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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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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Killing the Colonel, one snicker at a time
20/08/15 Branding & Marketing Strategy # , , , , ,

Killing the Colonel, one snicker at a time

Originally posted on Medium.com

For those of us desperately holding onto the cusp of the Millennial category, Colonel Sanders is an icon we remember fondly. He was a jovial Southern gentleman who only cared about making darn good fried chicken for his guests. He may have been a bit overprotective of his recipe, but who cared when the product was so delicious? It was a simple vision, and it worked well for KFC. Over the decades The Colonel was slowly phased out, as was the original brand name, Kentucky Fried Chicken. There wasn’t a big uproar as The Colonel himself has passed in 1980, it only seemed natural to move on. But now he’s back, or should I say his weirder and borderline creepy doppelgänger is back making a joke of the classic, beloved spokesperson icon.

Here’s a quick catch up for those who haven’t seen KFC’s recent advertising: KFC launched a new campaign featuring Saturday Night Live icon, Darrel Hammond. Hammond adorns the Colonel’s look from iconic white suit to prosthetics that gets him sort of close to almost looking just like Colonel Sanders. The prosthetics isn’t the only synthetic parts of the persona as Hammond adopts an exaggerated Southern accent and persona to the point of mockery. This week a new set of commercials for the fried chicken legend were launched featuring Hammond’s former comedy compatriot, Norm MacDonald. The spots derive from the same idea, same prosthetic Colonel Sanders, with a worse attempt at a Southern accent. So bad, in fact, he can’t keep the accent going long enough for a 30 second spot.

KFC advertisements featuring Darrell Hammond:

KFC advertisements featuring Norm MacDonald:

It’s quite evident that the agency responsible for this new angle is not from the South, nor have they spent any amount of time immersing themselves in Southern culture. It’s a result of basing cultural assumptions on commonly accepted stereotypes.

With every exaggerated snicker in the advertisement I cringe more and more.

Sure, I’m a Yankee-turned-Rebel, but since moving to the Southern US (ATL!) five years ago I’ve become quite fond of the mentality we have here. Southern hospitality is quite real and Colonel Sanders was a representation of that dying, endearing quality. With every exaggerated snicker in the advertisement I cringe more and more. Every second the mocking accent thickens I get a little more put off. I find myself asking: Is this really worth selling more fried chicken? What’s so wrong with being a good person, and actually caring about guests? Do Northerners actually think all Southerners are backwards idiots?

How would I answer in my opinion? No, selling more chicken at the expense of a benevolent icon is not worth it; there’s nothing wrong with being a beacon of good will and hospitality; and, yes, it seems Northerners think us Southerners are snickering fools.

KFC has a lot of endearing qualities. It sells comfort food that evokes feelings and thoughts of home, friends, family, and nostalgic good times. Those feelings are extremely powerful triggers for any generation, even the elusive Millennial. Far too often marketers and creatives rely on quippy wit, and tongue-in-cheek playfulness to drive storytelling and messaging. While we all enjoy a well-played pun, and timely jab of wit, sometimes that’s not what the brand’s communications demand. KFC is one such case.

I realize that KFC is a global brand, and not everyone understands the roots from which the company and its spokesperson originated. However, that’s no excuse to take the lazy approach of furthering a stereotype that misses the mark completely. KFC has the opportunity to use the good-natured, hospitable icon to create a tangible, authentic spirit inside and outside the four walls of the brand experience. It’s something no other competitor can own, yet they’ve chosen to tarnish the opportunity with a weird, mocking impostor.

One final note, the new KFC website is quite awesome.

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Consumer connections are the key to impactful restaurant marketing
17/03/15 Uncategorized # , , ,

Consumer connections are the key to impactful restaurant marketing

Originally published in Restaurant Hospitality Magazine, read the article here.

The other night a new commercial for a restaurant chain caught my attention. It wasn’t the content nor was it the offer that snatched my curiosity, but rather the utter monotony and lack of anything new. The moment sparked a dive into my mental catalog of restaurant advertising and marketing, and one glaringly blatant commonality sprang out: Something vital is missing.

Restaurants are pretty good at following the “rules” of advertising and marketing. Show your product to create enticement. Offer a deal to woo a new trial or lukewarm previous customer. Create excitement and put it on for a limited time to “act now before it’s too late.” For decades this playbook was successful, but the game has evolved. It’s no longer enough, and the reason is both simple and complex. It’s devoid of any emotional tie or offering beyond the restaurant’s core offering: food.

Things have changed in consumer perceptions of brands. In general, they don’t trust advertising. Scandals in ethics, poor quality of food and the proliferation of the effects of processed products have corroded the legitimacy of restaurant brands. Traditional advertising has become akin to listening to a politician on his podium. It invokes skepticism and, as a result, gets tossed aside as mostly false or a downright lie in some extreme cases. One thing is left floating in the consumer’s mind: “So what? Prove it.”

Furthermore, product-focused advertising is all about the brand and not about consumers and their lifestyle. It’s an entirely selfish, “me-me-me” mentality, which makes it easy to ignore. Think about it. When is the last time you ever engaged with a person who told you how amazing they were? “Hi, I’m Joseph. I’m the coolest guy you’ll ever meet.” I’m surprised you got through that sentence without wanting to walk away. Restaurants must shift their focus to the consumer’s lifestyle and attitude, and what their product does to enhance them. Brands that do this successfully—such as Chipotle, Starbucks and Apple—have created a connection that’s hard to break, thereby fostering loyalty and brand evangelism.

Something bigger must be present beyond the latest ad campaign to not just attract, but also connect with consumers. Having a passion for something beyond the core product helps brands rise above competitors that focus on price and product alone. In the extremely aggressive and saturated restaurant industry this passionate purpose elevates a brand above the din.

A passionate purpose creates an emotional connection engrained in the company’s culture from the top down, inside to the outside. It permeates through every part of the business. In order to follow suit, a brand has to stop squawking flimsy promises and start walking the walk. That’s a tall order for any company, but one that is vital for gaining market share or halting a decline in some severe cases.

So, where does a brand start? Here are three tips to start the shift from product-centric marketing to emotional communications that are driven by a passionate purpose.

1. Toss the food focus and dig deeper to focus on people.

Although a good product is important, and showing your delicious glory shots of food shouldn’t stop, people are attracted to brands that reflect core values and beliefs that align with their own. They buy from brands that bolster and communicate their lifestyle and attitude. When someone buys a Starbucks coffee, it represents his or her busy lifestyle and concurrent need for catering to his or her specific demands. Think of the person who orders a double grande latte, skinny, heated to 130°. That is someone with demands and little time. The Starbucks brand represents a status that consumers wish to convey to the world, and that statement is what attracts and retains their loyal patrons.

2. Pinpoint a passionate purpose that connects with consumers.

Finding and pinpointing a passionate purpose may be something that comes easily to some brands, but can be much harder for others. It’s not as simple as brainstorming ideas in a room. It has to make sense and connect with people, while being legitimate and authentic. That only comes from in-depth consumer insights, brand strategy development and a dedication to threading the passionate purpose throughout the organization. Missing the mark won’t necessarily hurt a brand much, but sticking the landing will make all the difference.

3. Inject that purpose throughout every part of the business.

Chipotle’s renowned dedication to sustainable products, sourcing and the fair treatment of livestock connects with consumer interests because they live that passionate purpose. Chipotle has done little on-air advertising, instead relying on their actions to spark word of mouth. Actions do speak louder than words, especially in a situation where credibility is in question. Chipotle’s actions across the board add weight and credibility to their passionate purpose.

Considerations for purchase have increased in complexity. They have less to do with a restaurant’s product or deal, and more to do with what buying the brand communicates to world on behalf of the consumer. While good food and service are important, they have reached parity, leaving people looking for a larger reason to patronize one brand versus another. Brands like Starbucks and Chipotle convey a status that connects with consumers beyond utilitarian food offering. They tap into emotions that are bolstered throughout their respective companies, and it’s that emotion that needs to be injected into restaurant brand marketing. That’s the missing ingredient.

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Consumer connections are the key to impactful marketing
17/03/15 Branding & Marketing Strategy # , , , ,

Consumer connections are the key to impactful marketing

Originally published in Restaurant Hospitality Magazine, read the article here.

The other night a new commercial for a restaurant chain caught my attention. It wasn’t the content nor was it the offer that snatched my curiosity, but rather the utter monotony and lack of anything new. The moment sparked a dive into my mental catalog of restaurant advertising and marketing, and one glaringly blatant commonality sprang out: Something vital is missing.

Restaurants are pretty good at following the “rules” of advertising and marketing. Show your product to create enticement. Offer a deal to woo a new trial or lukewarm previous customer. Create excitement and put it on for a limited time to “act now before it’s too late.” For decades this playbook was successful, but the game has evolved. It’s no longer enough, and the reason is both simple and complex. It’s devoid of any emotional tie or offering beyond the restaurant’s core offering: food.

Things have changed in consumer perceptions of brands. In general, they don’t trust advertising. Scandals in ethics, poor quality of food and the proliferation of the effects of processed products have corroded the legitimacy of restaurant brands. Traditional advertising has become akin to listening to a politician on his podium. It invokes skepticism and, as a result, gets tossed aside as mostly false or a downright lie in some extreme cases. One thing is left floating in the consumer’s mind: “So what? Prove it.”

Furthermore, product-focused advertising is all about the brand and not about consumers and their lifestyle. It’s an entirely selfish, “me-me-me” mentality, which makes it easy to ignore. Think about it. When is the last time you ever engaged with a person who told you how amazing they were? “Hi, I’m Joseph. I’m the coolest guy you’ll ever meet.” I’m surprised you got through that sentence without wanting to walk away. Restaurants must shift their focus to the consumer’s lifestyle and attitude, and what their product does to enhance them. Brands that do this successfully—such as Chipotle, Starbucks and Apple—have created a connection that’s hard to break, thereby fostering loyalty and brand evangelism.

Something bigger must be present beyond the latest ad campaign to not just attract, but also connect with consumers. Having a passion for something beyond the core product helps brands rise above competitors that focus on price and product alone. In the extremely aggressive and saturated restaurant industry this passionate purpose elevates a brand above the din.

A passionate purpose creates an emotional connection engrained in the company’s culture from the top down, inside to the outside. It permeates through every part of the business. In order to follow suit, a brand has to stop squawking flimsy promises and start walking the walk. That’s a tall order for any company, but one that is vital for gaining market share or halting a decline in some severe cases.

So, where does a brand start? Here are three tips to start the shift from product-centric marketing to emotional communications that are driven by a passionate purpose.

1. Toss the food focus and dig deeper to focus on people.

Although a good product is important, and showing your delicious glory shots of food shouldn’t stop, people are attracted to brands that reflect core values and beliefs that align with their own. They buy from brands that bolster and communicate their lifestyle and attitude. When someone buys a Starbucks coffee, it represents his or her busy lifestyle and concurrent need for catering to his or her specific demands. Think of the person who orders a double grande latte, skinny, heated to 130°. That is someone with demands and little time. The Starbucks brand represents a status that consumers wish to convey to the world, and that statement is what attracts and retains their loyal patrons.

2. Pinpoint a passionate purpose that connects with consumers.

Finding and pinpointing a passionate purpose may be something that comes easily to some brands, but can be much harder for others. It’s not as simple as brainstorming ideas in a room. It has to make sense and connect with people, while being legitimate and authentic. That only comes from in-depth consumer insights, brand strategy development and a dedication to threading the passionate purpose throughout the organization. Missing the mark won’t necessarily hurt a brand much, but sticking the landing will make all the difference.

3. Inject that purpose throughout every part of the business.

Chipotle’s renowned dedication to sustainable products, sourcing and the fair treatment of livestock connects with consumer interests because they live that passionate purpose. Chipotle has done little on-air advertising, instead relying on their actions to spark word of mouth. Actions do speak louder than words, especially in a situation where credibility is in question. Chipotle’s actions across the board add weight and credibility to their passionate purpose.

Considerations for purchase have increased in complexity. They have less to do with a restaurant’s product or deal, and more to do with what buying the brand communicates to world on behalf of the consumer. While good food and service are important, they have reached parity, leaving people looking for a larger reason to patronize one brand versus another. Brands like Starbucks and Chipotle convey a status that connects with consumers beyond utilitarian food offering. They tap into emotions that are bolstered throughout their respective companies, and it’s that emotion that needs to be injected into restaurant brand marketing. That’s the missing ingredient.

no responses
Key social media lessons found in the movie The Chef
09/03/15 Branding & Marketing Strategy # , , , ,

Key social media lessons found in the movie The Chef

Originally published on Medium

I finally watched Chef last night. I don’t know what took me so long, but thanks to Netflix, I finally did it. The movie is great, but the ties to marketing restaurants through a social media strategy are even greater. If you’re an owner/operator and didn’t find any inspiration in that particular element, you’re missing something big.

The brilliance of the movie’s take on social media wasn’t that it was so easy to do that a 12 year old could make it happen. No. It was that what this kid was doing was sharing a story and an authentic life via social channels. That’s what connected with people and started a movement.

However, that movement couldn’t have happened without a following to begin with, and that’s where a lot of restaurateurs and chefs both miss the mark. So, using the movie as a jumping off point, I decided to share three tips for making social media work for your culinary career, restaurant, and your brand.

(Spoiler Alert: I will be discussing some key elements of the plot. If you haven’t watched Chef, then proceed at your own risk.)

Do something crazy. In the movie, the character played by Jon Favreau didn’t even have a twitter account until his poor review went “viral.” His reaction was ill-advised, but it worked to his benefit at first. He responded to the reviewer with a sassy jab, which took the controversy further, but also put him on the Twitter map. So, do something crazy. Everyone is sharing the same stuff (eg. pictures of food, staff, etc.) If you follow suit there is nothing that makes you stand out. Be ballsy, be brave and do something that gets attention in the right way. It doesn’t have to be rude or fueled with a negative attitude like a cliche Kanye interruption.

Find what you love. In the story the chef’s fallout causes him to find something a lot of folks never find: a passion. He rekindles his passion for food and cooking in general. It was about simplifying his life and focusing his passion that pushed him through the rough spot and put him on course for a better, happier future personally and professionally. If you share things socially that are contrived, or devoid of passion, people will see through it quite quickly. Passion is something that’s authentic and can’t be faked, so go find it, go live it, and go share it.

Passion is something that’s authentic and can’t be faked

Share your life and story. As a single-unit or small multi-unit operator, or a chef, you have a huge opportunity that larger brands don’t. You can be human. Bigger brands lack the human element that attract people. They constantly try to inject it, but you’re at an advantage in that you can be yourself. In a social world where people are sick of being inundated with brand messaging, this is a huge opportunity. In Chef, the kid shares the journey from Miami back to LA moment by moment. This honesty, transparency and authenticity attracted masses of followers. It was human. It was real. In a digital world, realness is something in short supply.

Go beyond Facebook. In the movie, the two key platforms used were Twitter and Vine. Although many would say Vine has peaked, it’s interesting to see that Facebook wasn’t used at all. Now, this could be because Facebook didn’t pay to play, but the strategy is in line with the truths facing social media. Brands have to pay for Facebook to be effective, and even then, your messages are buried in a feed of other marketing messages. People, especially Millennials, are getting fed up with it and moving to other platforms. They’ve found haven in Instagram, Snapchat and GroupMe.

How long would you stay at a party if one person never stops talking and constantly tries to sell you things?

Converse, don’t yammer. It’s one thing to post and post and post, but that’s only one part of a conversation. The power of social media is found when it’s a two way street. Speak to people. Comment on their posts, share their stuff, and be a friend. Don’t get on a soapbox and constantly yammer on and on. That’s a great way to get ignored. Think about it: How long would you stay at a party if one person never stops talking and constantly tries to sell you things? Be a part of the conversation.

There are tons of other suggestions and strategies out there, but these five tips I find to be of great value for the smaller guys out there. Use these simple guidelines found in Chef, and you’ll be on your way to building something quite great. And go watch Chef, it’s a stellar flick.

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