April 22, 2014 \ Rachel Jellinek
Harmonic Brands

April 22, 2014

Prêt à MangerGeoff and I recently traveled to Washington, DC on a film shoot for the Union of Concerned Scientists. On the plane down I was reading Tracy Carlson’s What Great Brands Know: Unleash Your Right-Brain Genius to Stand Out and Make Customers Care.

One of the themes that Carlson talks about is the harmony that certain brands demonstrate. If a brand has harmony, she says, there is the “presence of multiple, mutually reinforcing elements that work together to create a pleasing whole.”

Anyway, the first morning we were in D.C., we went into Prêt à Manger, a place we had never visited before. We liked it and immediately became fans for several reasons:

1. The food was fresh and tasty.

2. The environment was pleasing – with playful, fun photography of foods.

3. We appreciated the fact that at the end of every day they deliver all of their fresh food to charity, rather than selling it the next day. Their motto is “made today, gone today,” which is fantastic. 

4. Last, but not least, we really liked the customer service.

On that first morning, Geoff went up to the counter and asked for the code to the men’s room.  One of the employees asked him if he has a song for her.  Always eager to have fun and play along, Geoff started to sing “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.” 

Not only did the employee give Geoff a cookie for being a good sport, but she saw that we were eating together and so she threw one in the bag for me too! 

The next morning when we returned for breakfast, she greeted Geoff heartily with a smile and said, “There’s my songbird!”

Soon after this, I was reading further in Carlson’s book, and – lo and behold! – I  discovered that she highlighted Prêt à Manger. The “inner hum” she describes with harmonic brands and a sense of  “well-being, a little uplift” matched our experience exactly.