Six Lessons from “The Big Easy” on Biz + Branding

In the early 1900s, “The Big Easy” was a dance hall (club) in New Orleans. In the 1970s, a Louisiana newspaper began referring to the city of New Orleans by this name. The term of endearment spread like wildfire because that’s what word of mouth does! People compared laid-back life in The NO to fast-paced living in New York City. The city highlighted a key differentiator, created a unique allure, and ran with it. Talk about branding at its best!

I had the pleasure of exploring The Big Easy earlier this month. Aside from having blast, I collected some gems (#CheatCodez) you can apply to your biz + brand:

01 If It Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix It
Why scrap when you can spruce up?

Tradition is powerful. Looking around the city, it’s easy to wonder at what point time froze. It’s been through tons of hardship. Instead of reinventing— they rebuild, reconstruct and renovate. They never start over and manage to keep the magic alive. Hitting the same old walls with reinforcements and new coats of bright paint. They don’t demolish historical architecture. Instead, the city pays homage to it’s humble roots and we admire them for it.

02 Doesn’t Matter Who Else is Doing It
You’ll do it differently.

We were out and about when my homegirl Ashley talked about setting up on a corner to read tarot cards. We laughed it off but as we walked around Jackson Square, we saw a mystic every couple of feet! And guess what? They were each busy doing their thing. Clearly, no one was opposed to having a business that was really similar to what other folks for doing. Legitimately targeting people within 20 feet of their competitors. Some tarot readers were white, a couple were men, none of them looked or talked like Ashley! We knew that if she set up shop in the middle of the street — she’d be in business. You’re always going to attract unique folks even if you’re offering a service that already exists. People will gravitate to you if they feel like your catering to them.

Aside from tarot readers, there were tons of art vendors! I can’t tell you how many bars, coffee shops, voodoo stores we saw at walking distant from each other. We also came across tons of statues. Some were perfectly still. Other danced. Tons of horse carriages, too. All these people are eating, ok?

03 Someone Will Pay For It
Even if it’s strange. 

The NO is home to the ultimate hustlers. This one display that really took me out. Three men were sitting on the ground with a dog and about nine newborn puppies nursing. People were so moved by the little pups! They were circling the dog and handing over dollars for a chance to touch, hold, and take pictures with puppies. I don’t know much about dogs but I know those puppies were being put through too much! As I studied the situation, I realized this biz move was probably inhumane and the men were probably homeless. Who knows how many times that dog was pregnant and how many puppies had already died! Super morbid example but this real life. Even though it made me sad, it definitely reminded me that you can literally make money however you want. While the whole pet-a-puppy experience turned grim for me, that didn’t stop the crowds or the dollars from pouring in.

On a brighter note, I also saw an ice cream truck with no ice or cream. Wait for it. Instead, they were selling edibles. Funny lollipops if ya catch my drift. That’s a business I had to support. Not sure that it was super legal. It reminded me of my early undergrad days. I knew a couple homes in Miami where you could get mason jars filled with with sour gummies soaking in liquor. Obviously, none of this examples for this lesson are very lawful. I like the idea of you living life on the edge but not outside of the law per se. I just want you to see how much other people push the limit! If you’re interested in a niche moneymaker: do your due diligence to find out what kind of licensing, permissions and insurance you need to get your show on the road! Safe and sound. 

04 Just a lil Brand Recognition, Baby!
Tacky Houses? Ha! Unique Masterpieces.

Even if you wouldn’t paint your house pink with purple trimmings — that’s one of the things that makes New Orleans captivating.  Talk about a strong branding presence! If I blindfolded, kidnapped and dropped you off in the middle of The French Quarters, you would know where you are. For a moment, you might hesitate and think you’ve been trafficked to another country. But the minute you see signs in English promoting the strongest drink of your life… you’ll know you’re in New Orleans! The city is like a Sriracha bottle: a whole bunch of fonts, super old-school looking, doesn’t really flow. Somehow, we all recognize that red bottle with the green nozzle. It feels like home and makes us want more!


05 Consistent Action and Reward Begets Engagement
“Show Us Your Tits!” 

One of the things I find super fascinating about New Orleans is the fact that everyone knows what to do to get beads. More often than not, new marketing campaigns and promo initiatives don’t get as much engagement as they should because people aren’t super clear on 1) what’s expected from them and 2) what they’re going to get in return. However, in New Orleans, if you’re on a balcony on Bourbon St. and you have beads in your hands… people walking around know what to do to get them! No one had to tell them at the airport or hand them a pamphlet — we just know. We’ve seen it on the big screen and mainstream media. It’s a practice that’s unique to the city and is already known before people pull up. We saw lots of breasts in The NO. Females and males near and far showed us their nipples. Stay classy NOLA.

06 The Bigger the Better
Go big or Go Home!

New Orleans reminded me that simplicity is king and a big sans serif typeface packs a punch! Big signs disrupt. Promotion is all about disruption. When I can read your daiquiri sign from down the block, guess what? I’m on my way. When you’re waving a huge sign in my face about no cover… I might be inspired to walk inside your venue. My friends might even take a picture with it. (See Above) If I’m parched and looking for something to drink then happen to stumble upon the “huge ass beer” sign? I’m ready. Please give me one. Kick it old school with big bold fonts. Don’t be afraid to make text size obnoxious. It makes for good contrast. Opt for tight kerning and punchy statements in person or in your digital space.

Let’s “Wrap it Up Den”

New Orleans is an amazing city. Abundant in history. Memorizing sounds and sights. Full of fun and wonder. My trip was another reminder that every person and place has something to teach me. Leave a comment below and let us know if the NO has taught you anything 🙂



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