By Dustin Myers, Foodable Industry Expert
When you think of your brand, think about your reputation. Your brand — who you are as a chef or restaurant — is how you’re perceived in the marketplace. You can be sure that there will be a perception of you, even if you don’t focus attention on it. Brand strategy is really just the game plan for guiding those perceptions. Whether you are a brand new establishment or one that has been around for decades, developing a strategy to guide your brand’s reputation will be invaluable.
People buy from brands they love and trust. Just as in personal relationships, we are drawn to people who are authentic, who share similar values, and who can improve our lives in some way.
Strong brands represent something larger than the products they sell.
In developing a strong brand, “what” you do as a business matters less than the “why” and the “who.” This is how you build authentic relationships and loyalty.
Why do you do what you do? Could everyone on your team articulate this? Do your customers know this? This is exactly what an effective brand strategy can help you achieve.
Now let’s look at five tips for developing an effective brand strategy. There may be many different ways to go about this, but concentrated workshops over a few days can be a very effective format.
1. Set the expectations.
You need to assess your current situation. How are you perceived now? What areas need to be improved on? What areas are going well and which ones need fine-tuning? Startups have the advantage of not having to overcome wrong perceptions. However, if you’ve been in business for a while, you have a much better grasp on the reality and you can be more accurate in your assessment. Before starting out, define the desired outcomes of your strategy work. Note the areas that need improvement so that you can have benchmarks to judge by later.
2. Assemble the right team.
The branding team should include a variety of positions. The owner will have different perceptions and insights from those in lower and middle positions. When dealing with perceptions, all are valid and will contribute towards the success of the effort. By having a diverse team it will also help to bring everyone on board with the mission and goals.
3. Define areas of opportunity.
Do you have well-defined brand values? You need to identify the characteristics and personality traits that guide you as a business. Being able to articulate those clearly will allow the entire business to work together toward the same goal. Do you know what sets you apart from your competitors? What is the one thing that you can offer that no one else can?
The strength of a brand is in its ability to differentiate.
Do you have a clear understanding of your target customer? Creating detailed customer personas will be extremely valuable to inform marketing decisions for placement, copywriting, and design.
4. Validate what you find.
You need to make sure you’re heading down the right path. Customer surveys can be a very effective method to align your goals with reality. Check your desired brand values against current perceptions. Are they unrealistic? Why are customers currently choosing you over the competition? What areas do they see that could be improved? These are questions that will provide invaluable information.
5. Create an action plan.
You will likely uncover some areas that you can improve. Throughout the process, make notes of practical ways you can work toward developing the perception you want. You may want to assemble a handbook that outlines the main points. This will serve as a guiding document for future decisions. This would also work as a training aid for new team members. You can post your values and desired perceptions in a common area where you will be reminded of them often. Once you have a plan, stick with it. You may not see results overnight, but with consistency, you will reap the rewards.
Have you ever invested time and energy into developing your brand strategy? If not, take the time to do it. The internal and external benefits are invaluable. Having a clearly articulated brand will build a stronger reputation, higher return on marketing investments, and better team engagement.