Brand Management Dilemma: Grow, But Don’t Kill the Core

I think, in retrospect, we may have tried too hard to attract new guests. That left some of our fans shaking their heads, asking ‘What happened to Applebee’s?’

Patrick Lenow (VP Communications and Public Affairs, DineEquity – August 10, 2017)


That’s an eye-opening, unusually direct assessment. There’s even more blunt analysis from Applebee’s president.

First, let’s set the stage with some framing thoughts on brand management.

A Quick Primer – What To Do and Not Do

It’s a constant dilemma and challenge: how to expand the appeal of brand x and/or position it for growth without alienating existing customers and destroying the core business.

Depending on the type of product or service, many actions can be implemented, such as: product upgrades, promoting secondary usage, launching new products, stimulating growth of the overall category, expanding distribution channels, developing brand refresh/renovation tactics, or even complete repositioning.

JCPenney failed.

Domino’s seems to have had success.

Hardees/Carl’s Jr. is trying to reboot their image and brand positioning.

Effective brand management requires smart discipline. To borrow from Ringo Starr, it don’t come easy.

► Building brands is a process, which requires steady, disciplined hands at the helm. It can take time and money. Unfortunately, steady discipline, time and money can be in short supply in CEO suites and boardrooms where results are measured short-term in weeks and quarters. Plus, marketing teams themselves can fall victim to a lack of steady discipline on occasion. Continue reading

Don’t Retreat Marketers. Ben Franklin to the Rescue.

What the heck is going on in the business world?

Judging by all the negative stories, one would think that a plague of incompetence has afflicted commercial teams across the country.

However, beyond the obvious blunders (e.g., United and airport security personnel), some of the backlash is a bit perplexing.

Are corporations and their marketing teams failing at higher rates or is something else going on?

I suggest the latter. That’s partly because social media has, for better and for worse, totally disrupted the way so many now get and process their information.

Continue reading

Why “Pop-up” Thinking Can Boost Your Marketing

What can marketers apply from the “pop-up” go-to-market concept popularized in recent years by Halloween costume stores, and now chefs?

iStockphoto.com

iStockphoto.com

First of all, think about “pop-up” as a business mindset, not just a retail brick and mortar tactic.

Applied this way, pop-up thinking encapsulates a range of important ideas such as customer choice and variety; experimentation and testing; and an agile, asset-light business approach.

For example, writing in The Wall Street Journal, Jane Black highlighted how chefs are using a modified pop-up model to build their brands and make money. A common approach is to join forces with an existing restaurant owner and “take-over” the physical space at a designated time to produce and deliver the chef’s concept. As Black explains, “permanent pop-ups also feed diners’ hunger for all things new.” Continue reading

When Strategy and Tactics Don’t Mesh, You Get Ruth’s Chris Steak for -50%

On Saturday afternoon, the management team of Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Ann Arbor, MI had a bad case of indigestion.

That’s because they faced a week of giving 50% discounts on every check.

Read on for the explanation and marketing analysis, but first the headline.

This is why you need Marketing Discipline. Strategy first, then tactics.

this-is-how-its-not-done


The Promotion

Ruth’s Chris Steak House (Ann Arbor, MI) decided to implement a sports marketing promotion tied to the local University of Michigan football team.

Beginning with Saturday’s game and running for the rest of the season, the upscale eatery would offer percentage discounts equivalent to the Wolverines’ margin of victory. For example, a 17-point win would mean a 17% discount.

The “Score Big” promo would be in effect, after the game, Sunday through Thursday. Continue reading