Target a demographic, and kill your brand
06/09/17 Branding & Marketing Strategy # , , , , , , ,

Target a demographic, and kill your brand

Originally published on Medium »

I was sitting in a restaurant in San Jose not too long ago having a deep discussion about marketing and brand strategies. (Yes, this is my life and you don’t have to think it’s awesome.) Throughout the chat the concept of a audience of focus (aka “target market”) would resurface. Close behind would be a string of information about said audience: age, sex, household income, etc.

After the third time this happened I interjected. I asked one of the folks to describe me to the other. I received blank stares, so I repeated. “Describe me, Joseph, to him as if he’s never met me. Start off with ‘I met this guy…’” Luckily the gentleman played along, and he started in, “I met this guy, Joseph. He’s rather smart, very intelligent, needs to shave, eloquent.”

Despite enjoying the compliments, I interjected again. I pointed out that not once had he mentioned that I was 30-something, Caucasian, Male, who makes X amount of dollars a year. Not once had he profiled demographic information about me. Yet, when many marketers or brand strategists profile their ideal patrons, they go right to the cold, hard demographics.

Demographics do little to help brands understand who their patrons truly are. “Millennials” isn’t a strategy. It’s a date range. Brands are built and proliferated by humans who have behaviors and aspirations. They want to portray their uniqueness and/or sense of belonging to the world. Therefore, brands provide elements much deeper than product and service. They provide a badge that helps identify a person. A brand gives them something to belong to while allowing them to adopt its attributes to create a perception to everyone around them.

Targeting people based on demographics is a waste of time and it will kill your brand. Identifying what your brand offers people by way of personality, attributes, and aspirations is how good brands get great. Your ideal patron isn’t Joseph who’s in his late-30’s, makes $X a year, etc. It’s Claire, who appreciates art and design so she shops at Crate & Barrel, drives a Land Rover, shops at Banana Republic because she likes simple, classic styles. She’s not into glitz and glamour. She’s well read and well traveled, finding Paris and Rome to be her favorite destinations.

Brands should look to relate and befriend their patrons by way of common interest and aspiration. When viewed from this angle, brands are no longer about selling turkey sandwiches, or vodka drinks. They’re something so much more.

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You vs. Them – A branding lesson in understanding your audience
23/07/17 Branding & Marketing Strategy # , , , , , , , ,

You vs. Them – A branding lesson in understanding your audience

You’re reaching the launching point of a new brand and you’re anxiously waiting to unfurl the new look and brand to the world. You’re certain it will be received with positive feedback, or, at least, it won’t be hated. You know this because you’ve guided the process from beginning to end based on what you know and like mixed with some gut intuition. The brand launches and something isn’t right. People don’t dislike the brand, nor are they drawn to it quite the way you thought. The audience doesn’t react or attract the way you planned and you’re left wondering what went wrong.

This scenario plays out quite frequently. The storied brand was supposed to draw in the millennial audience, but decision makers used their own ideas, perceptions, and, often times, misconceptions, to guide the brand’s look and feel. The results isn’t necessarily an outright failure, but the glaring miss will get bigger and bigger as time goes on if not rectified.

Unfortunately, branding can be quite subjective and very personal to the people involved. No matter how objective we seek to make the process of designing a brand, there is always a bit of subjectivity that seeps in. More often than not, during the evaluation of design is where subjectivity comes into play. Over the years we’ve discussed how we can go about reducing the amount of subjectivity in branding, but we haven’t found the answer as of yet.

The problem arises because crafting a brand is inherently a very personal task. Usually brands are forged in the hearts and minds of a person despite some stating that it’s purely a business transaction. In short, they’re building it to make money. Despite the financial goals, we inevitably end up in back and forth over look and feel that’s fueled by that person’s feelings, rather than the audience of focus.

So how do you start thinking like your audience? Here are a few ways to begin:

Find peace with the fact that you may not like the look. If you’re not a member of the audience you’re trying to attract, then you SHOULDN’T “like” the look very much. It’s not for you. It’s for them. In order to move forward you’re going to have to swallow your pride of authorship and make peace with not liking the look. Unless you and people like you are going to be patronizing the brand, your opinions and personal tastes have to be put aside.

If you don’t get it, it’s probably a good thing. A lot of times we catch clients saying, “I don’t get it.” It usually happens when the age, sex, or cultural divide is significant between the client and their intended audience. Our response is always, “you’re not supposed to, they are.” This is when focus groups can be a good tool. Getting a small group of people that represent your core audience will help assess the strength of visual elements in a brand.

Don’t look to family/friends for feedback. Feedback is crucial in helping form ideas and designs that hit the mark for your audience. However, random, knee-jerk feedback is rarely valuable or accurate. Asking your spouse if they like something isn’t viable feedback upon which you should build a brand. People’s perceptions are formed based on a culmination of what they know and what they have experienced. Their reactions to certain questions will inevitably be skewed by preconceived notions and ideas. Therefore, if you want innovative thinking, asking friends and family is an exercise in futility. You’ll definitely get an answer, and it will certainly be bad advice.

Force yourself to see the world through their eyes. It comes down to forcing yourself to see through the eyes of your audience rather than your own. This is the toughest thing to do, but one of the most important skills you can foster. When you start to trust what your eyes are seeing, despite what your gut says, then you can start to pull together brand identities that work and succeed. It’s about them, not you, so always try to reset into their thinking before evaluating visuals. What would they like? What would speak to their personalities and world?

Seeing the world through another’s eyes is difficult, but something that must be done if you’re to create a brand for an audience other than yourself. It takes purposeful controlling of pride and gut reactions to objectively evaluate design through the lens of others. However, when done correctly, it can be the difference between a disconnected concept that you like, and a holistically connected concept that’s isn’t your favorite. One of those scenarios succeeds, the other plateaus.

Here is more on building consumer connections for restaurant brands

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QSR, NRN & Campaign all publish new articles penned by Joseph
01/02/17 Branding & Marketing Strategy , In the press # , , , , , , , , , , ,

QSR, NRN & Campaign all publish new articles penned by Joseph

2017 has started off with a bang. Our work has been recognized by industry leading publications, GD USA and Print, and over the last couple weeks restaurant and advertising industry publications have shared our thinking. We’re constantly pushing the envelope here at Vigor, and part of doing that is having a finger on the pulse of people’s behaviors and how it affects the restaurant and beverage industries. Both industries are constantly fighting in a sea of sameness; vying for just a modicum of attention from key markets. Whether startup, or growing brands, understanding how your brand fits into their world is paramount for success. The three articles recently published cover some key issues facing restaurant and beverage brands, today. Have a read, and please share if you enjoy.

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Why Are Beer Brands Still Ignoring Women?

Campaign Magazine

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4 Ways Restaurants Can Win Over Generation Z

Nation’s Restaurant News & Restaurant Hospitality

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The New Rules for Naming Your Restaurant

QSR Magazine

 

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Free screening of Design Disruptors
17/01/17 Branding & Marketing Strategy , Design Events # , , , , , , , , ,

Free screening of Design Disruptors

Our friends at iris are bringing a great new design documentary film to your eyeballs … if you live in Atlanta. Sorry world. Design Disruptors is about the future of business and how it’s being written by companies and products that are changing the game of stagnant industries. It’s extraordinary thinking and participation-focused creative that’s making waves. Their secret? The transformative power of design thinking.

The documentary reveals a never-before-seen perspective on the design approaches of these companies and how they’re overtaking their industry through design. The restaurant and beverage industries are riddled with sameness. The industries are prime for disruption and this documentary will help spark new thinking and ideas to apply to what’s next. Checkout the trailer, and RSVP for free admission!

DESIGN DISRUPTORS Trailer #2 – A documentary from InVision from InVision on Vimeo.

WHEN: Thursday, January 26th at 7pm
WHERE: Plaza Theater in Atlanta / Briarcliff Plaza @ 1019 Ponce De Leon Avenue NE
RSVP for FREE ADMISSION

 

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Featured on Communication Arts
06/05/16 Agency News , In the press # , , ,

Featured on Communication Arts

There’s something about your work getting featured on a respected media’s website. Communication Arts magazine has found our work for Urban Tree Cidery good enough to showcase to the world on their website. They just featured it today, and now our coffee tastes better and there’s a bit more spring in our step. Have a look at the feature »

Soak up the rest of the Urban Tree Cidery branding work here »

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Erasing the Line: Why linear thinking is a fast-track to failing
29/04/16 Branding & Marketing Strategy # , , , , , , , ,

Erasing the Line: Why linear thinking is a fast-track to failing

When speaking with marketing professionals and restaurateurs conversations inevitably turn to new medias, or discussion of which medias are more successful than others. It’s easy to fall into these chats because the landscape of marketing tactics is an ever-changing world. Focusing on new medias or traditional tactics with new features isn’t wrong, but it does play into a large problem commonly found in the world of marketing restaurants and beverage brands: Linear thinking.

Often times marketing strategies take a media-first approach. Brands hear the latest and greatest thing, or a sales person sells them on a “magical silver bullet” media. They take the bait and run with implementing creative specific to said media and anxious await the results. The results rarely show up, and when they do they are almost never up to expectation or promise. Immediately, it’s the fault of the media because “it doesn’t work” and “not worth the money.”

The problem isn’t with media, it’s in the thinking. See, successful marketing isn’t a linear process. Each consumer has a different journey he or she takes to land with food on a fork or drink in hand. We’re a dynamic people who are affected differently by different things and influenced at different moments of our lives. With this kind of ebb and flow, it makes sense that no singular media outlet or tactic can claim to be the end-all, be-all. Nor can you expect it to delivery on such lofty promises.

Instead of attempting to draw a line between a media and the end result of butts in seats, heads in beds, and/or drinks in hands, you need to retrain your brain to think of marketing as weaving a net. Successful marketing is an interwoven, interlocking team of many touch points that work in unison to create many opportunities for conversion. Collectively it is powerful and successful, but only as powerful as what’s locking them all together: The idea.

It’s the idea, the passion, and the “why” that matters most for a brand. That idea must be communicated concisely and with passionate fervor across every single interlocking moment. The idea should dictate the media that delivers it and the results can vary. It’s not always leading directly to a conversion of sale. Sometimes it’s building awareness, or boosting word of mouth. Sometimes the idea is meant to alter understanding or clear misconceptions. Even these semi-intangible results have undeniable benefits to the brand’s bottomline. It’s just extremely difficult to measure because the customer is on a journey that’s far from a straight point A to point B line. Instead, it’s a multiple destination experience. And, yes, it should end in sales. The “end” is just farther away than you think most times.

My advice is to destroy the idea of a straight line, and start thinking about each destination as opportunities to bolster brand love while ushering them towards the ultimate, but not final, destination of conversion.

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Could the future of restaurant brands be going up in smoke?
15/01/15 Branding & Marketing Strategy # , , , ,

Could the future of restaurant brands be going up in smoke?

It’s official; Oxford Dictionary named “vape” the word of the year. Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve noticed these newfangled apparatuses dangling from people’s mouths emitting puffs of what looks like smoke. Vaporizers and e-cigarettes are a rapidly growing trend for smokers trying to quit and nonsmokers looking to try something new. If your first “vape” encounter happened on the street or outdoors, you probably didn’t give it a second thought, but what if it’s encountered indoors like an office setting, or while dining at a restaurant?

Vaping isn’t smoke, it’s water vapor, but the perception of “smoking” is still inherently tied to the act. When someone vapes at their desk, or a non-smoking restaurant, there is an immediate pang of exasperation. That reaction is a residual, knee-jerk effect from the years of anti-smoking initiatives that have been proselytized to the masses for decades. However, that doesn’t mean that vaping indoors should cause the same reactions or be subject to the same restrictions as actual smoking tobacco. In fact, this less harmful activity poses excellent opportunities for brands to further integrate into consumer lifestyles having positive brand impacts. That is if lawmakers don’t have their way first.

Currently there are few laws that restrict vaporizing beyond age limitations, however; the bureaucratic drums of politicos are getting louder and legislation is looming. Instead of waiting for Washington to dictate whether or not vaping should face restrictions similar to tobacco, restaurant brandsneed to address policies on the subject sooner rather than later.

… the issue on whether to allow or disallow vaping in the restaurants is wide open for interpretation leaving restaurants vulnerable to negative experiences …

I asked people in the restaurant industry about their vaping policies to see where they stood, and to gauge the industry’s level of proactive thinking. The responses I received varied responses from dodging the question outright to several stating they handled it on a case-by-case basis. Those responses indicate that the issue on whether to allow or disallow vaping in the restaurants is wide open for interpretation leaving restaurants vulnerable to negative experiences with the vape enthusiast public. Furthermore it brings to a light an opportunity for brands to think beyond basic policy.

Seemingly the biggest issue facing vaping in restaurants specifically is how the vapor can change a sensory experience for the other guests. Although many vape enthusiasts like to say there is no scent emitted from the devices, non-smokers argue otherwise. In an industry where the experience is defined primarily by taste and smell, this can cause problems for guests. There is also the question of whether or not to allow employees of the restaurant to vape on the job. Outside working hours, potential insurance issues relating to the long-term effects of vaping have already started to raise questions.

Policies should be considered for both guests and employees alike. As health experts continue to push for more scientific studies on the effects of e-cigarettes’ “second hand smoke,” some employers like UPS are already requiring an extra $150 in monthly insurance premiums1. McDonald’s currently allows employees to smoke regular and e-cigarette devices, whereas places like Starbucks completely prohibit the use of either2.

When it’s all said and done vaping could be bucketed as a bad habit like smoking making policy decisions mandatory for brands in all industries. However if legislation doesn’t come to fruition brands will find themselves faced with a big decision: either ban it all together, or leverage the vape movement to diversify and to build cultural brand assets.

Vaping doesn’t have to be a negative. In fact, there are many brands today that have equity in certain flavors that could benefit greatly from jumping on the vape movement. The obvious industry for leveraging the opportunities for olfactory gustatory branding is restaurants. As a way to spark ideas for said industry, the creative team at iris Atlanta took a stab at some ideas. Click here to checkout some potential restaurant-inspired vaporizer flavor advertisements that could smoke out the competition.

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Avoiding the big froyo freeze
10/09/14 Branding & Marketing Strategy # , , , , , ,

Avoiding the big froyo freeze

Three tips for frozen-yogurt operators to survive market saturation.

Originally published on QSRMagazine.com. You can read the article here.

Frozen-yogurt shops are reaching critical mass as sales and momentum start to slow down. The next obvious step in this fad is for the segment to reach its breaking point when weaker brands begin to fall away leaving only the strong to survive. Change is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean change has to be negative. Fro-yo brands with less market penetration don’t have to fail, but in order to persevere they will need to change the game in some way.

The fro-yo frenzy started with the introduction of a build-it-yourself format. That new format, mixed with a pay-by-weight pricing structure, helped the craze skyrocket exponentially. The segment’s pioneers saw quick success that lead to others jumping on board to claim their piece of the American dream.

Changing the game isn’t easy, but there are a number of directions in which these brands can grow and gain more market ownership. It will take visionary leadership and the chutzpah to take the risk, but there are opportunities within reach that are ripe for the picking. These opportunities include extending the offering; creating cobranded experiences; crafting a fresher, better story; or a combination of any of the three.

1. Extend the core offering

As it stands today, most frozen-yogurt joints sell their core product and maybe rendition of the classic milkshake. There aren’t many brands that go beyond that offering. The small, café-like experiences are poised to take on a larger offering into new day parts. Red Mango and Pinkberry are seeing success in doing this with their smoothie offering.

By adding a unique beverage lineup, a fro-yo shop turns into an actual café that opens the doors to a full day of service.

Breakfast is a rapidly growing daypart that sees large returns, and Greek yogurt is a huge market that’s untapped by many concepts out there. Besides cafés that resell Chobani or Oikos products, Red Mango seems to be hip to the trend by serving frozen Greek yogurt and regular yogurt parfaits—but even that’s not enough to tackle the breakfast daypart. With the build-it-yourself bar already setup, it only makes sense to create a build-your-own parfait offering for breakfast. Sure, different machines may be necessary, but that’s what innovation in the face of adversity requires.

With a breakfast comes the demand for beverages. The natural choice of beverages is coffee or tea. Many quick-serve restaurants have seen large jumps in revenue after adding specialty coffees to their lineup. Thanks to the likes of Starbucks and Caribou Coffee, drinking into the evening has become a lifestyle. By adding a unique beverage lineup, a fro-yo shop turns into an actual café that opens the doors to a full day of service. And that means more revenue and a point of differentiation that’s easily sold to the market.

2. Create cobranded experiences

Some concepts aren’t meant to stand on their own. Yum! Brands is known for its cobranded locations that combine a Taco Bell and KFC, Pizza Hut and Wing Street, or other brands in the portfolio. The idea is to combine forces to conquer an area where one brand would potentially poach the other. In the case of frozen yogurt, the opportunity to cobrand with another concept facing a downfall is prime.

The cupcake craze is already on the way out, but that doesn’t mean the demand has completely died. Cupcake bakeries have a great format with the ability to offer catering as a line of business. An operator could offer cupcake and fro-yo sandwiches, cupcakes topped with fresh fro-yo flavors, and other concoctions that create a new experience for consumers. Being the first of its kind would spark a blaze of interest all built on two fads that still have merit. The new brand would pull market share from both formats, frozen yogurt and cupcakes, while technically being first-to-market.

3. Craft a fresher, better story

Most frozen yogurt shops all have the same look. If you close your eyes you can picture it easily: White plastic accouterments mixed with bright, vibrantly colored tiles. The logo is probably a mix of greens, oranges, and pinks. The story is one based on a healthier dessert with fruit toppings sitting next to sugary candy sweets.

A brand’s story that’s honest and legitimate draws in passionate fans. Think of TOMS shoes and Chipotle: Both brands have embraced a bigger picture beyond their offering and have been rewarded with extremely loyal, raving fans. In the frozen-yogurt world, no brand has really done more than peddle their dessert in a run-of-the-mill interior experience.

The good news is that stagnation of story and experience leaves the door wide open for a game changer. What if the product was more natural or organic? What if a brand told the story of a cow to creamery journey much like Chipotle does for the world of burritos? What if a frozen-yogurt brand tied itself to a philanthropic movement entirely? People respond to a higher purpose that aligns with the brands values and vision.

It’s an inevitability that the frozen-yogurt world will change. How current fro-yo brands approach this change will determine the viability of their business. By taking a strategic look at their offering, opportunities and brand story, smart brands can find a way to change the game and avoid failure.

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3 survival tips for being a culinary pioneer
24/01/14 Branding & Marketing Strategy , In the press # , , , ,

3 survival tips for being a culinary pioneer

Originally posted on FSR. Read the article here.

As restaurateurs and restaurant-loving folks, we all have that dream of opening a fresh new concept that takes a community by storm. These dreams enter my head from time to time as I interact with clients who have the same aspirations. Their pitch usually goes a little something like this: “It’s like Chipotle, but we’re going to be making (enter new cuisine idea here).”

Everyone wants to follow in the footsteps of Chipotle. Across all restaurant spaces, their name has become synonymous with changing the game. What’s usually overlooked, however, is that the game Chipotle changed was already well-established: the game of Mexican cuisine. It is much harder to bring an unknown to market than it is to adapt an existing concept, but that’s exactly what “Culinary Pioneers” seek to do.

Culinary pioneers look to introduce new cuisines in new markets. Upon first thought, it seems like success is primed for the taking. Upon closer review, however, a cold, hard truth is revealed—this scenario has a better chance of failure than success. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way. If you’re properly prepared for the trek ahead and avoid common causes of failure, you can be the pioneer you dreamed of becoming.

Failure happens for numerous reasons. There are a few traps I have witnessed that stand out as being more common than others. To avoid hardships and the inevitable failure of your endeavor, keep these lessons in mind.

Understand the true cost of pioneering

The major issue with pioneering a concept is the general lack of knowledge, understanding, and experience the population has with the food you’re bringing to market. It’s not a staple in their diets. It’s not something they crave every day. Therefore, marketing this new cuisine is two-fold. You have to educate them and promote the brand simultaneously.

We all know starting a restaurant is already a costly endeavor where “bootstrapping” is ill-advised if not impossible. To properly pioneer, you will need the budget to educate the population on the offering, and simultaneously promote the new restaurant like you would under normal circumstances. Unfortunately, this is twice as costly as usual restaurant marketing, if not more so.

Take a look at your marketing budget and double it. Then double it again. Chances are, you have severely underestimated how much is necessary to spend on marketing in the first place.

Organize tactics into a series of separate campaigns for promotion, education, and loyalty building. Each campaign should show images of the food, describe it, and convey what makes it as good, or even better than other options.

Think of creative ways to make this new cuisine tantalizing and memorable. You have to create the desire to try something unique for the first time.

Do not overestimate or imagine market demand

We all loved Grandma’s pierogies, or the way our uncle hand-made those bao buns. Despite their nostalgia-stuffed goodness, however, your market may not be interested in them as a dining option. That means that although your special cuisine may be quite scrumptious, it will not fly as a restaurant concept on its own. Pursuing this dream will lead to failure, as the market just isn’t buying the product enough. It’s business 101: supply and demand.

Take an honest look at your offerings, and ask yourself if people will buy it daily. Do some taste tests with people who are objective, or organize a popup restaurant at a weekend festival to see if people will buy what you’re making. Essentially, you have to do whatever it takes to get a real world understanding of whether or not this boat will float. Maintain utter honesty with yourself. If people aren’t buying it, then swallow your pride and reconfigure your dream. Do not open a restaurant with unpopular dishes centered as the primary menu offerings.

Select the proper location

Location reigns supreme—in this instance especially. Don’t forget it. Don’t ignore it. With a new concept that sells an unfamiliar cuisine, location is paramount. Successful restaurants find prime real estate, but new spots rarely can afford it. You need to find a second-generation spot that’s situated in an area that has both commercial and residential traffic. This isn’t a wish-list item. It’s a must-have.

A second-generation location will require less money to build out, freeing up extra capital for marketing and promotion. Even though another concept has already left or failed, it doesn’t mean this space isn’t well-suited for your concept.

Make sure the spot is nestled in an area busy with both commercial and residential traffic. Commercial will support your daytime business with walk-ins, business lunches, and catering. Residential will get you through the evenings when the businesses close for the night. If you choose a location that sways one way or the other, you can bet that it’ll affect the respective day part accordingly.

Finally, parking is everything, unless you are in a place with so much foot traffic that parking would be a hassle. This place is called Manhattan. If you aren’t in Manhattan, you have to have ample parking. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

These three restaurant pioneer killers are very real and happen more often than not. There is no wiggle room. Now is not the time for capitulations. If you are serious about succeeding and being the “next Chipotle,” you’re going to have to keep focused on making sure these mistakes aren’t made. It’ll take a load of chutzpah and a stiff upper lip to keep forging ahead into the great unknown, but if you’re one of the few who has what it takes (money, market demand, and location) you could reach the Pacific, like the true explorer of restaurant frontiers you very well may be.

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