley and Me. Lilo was only about one and half years old when the book was released. I laughed, I cried. And cried, and cried, and cried. I was so moved by that book because it was written by someone who loved his dog as much as I loved mine. I didn’t actually think people understood how much I felt for my little corgi until I read the book about a man and his life with his dog. That family’s story and the bond the author shared with his lab resonated with me so much because I felt like someone UNDERSTOOD such a bond and how it changes your life.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

It is more philosophical than “life lesson,” but, my favorite quote is this: “Life is a gift to you. The way you live your life is your gift to those who follow.”

This is relevant to me in a number of ways: first, it reminds me of some of my favorite people whom I’ve known and loved. Those that have left the most impact on me have left the world a better place and unknowingly lived that mantra. Secondly, I think it is important to make the world a nice place to live while you’re in it — this also makes you memorable. Your way of “living on” after you pass is in the pleasant memories and lasting legacy you leave those who follow.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. For the benefit of our readers, let’s define our terms. How do you define a Lifestyle Brand? How is a Lifestyle Brand different from a normal, typical brand?

I define a Lifestyle Brand to be different than a typical brand in that, it encourages a life well lived. “Lifestyle” should have a pleasant connotation, one in which invokes a relaxed and positive feeling. Typical brands represent a service or product for convenience or necessity. Lifestyle Brands represent those attributes most important to us for that “good life” we are all seeking. That looks different to some, but, the essence of a Lifestyle Brand is special in that it exists to make life better for all who live it!

What are the benefits of creating a lifestyle brand?

The benefits of creating a lifestyle brand are:

  • Camaraderie: bringing others together in a community sense — birds of a feather, as they say!
  • Community: A Lifestyle Brand brings a sense of comfort and prosperity to the people and neighborhood or group it serves. You are bringing good things to those around you!
  • Legacy: that living memory I talked about? Creating something that makes life better for others makes for fulfilling work!

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved Lifestyle Brand? What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

Gaiam: Not only does Gaiam create convenience and comfort around being active, at peace, and comfortable, the company tells its audience that life SHOULD be lived this way: being your best healthy self while in comfy pants!

What impresses me the most is that the marketing is gentle like the company message, yet effective.

One could replicate this by paying very close attention to the ideal client and asking the question: what is most important to my audience? How would they benefit from this service or product? How can I improve life for them?

Can you share your ideas about how to create a lifestyle brand that people really love and are ‘crazy about’?

People will go crazy for anything that makes them feel good, is attainable, and helps them live their best life. You create this by listening to and watching very closely what excites your brand enthusiasts and molding your product or service to fit that desire. This is what makes a want a NEED. Salons performing pedicures and hair services, for example, were not originally considered a necessity. Now think of how people simply CANNOT live without them.

What are the common mistakes you have seen people make when they start a lifestyle brand? What can be done to avoid those errors?

The most common mistake I see is offering the same products and services as your competition with no special identifiers. That special touch is what makes your brand memorable and sets your Lifestyle Brand apart. Another would be not doing enough research. There is a reason that much capital is put towards R&D. Much time needs to be spent not only identifying your target audience, but, what is important to that group of people. What need can you serve or pain can you alleviate? If you’re not answering those questions, you’re setting your brand up for an uphill battle against fierce competition. Take the time to learn the answers to those questions and develop a specific and unique value proposition.

Let’s imagine that someone reading this interview has an idea for a lifestyle brand that they would like to develop. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

  • Do your research: Pay attention to the lifestyles of the type of people you are marketing to. What do they need to live that life well-lived I keep talking about?
  • Be mindful about the when/where/why of your product and service: sustainability is important no matter where you are. If your product involves technology, for instance, you will need to spend extra resources staying adept at that continuously changing landscape.
  • Be aware of society, current affairs, adjusting attitudes and culture revolution as you develop your idea. To stay in that aforementioned sustainable space, you must stay with the times and adapt to what will serve an ever-transforming social environment.

Ok. Thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our discussion. What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Create A Very Successful Lifestyle Brand” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

1); Focus on FEELING. The old adage “people will not always remember what you said or did, but they will always remember how you made them FEEL” applies here! For a LifeStyle Brand to be successful, it has to appeal to the emotional on some level.

Consider Lululemon, one of the most recognizable LifeStyle Brands around. They are regularly connecting with their customers on social media. In a disconnected world, they appeal to the emotional by making their audience feel connected to the brand and one another.

2): Continuous metamorphosis is a MUST. Society changes, people change, their wants and needs change (remember the Salons not always being ‘essential?’) Be prepared to stay informed and aware of the desires of your customer!

SEARS is a company that used to be a LifeStyle Brand by being an example of beloved Old School Americana. As the American landscape in retail changed, Sears did not adapt. The brand is no longer recognized as it once was. Success has not followed the brand in recent years as a painful result.

3): Exceed Expectations. In whatever it is you decide to do with your brand. Set yourself apart — pleasant surprises and perks will keep your audience coming back for more.

Nike has created an entire customer PORTAL online. The services are many within the portal with new features being added regularly. This is a way to stay connected from a shoe/active wear company — out of the (shoe) box thinking, if you will. 😉

4): Think in terms of Cult Following. You are bringing together a tribe of brand enthusiasts.

Harley Davidson: a great example of creating a lifestyle around their main product. Their brand loyalists are not just loyal, they’re downright evangelical!

5): Flatter your customers. They are the best. They are unique. They have special needs, and your LifeStyle Brand knows just how to pamper properly. Exclusivity plays into this.

Apple presents their brand as sophisticated, sleek, innovative and nothing short of necessary. As such, their branding illustrates their customers the same way: forward thinking, industrious, as well as hip and fashionable.

Super. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

One idea I’m working on is starting a podcast to get people back to work: the #opentowork podcast. I would like to feature guests with a hospitality background discussing their professional careers and skillsets. If I bring the interviews to the recruiters and human resource professionals without the guests having to break through process barriers, maybe I can help some of the 12 million people in the event and hospitality industries get back to work!

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Stephen King: There are far fewer reasons NOT to want to have lunch with the prolific writer. I love his writing, but, I would likely want to steer the conversation toward his corgis! Can his corgis, Molly, the Thing of Evil and Yoshi, the Thing of Good, please join us also?

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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