Commentary: Does your brand image match its experience?

By Chris Petersen

We tell our clients, as often as needed, that it is critical to remember these fundamental points about building a successful brand:

  • Marketing communicates the brand promise to the market
  • Operations (experience) delivers that brand promise to the guest

It is absolutely imperative that these two elements work hand in hand to produce a strong brand. Yet, very few restaurants achieve this.


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Too often, we see restaurant brands invest their focus on operations with no regard to how they communicate their story to the market. Some operate very effectively: the food is good and delivered promptly, the service is fantastic and the facilities are clean and well maintained. Yet their marketing message is only pushing the latest offer du jour, creating a perception of devaluing the brand they work so hard to perfect.

More often the problem is reversed. Loads of time is spent on the marketing spin, building brand awareness through direct mail incentives, social media activity and sometimes daily deals. Yet, when a guest responds and goes to the restaurant they find marginally clean facilities, so-so service and food that does little to excite. The end result is a lot of wasted effort and expense to create a dining experience that leaves guests disappointed.

There is a temptation among restaurant leaders to act now because action overcomes everything. Wrong! Ever heard the phrase: “Ready. Fire. Aim.?” It misses the mark every time.

One of my business partners is fond of saying, “You have to sometimes go slower in order to go faster.” Meanwhile, I am fond of saying: “Always make time to do it right rather than having to make time to do it again.” Both phrases will get you to the same point.

We counsel our clients to make sure they take an integrated look when considering the development of a brand improvement program. Have the marketing and operations teams in the room together and build a plan that will be effective to the market that also can be executed consistently in every area. Otherwise, it will miss the goal of brand improvement.

Winning brands always have strong operational and marketing alignments. They promise their guests that if they come in and use the brand they will receive a specific experience. And they deliver on that promise more often than not.

Be honest with yourself. Is your brand ready for success? Is the operational side aligned with the marketing and vice versa? And if not, what will you do to correct that?

Chris Petersen is president and CEO of Brandstand Group. Brandstand works exclusively in the restaurant industry helping chains determine what their brand stands for and how to effectively communicate that brand image within budget. He can be reached by e-mail: cpetersen@brandstandgroup.com. 

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