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Pt 1: Brand Strategy and Positioning

September 1, 2020

This blog post originally started off small: I had an idea to help restaurant and food service brand owners understand how a designer thinks about logo design, an article that would help bridge the gap between the owner of a brand and the designer of a brand. I started writing and realized that without some explanation of the foundations of reasonings, my writings would be useless, or, not as valuable as they had the potential to be.

Hold on to your hats, my goals is that, if you make it through all this, you'll be empowered to take your brand to a more powerful place and you'll be able to have confidence in the decisions you make regarding your brand. While this wont be a comprehensive deep dive into all the nitty gritty, I'll point you in the direction where you can begin your journey of learning more on each topic.

Part 1: Your brands strategies and positioning

Warning: this isn't the fun part. However, the rest of this series depends on you, as the brand owner, at least thinking through some of what's ahead in this article. This strategy/positioning is the blueprint for your future brand decisions. Or, think of it as your north star.

Your brands strategy:

Sometimes while talking to business owners I'll hear the term "strategy" misapplied to vague goals. "Our long term strategy is to own the burger market in New Jersey". In the grand scheme of things it's just language, really- you can call anything, anything and it's still what it is right? A lofty goal. (Not strategy) Well, sure. but, I think there's some gravitas to the word "strategy", it sounds so meaningful and when it's being misapplied to, say... a goal, it can give the impression that that goal is more than just a dream. So...

"What is a brand strategy?"

This is a simple question with a simple answer: strategy is a diagnosis of a problem or a challenge (My income is suffering {problem} because my dining room is small {diagnosis}) + a hypothesis combined with a guiding policy to meet the goal (I will focus on delivery and take out {hypothesis/ solution})+ coherent actions that affect change (I will hire delivery drivers, adjust my social media ads and advertise that I do take out and delivery).

Now, this sounds simple, and thrown together. Of course if this we're client work we would have explored as many angles as our brains could handle (getting ticket values up, redesigning the menu to highlight higher margin items)... you get the idea tho.

My personal opinion is that you can have as many strategies as you can handle, however, the threads that runs through all of your strategies should meet at a singular end point, preferably with the solution to a problem. If your long term goal is to own a majority market share in the pizza (burgers? didn't I mention burgers earlier?) space, all of your strategies (diagnosis + hypothesis & guiding principals + coherent actions) should meet there.

“Good strategy works by focusing energy and resources on one, or a very few, pivotal objectives whose accomplishment wil lead to a cascade of favorable outcomes.” - Richard Rumelt

Let's talk about developing an overarching brand strategy. Now, your goals alone cannot be your strategy. That's just... a lofty idea. Your goals might be to do 2mm in sales, or to be the #1 pizza place in the state or to be on the food network. Without hypothesis' and coherent actions, let's be honest, you're just blowing smoke.

Your overarching strategy should focus on your most looming challenge or goal.

"What challenge should we focus on?" you might say. "What goals should we make part of our core strategies as a brand or business?". That's why you get paid the big bucks, that's your decision to make. However, I would say without making that decision you're leaving yourself open to be a brand that wanders around aimlessly and... well, we know how that goes.

There's a lot of things strategy isn't, and while I'm not a big fan of defining something by what it isn't, I have to go over this real quick because strategy can seem vague, tho it isn't.

Strategy is not your mission statement.

Strategy is not your lofty goals.

Strategy is not your 5 year plan.

And finally, your employees don't need to know your strategy.

Want to know more about strategies for your brand? I highly recommend the book "Good Strategy Bad Strategy" by Richard Rumelt and "Strategy Is Your Words" by Mark Pollard and "Playing to Win" by A.G. Lafley

So let's get on to Part 2 of this

Your brands positioning statement:

Your brands positioning statement should be intertwined with your overarching strategy, which should grow from your goals. Make sense? We've got one focus here... to solve your challenges and meet your goals.

So isn't your brands positioning what your brand is and does? Yep.  But wait... there's more! Let's dive a little deeper, because we need to define this if we're going to move forward in this process of helping your brand reach its true power.

How do we understand your positioning...?

Positioning is the space that your brand occupies in your customers mind.

This is a statement that is a bit fluid - don't change it every week, but making slight adjustments and re-evaluating every 6 months wouldn't be a horrible thing.

I'm going to walk you through, quickly, the four things that I put in a positioning statement and how to understand them. I should mention, there are a lot of ways to go about this and some positioning statements are paragraphs long. That's fine, this is what I recommend in my corner of the world, if you find a better way that works for you, go for it.

Your positioning statement should include 1) your target market, 2) what you offer them, 3) how your product is different and (sometimes) 4) why your target market should buy your product.

As an example, here is McDonalds positioning statement:"For individuals looking for a quick service restaurant with an exceptional customer experience, McDonald's is a leader in the fast food industry, with its friendly service and consistency across thousands of convenient locations. McDonald's' dedication to improving operations and customer satisfaction sets it apart from other fast food restaurants."

Clear? Great, let's touch on each of these then we'll wrap up.

Your target market.

As they say, the riches are in the "Niches". "Well, we're for everyone".... no, you're not. Your target market needs to be defined before you can even BEGIN to see the success you deserve. Does Red Robin target vegans? No. Does your local flower shop target children? No.

What you offer.

This is easy, what do you sell?

How your product is different.

What makes your burger unique? This could be your location, the ingredients, the inspiration behind your recipes.

Why they should buy.

Why should your target market choose you? This is a hard one but take a good week if you need to on it, this is where the money's made as they say.

Looking for a simple method to follow to put together your brands foundation? I highly recommend "Building A Story Brand" by Donald Miller

Look for part 2 next month, I'll be sharing with you on how to start designing your brand, specifically, developing a logo and visual design language.


Want to talk? Find me on Instagram.

Hey, I'm Jeff

I help ambitious restaurant groups craft and grow powerful brands using creative strategies and meaningful design.

Pt 1: Brand Strategy and Positioning

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