Every retailer should aim to get itself into the dictionary if it wants to be a household name

As shopkeepers and for that matter as shoppers, we all know that it’s often the little things that can make the world of difference.

It could be the smile that welcomes you as you enter the store, the cheeky message printed at the bottom of your till receipt or the way staff wrap and package your purchase.

All these things build your reputation or your brand, as the marketing team will insist on calling it. What’s key is that these small things are often assumed – sometimes incorrectly – to be representative of greatness beneath – ie, if they show such attention to detail on the seemingly unimportant, they must be even better at the really critical stuff like product quality.

Because these things are small and therefore surprising, they get retold to others and so your reputation builds. The peepholes in our changing room doors, which you open from the inside to give your partner a sneaky peek as you try on our lingerie, are just one of the little things we’ve built into our brand that gets talked about endlessly.

The tricky bit is trying to institutionalise these small but powerful brand-enhancing points. Arguably, the most effective way to do so is via language, of which Innocent and its fabulous smoothies is probably the best exponent.

I get the impression that the boys who work there are exactly the kind of men you hope your daughter will marry and all the women are Gwyneth Paltrow: based purely on the fact that they use really cute copy on their packaging. Get the language right on your products, from in-store signage to staff training documents and it’ll shape your brand.

Get it right and your brand can even get its own listing in the dictionary, describing the very things you hoped it would become synonymous with. The other day, I came across a new one for me and I have to say it tickled me a bit. Someone was writing about the economic success that Ireland has enjoyed and the changes to the fabric of society that has accompanied its growth. They referred to it as “Wonderbra economics”, a term used to describe how prosperity has pushed the social classes together and at the same time lifted them to higher living standards. Quite brilliant.

I love that if you have the best-in-class product, it’s invariably referred to as the Rolls Royce of whatever. Every vacuum cleaner is still a Hoover but, on the downside, a sales promotion that has gone horribly wrong is known as “doing a Hoover”. And, if you have the most tedious job in the world, it’ll be a McJob.

The other day, I overheard two sales directors lamenting their recent retail performance. Somewhat gloomily, the first one described his trading figures as terminal. “You think you’ve got problems?” countered the other. “Ours is Terminal 5.” I’m assuming that Willie Walsh is praying that that one doesn’t catch on.