The Formula For a Badass Brand!

branding operations Aug 12, 2019

I recently gave an interview for Foodable TV about how to build a brand. You can create a brand that competes or one that dominates the market. The choice is yours. Follow this formula if you want to make your brand stand out in the market!

Here are the questions and my answers from that interview:

Q: Can you explain the difference between competing and dominating the market?

A: In the restaurant market today, you probably see that the waters have changed. Easy pickings of yesterday have been replaced with a steady stream of more restaurants and bars opening in your market and taking your staff and your guest. In business strategy, there is a common theory referred to as Red Ocean and Blue Ocean strategy. In the Red Ocean, the water is saturated with intense competition in the market cannibalizes itself. You’re in a category called average. And that’s the same as being referred to as a commodity. Now, out on the horizon, water is calm, clear, and blue. There is very little competition for staff and guest. You’re now out in front of the market, and you don’t fear competition because you don’t have much. Your brand is considered to be innovative and inspiring. That is the Blue Ocean. When you’re in a Red Ocean, you’re competing. You’re fighting every day for your share of the market. It’s like hungry dogs fighting for scraps.

The mentality when you compete is more along the lines of I’ll see your move and go one better game. It’s a lot like playing checkers. Move and counter move. Your competition offers a five for five-dollar happy hour promotion, and you counter with a four for four dollar promotion. When you’re a commodity, and you compete, your market judges you on price. It’s hard to build loyalty because when people are addicted to the price, they jump ship as soon as another restaurant down the street as a better price.

Now when you dominate, you become the brand of choice. People always drive past average to get to exceptional. The biggest difference between restaurants that compete in those that dominate can be summed up like this: restaurants that dominate disrupt the status quo on how things are done.

Q: What examples can you provide when it comes to companies that compete and companies that dominate? What are the pros and cons?

A: Starbucks did not invent the coffee business. They disrupted how we thought about where we got a copy and created a third space between home and work. Chipotle did not invent the burrito; they disrupted the quality of ingredients and customized how we ordered a burrito.

Take a look at Chick-fil-A. They dominate the market. They didn’t invent the chicken sandwich; they disrupted the guest service model around the delivery of that chicken sandwich. If you ever want to see what outstanding guest services look like, go into Chick-fil-A order something with a side of fries, and then walk up to the counter and tell them that fries are cold. You’ll see a total team collective that swarms around the issue and will go out of their way to make amends for the transgression of serving cold fries. I’ve seen restaurants that will argue with you about your complaint. The golden rule is always don’t fight, make it right. And do it with a smile. A sincere smile.

Q: What is your formula?

A: So far, we have been talking about the separate elements that create a brand. Now if you want to stand out truly, you need to take it to the level of becoming a badass. Remember that average brands compete. Badass brands dominate. It is that simple. Allow me to share with you the formula I use with clients to create a badass brand.

We’re going to look at this just like building a house, and all houses need a solid foundation. For your brand, that foundation is your culture. It’s not your logo or colors yet. At the foundational level, it’s about culture. That culture is comprised of a few things. One being core values and I cannot emphasize enough how powerful core values are. They are what separates the average from the outstanding — not just having cool words for a poster. Everyone has those feel-good words on their core value list, yet few live them. If you can’t strive to be an example of the core values your brand has, then they are not a core value, it’s just wishful thinking. Pick core values that you know you can get behind. Your foundation is also about why you do what you do.

We talked about this in another episode that people buy emotions over logic. Yeah, that vegetarian entree is good for your body, that’s logical. We offer it because I had three close friends who died young from heart issues, and we want to provide healthy options for our guests. That’s emotion. That’s heart. That’s character. People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. The foundation also tells what your brand promise is. Remember that trust is everything when it comes to building brand loyalty. If you ask your guests, “Why do you come here?” You want a compelling reply that relates to trust. The staff is always so kind. I can always get my special drink. I know the food is always amazing. They make me feel like I’m at a friend’s.

Now that your foundation is solid, it’s time to build the structure or frame of your brand. Now you can take a look at that logo and tag line. Oh, let’s talk quickly about that tag line. What is a strong tag line? It immediately tells me what you do and what your brand promise is. Here are a few examples: We love tacos. The Original Old Town Steakhouse. Home of the Whopper. World’s Greatest Hamburgers. Food with Integrity. Freaky fast, freaky good. America’s drive-in. So now take a minute a look at your brand’s tagline. Does it inspire? Does it tell me exactly why you do what you do? If not, time to dig down and tap into some deeper emotions.

Now for the logo design, you have two options: you can do it yourself or hire a professional. Don’t think that a professional is going to drain your bank account either. There are some great websites like Fiverr, 99 Designs, and Upwork where you can hire a professional graphic designer for a great price...usually less than $200 bucks. Just make sure to read the Designer’s reviews and make sure they understand what your brand is about.

Now, here is an exercise I make all my clients do. Describe your restaurant to me as a Tweet. And not the new Twitter, use the old twitter rules of only 140 characters. You have to be very sure of who you are to describe your restaurant in 140 characters. This exercise will force you to eliminate the fluff and get down to the essence of who you are.

Okay, so you have a solid foundation for your brand. You know who you are, what you stand for, and what your brand promise is. Then you created the image of your brand as far as a logo, look, colors, and fonts. This is known as a brand kit. You might not think it’s a big deal; however, having your brand look consistent is a big deal. Think of your brand image the same way you do like your food; you have recipes and plate specs, so things are consistent, do the same for your brand. 

The last step in the formula is execution. This is the spot where most restaurants struggle. You need to be consistent and persistent in sharing your brand story with the world. And in today’s world, that means using video to tell that story. Pictures are nice. Every restaurant in your market can post nice pictures. If you want to dominate and become a badass brand, then you need to get me emotionally hooked to your brand. That is not done by just pictures alone. You need to tell the story. You need to tell your story. Everyone has a story behind the restaurant. It doesn’t matter if you’re a family-owned business now run by the great-grandchildren, a lawyer decided he hated practicing law want to follow his dream to be a chef or the mom who wanted to start a gluten-free line of entrées for home meal replacements. We all have a story to tell. The sad thing is that most restaurants and bars do not tell their story. Instead, they promote their food and beverage.

While that’s good and it’s better than doing nothing, it still keeps you stuck in that Red Ocean. It keeps you a commodity. It has you fighting for scraps. Storytelling invokes emotion, and great branding is all about stirring up emotions. If you fail to trigger emotions in your branding message, you’re just making noise. There is plenty of noise on social media. You need to stand out. How do you do that? By going beyond the norm. Okay, burger restaurants are a dime a dozen these days. Most restaurants and bars have at least a version of a burger featured on the menu. How you go beyond the norm? Maybe it’s local grass-fed beef cooked in organic ghee? A signature burger sauce that is classified as a secret? Get creative, get your phone out, and start sharing your story with video.

Q: What would it take for a company to be able to achieve domination?

A: You have to become obsessed with dominating your market. Now obsession gets a bad rap and it shouldn’t. Restaurants that dominate keep their foot on the accelerator when it comes to sharing their brand message with the world. Take a look at McDonald’s. Everyone knows who McDonald’s is. They don’t suffer from a lack of brand awareness. Do you see them not marketing the same intensity as they always have? No, they flood social media and even traditional marketing channels with their brand message 24/7.

You have to be committed to staying the course and keep putting your message out in front of people. Are you going to get a lot of likes every time you post something? Course not. It would be unrealistic to think you will. However, here’s the other critical element to achieving domination; you must engage with people on social media. Allow me to share with you the real secret of social media. Ready? It’s about being social! I know, not a big secret. When you have a guest engage with your post, either positive or negative, that is an opportunity to engage and let them know you are listening. Respond to every review, both good and bad. Every time someone compliments you, say thank you.

Whatever you're posting currently on social media, you need to double down for the next 30 days. And then double down again for the next 30 days. And then double down one more time for the next 30 days, and you will truly see your brand rise to the top of your market.

Q: What is the take takeaway? Conclusion?

A: Wrapping it all up, I would say that a badass brand is created from core values, emotions, missions, and culture. Those are the thing that separates the good, from the great, from the outstanding to those who become legendary. If you’re confused about your brand, trust me, your guests are confused too. The best way to stop the confusion is to ask yourself better quality questions. Here’s a good question: What business are you in?

There was a great story about Ray Kroc of McDonald’s when he gave a lecture at Harvard for some MBA students. He asked the class, “What business is McDonald’s in?” The class answered, restaurants, hospitality, supply chain, franchising, the hamburger business. Ray laughed and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, I’m not in the hamburger business. I’m in the real estate business.”

So I challenge you to discover what business are you really in?

What are your core values?

What is your mission?

What drives you to do what you do?

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