Seven come '11.

Jan. 11, 2011 | by Lori Walderich

It’s been said many ways, but movie magnate Sam Goldwyn put it best when he stated, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

See, what looks like dumb luck rarely is unless you’re shooting craps. And even then, some will wonder.

Coincidences do occur and serendipity does strike. And anyone who ever saw a headline about religious imagery appearing some guy’s latte foam knows this. But if you trace most events back far enough, the “Aha!” emerges — the hard work that made success seem inevitable.

Even Marilyn had to work her way up from California Artichoke Queen of 1947 to bombshell six years later in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Likewise, none of today’s successful QSRs sprang fully branded from obscurity like Aphrodite from the clamshell. Nor have they stayed on top “just because.”

Their “luck” comprises seven principles we’ve talked about before, but bear repeating as we kick off a brand new year of QSR branding:

1) “Lucky” QSR brands know their customers
The top chains are patronized frequently and spoken of fondly by loyal customers because those chains went to the trouble to determine which target demographic would be most responsive to their brand message and most impressed by their brand experience.

Many operators assume they can learn this simply by observing the customers who come through their doors. The problem is that they don’t know which customers are not coming through their doors because they aren’t being reached.

2) “Lucky” QSR brands know their strengths
Second only to knowing who your customer is, is knowing why they’re your customer. Again, it’s not necessarily self-evident. We’ve worked with clients who absolutely positively knew that customers chose them for their exceptional food. However, research revealed that diners thought their food was just on par with that of competitors; what they really liked was the ambiance.

3) “Lucky” QSR brands know their competitors
Sometimes they’re exactly who you’d expect them to be. But not always. A competitor could be another QSR in the same food category … or not. One with a similar environment … or not. Located nearby … or not. In the same price range … or not. The answer to this question hinges on the answers to the two that went before it.

4) “Lucky” QSR brands involve their employees
Let’s all say it together … “Duh.” Employees aren’t just the people who fix the food and keep the place mopped up. They are the ambassadors for your brand, the first word in Word-of-Mouth promotions. The better they feel about your brand and the prouder they feel about their association with it, the better your brand buzz will be. So let them know you trust, value and appreciate their contributions. Show, don’t tell.

5) “Lucky” QSR brands keep it fresh
They know their customers crave new things. Not radically new, necessarily, just a step or two off the beaten path. So they keep the introductions coming. And they make sure all new products and promotions are on target. They test market. They survey customers and employees. They tweak and adjust. And then they launch with confidence.

6) “Lucky” QSR brands seek perspective
No matter how well you think you know your brand, there are things about it — potentialities and pitfalls alike — that you aren’t seeing from the trenches. So every three to five years, take several steps out of the everyday routine, accompanied by a trusted and objective outside resource, and get a broader view of your brand. |

You can approach this as an inconvenient added expense or as a way to save scads of dollars on possible promotional misfires and “find” scads more in loyalty- and traffic-building opportunities. We recommend the latter approach, but either way, it’s a must for the life of your brand.

7) “Lucky” QSR brands go boldly
When objective research reveals the need to change things, they do, even if it means some hard rowing for awhile to right the ship. They trust in their own wisdom and that of their external advisors, in the word of their loyal customers and in the resilience of their concept.

Hard-working brands that follow these seven principles rarely face that terse moment of truth from Dirty Harry: “You've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky?”

Because for them, luck isn’t a feeling. It’s a result.

Topics: Business Strategy and Profitability , Customer Service / Experience , Food & Beverage , Marketing / Branding / Promotion , Operations Management

Lori Walderich / Lori Walderich is chief creative officer at IdeaStudio, a chain restaurant marketing and promotions firm. Her company helps restaurant clients align their branding and implement strategic marketing plans to achieve consistent, sustainable growth.
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