Updated: Apr 15
"Strategic Branding" is the intention of creating a certain image of your company in a person's mind.
"Branding" is usually the intangibles of marketing - that is, it's not so much concerned with the numbers or the KPIs, and moreso with the feelings a person has when they think of your enterprise.
It's the impression we leave them with - and if done right, it's the impression that encourages them to share our products and services with their friends, family, and associations.
A quick way to understand branding is to look at your values. What do you stand for? What do you want to be known for?
While the possibilities are vast, I find it useful to boil it down to 2 overarching values.
The reason we choose our 2 most important values is that it will help us define who we're most likely to be magnetic towards...
In this example, I, as a restaurant owner, am known for quality and experimentation.
Once we have done that, the next step is to choose an audience.
In the branding world, it's more effective to choose an audience for which we'll provide a solution than having a solution and seeking out people to consume it.
Oftentimes, it just means tweaking an existing product/service to reflect the specific needs of a specific group of people.
This isn't to say direct marketing doesn't have a place; it absolutely does.
You need tangible results to remain in business. Branding is the 'intangibles' of marketing. One is speed, the other is endurance.
Nowadays, it's easier than ever to target just about anyone, but it doesn't mean we should. One of the major reasons is that your competitors are thinking the very same thing. So the large audiences are being overmarketed to (I mean, we all are, but especially the larger segments of people).
The internet, as Seth Godin says, is a billion different fragments of audiences all kept in one place. (paraphrasing). By doing the following exercise, we'll discover a few of these "fragments" and speak directly to them. That should cause a few things to happen:
they'll pay attention to you because you're speaking specifically to them and using their language
they'll take notice and see you differently since no one has ever paid much attention to them specifically
it'll be easier for them to remember you, and even to tell a friend or family member about you.
ChoosING a specific audience:
In this example, let's cater to a mid-40s man or woman who works in a professional capacity (maybe even a C suite type of job), who works very hard pleasing clients all day long, and wants to provide the best life for his/her kids.
Having highlighted our 2 most important values, chances are that the above-chosen audience will resonate with this and appreciate quality meals and a variety of menu items.
The next step is to highlight the 'Why'. I'm sure you've heard about this before. You've been told that it's important to know WHY you started in the first place. It's good advice for multiple reasons.
Not only to keep you going through 'rough times', but also because we like people who tend to be like us - if we share certain values, it's easier for us to want to support someone who has a "Why" similar to ours.
The change we seek to make:
The world is different than it was even just 20 years ago. It's almost as if society has abandoned the traditional family unit. We're busier than ever and more distracted than ever.
I opened my restaurant to bring people and families together. So they could spend time enjoying each other's company and talk about what's going on in one another's lives.
I also started my restaurant specifically to explore new tastes. I'm experimental in nature because variety is 'the spice that makes life extra nice'.
Being clear on this specific step will reward me in so many ways - it'll help me formulate menu items, connect with others, and give me an overall direction for the future.
Our Audience's Worldviews:
This parent and professional dreams of living the family life BETTER than they had growing up. They want to be able to offer their family the opportunities they never had. It's not spite, it's just normal to want the best for our children. They want to teach them to think big, think differently, and follow their passions.
They want to relax and take a breather. They want to slow down and unwind.
They want to spend time with their family. They want to try different things - variety. They want to be taken care of. They want their kids to be full and happy. They want healthy meals, served with a smile, in a clean & professional environment. They want great food.
They too believe in experiencing all the things life has to offer. They believe in enjoying a life of hard work, dedication and appreciation. They believe in leaving this place a bit better off than when they got here. They believe in the 'work hard, play hard' mantra. They believe in having a family and teaching their kids to go for what they want, show appreciation, and respect others.
Now that we've painted a good picture of WHO we seek to serve and their worldviews, we'll need to figure out what kind of problem(s) they're having and offer a solution.
A common problem among professional families with children is usually a lack of time. Work keeps them fulfilled, but busy. Most of their energy is spent servicing clients or a team. Working longer hours and taking on more responsibilities for less pay is a great way to burn out and miss life's precious moments.
As a restaurant owner, I can offer a solution.
I'd start off by creating 'Mommy Monday'. One night a week dedicated to family meals. The tables and booths would come equipped with fun, light-hearted questionnaires where family members can take turns asking each other questions. These questions would have the goal of sparking conversations about each other's lives, thoughts, dreams, goals, aspirations, etc... One entrée, or meal, would be on the house (free). This has a few benefits:
It's an easy way to get someone through the door. Who doesn't like FREE?
Nine times out of ten, a mother would bring the family with her (it would be implied and encouraged).
The hard cost of a meal is very small, and if they're given great service and a reason to come back, they most likely will.
When your restaurant business relies on repeat purchases, getting new people through the door is critical.
Also, the menu would constantly be changing. Menu items would ideally be sourced locally from organic farmers. Wait staff would be encouraged to promote the new meals.
I'd make the dining experience all-inclusive. Patrons would be able to choose any appetizer, 2-4 entrées, 2-4 desserts, and 2-4 drinks for one price. This would allow parents one less thing to worry about.
I'd try to keep the bar area separate from the dining area, and I'd keep the televisions off (if there are any).
The 'network effect' is present when the kids go to school and are asked what they did this weekend. Or when they tell their friends at recess. Parents too would share their experience at work, with clients during small talk, or around the water cooler.
While I'm not a restaurant owner, I'm only assuming all this stuff is possible.
I'd recommend you implement some or any of this for yourself, to test it out. If you're a restaurant owner and would like to speak to someone with regards to branding, simply leave me a comment below, or click here.