Big Talk Email July 22 Thumbnail
Find your signature moments

For my 40th birthday, I had the bucket list opportunity to eat at Chicago’s Alinea, one of the top restaurants in the world. The Alinea dining experience is one that engages all five senses, keeping you in awe and wonder of what will happen next. I’m sure you’re picturing fancy cuisine and one-of-a-kind décor, but what you might not expect to be so impactful is the experience of simply walking in.

Here's how a food critic Francis Lam explained it on Netflix’s Chef’s Table:

“..because even the experience of walking into Alinea is disorienting and weird and kind of uncomfortable, but kinda magical. You open the door and it looks like a hallway that goes on for 100 feet. And maybe eight steps into it, a door to the side of the hallway just opens. You’re like ‘where is the rest of the hallway?’ And you look, and it’s an optical illusion. But in retrospect, it’s also this thing where you realize…they’re totally gonna mess with you. They’re totally gonna screw with your brain. And for however long you’re there, you really don’t know what’s going to happen.”

The chef, Grant Achatz, was willing to look outside his menu and redefine an act as mundane as “entering” in a way that dramatically set the tone for the rest of the experience.

That kind of creative thinking produces what I call “signature moments.” Signature moments are those experiences, big or small, that pull customers out of the ordinary. These are instrumental in helping the audience understand and connect with the brand—and it stays with you, yet sometimes you can’t calculate its ROI.

As humans, we move through life in largely consistent ways. We are driven by routines and habits, and we are conditioned by society to engage in expected ways. While we do find comfort in our routine, we occasionally appreciate an experience that is carefully crafted to break us out of it.

Sometimes this break from the expected is dramatic like Alinea. Sometimes it's the anticipation and excitement of unboxing an Apple product. And sometimes it's a simple response—like a Chick-Fil-A employee saying, “My pleasure.”

Chef Achatz took a simple act and crafted it into a signature moment that has stayed with me for years. What could that moment be for your brand?

Your customers have specific journeys and routines. They are walking through your doors, scrolling through your website or talking to your salespeople. They are unboxing your product, using your service or asking your customer service team questions. Are these experiences unique and brand-building for you? Or are they just tedious? These moments don’t have to be crazy or expensive, they just need to remind your customers that you’re thinking outside the box to make them happy. This might be what takes your brand from good to great.

Still need help finding your signature moments?

When looking for signature moments, we like to start with the creation of a Customer Experience Map. By understanding the customer journey, we can identify opportunities to break from the expected and craft truly unique signature moments.


Ben Gregory is the Strategy Director at Big. He has worked to improve the marketing strategies of companies and not-for-profits for over 25 years. His experience includes working with B2C and B2B organizations, domestically and internationally.