Archived Story

Time to build some magic in Alex City

Published 6:47pm Friday, August 1, 2014

At 2 p.m. Friday I stopped going forward on Highway 280 and, like hundreds of other vehicles on Friday, I made a U-turn to go backwards to Chick-fil-A, where in the middle of a Friday afternoon – an hour after lunch was over – they had two employees in orange vests standing in the parking lot directing traffic.
Because they needed two.
The drive-through line circled the building. The parking lot was slam full. So was the inside of the restaurant.
I ordered a No. 7 meal; a grilled chicken sandwich with fries and a drink.
Here’s what I got: bread, grilled chicken, lettuce, tomato, fries and a drink. No special seasoning, no secret recipe, no delicious brand new ingredient.
Just the basic, tried and true ingredients … and a healthy dose of brand magic.
Every piece of Chick-fil-A is generously dusted with mega brand pixie dust.
And they’ve earned it with stellar customer service, community service and attention to the tiniest details (you can go to Chick-fil-A’s website and read the ingredients in their ketchup and everything else they serve, in case you have food allergies).
But their grilled chicken sandwich is still bread, grilled chicken, lettuce and tomato, same as the grilled chicken sandwich served at thousands of restaurants across America.
The difference is the magic. People crave it.
Big Green Egg grills have the same magic.
Mercedes cars have it.
It’s in the little polo pony they sew onto shirts and that apple-with-a-bite-out-of-it on the back of phones.
In every case the magic is earned, but once the brand reputation is established it can grow to mythic status. It doesn’t matter that Samsung phones are better now, I want an iPhone.
That’s the magic of reputation and buzz. It’s super valuable.
People speak the brand name with reverence. Sometimes, it’s even whispered.
“Lake Martin” is a magic brand that is sometimes spoken with reverence, and it can trigger warm memories and create a deep longing for people who want to feel the sun and smell that clean lake smell.
I think we’re on the way to building another brand, “Alex City,” so that one day people will whisper it like they do the name, “Fairhope.”
We found some magic pixie dust with the Jazz Fest and the Sun Festival. MainStreet’s superb downtown revitalization effort, our farmers market and Carlisle Drug’s old-time soda fountain all have a good dusting of magic.
But we need more brand-builders to get us established.
The demolition and rebuilding of the old Russell campus could be the next big thing.
Alex City will soon have a clean slate (OK, it’s a long way from clean right now, but soon all the salvaged materials will be gone) that we can use to make something extraordinary in the heart of our community … or we can let the ordinary and the routine arise from the Russell Corp. dust.
Let’s make more magic.
Boone is publisher of The Outlook.