Restaurant Branding: Brand Story

Humans think, relate and communicate in the form of story.  Hundreds of years before the invention of the printing press epic stories like the Iliad and Odyssey traveled the world because they were compelling and easy to remember stories.  Religious, civic, community, and business leaders make their point with stories rather than just hard facts.  Stories that help us understand where we’ve been, where we’re going, and how our piece fits in to the bigger picture are among the most powerful tools used by great leaders.  Whether you run a global restaurant chain, the marketing department, or are a start-up restaurant owner, you can build more consensus and become a better leader by telling stories with your restaurant branding.

We can all agree that the best marketing is word of mouth.  But what is surprising is when you ask restaurant marketers what they are doing specifically to ignite and fan the flames of word of mouth they have a dumbstruck look on their face.  Isn’t it amazing how – while everyone agrees in the utmost importance of word of mouth marketing being the best – there aren’t specific actions being taken to build it or sections of the restaurant marketing plan that address it?

Imagine this – your marketing director goes down to the local television station and says here’s a check for $25,000; please run an ad for us but it is totally up to you what you say or do in the ad because we would rather you figure out what to say than us.  That would never happen.  The reason is marketers want to craft and control the brand message.  They pour over the details; spell out exactly what to say and how to say it.  Yet, they leave word of mouth entirely at the discretion of the customer without efforts to help shape and influence the message.

Own Your Story in Restaurant Branding

The fact is that customers are left to come up with the brand story for themselves.  They craft the word of mouth message without the benefit of the talking points that the public relations team sends to media or the training departments instill in their orientation for new employees.  Yet, the word of mouth message can be influenced. The brand story, once properly articulated, can be used for a whole variety of applications including training, marketing, branding, public relations, media relations, investor relations, franchise sales, real estate programs and working with landlords to secure prime locations – the list goes on and on.

There is a saying, “He who has the best story wins”.  When you have a succinct, compelling, and fun-to-tell brand “story”, you are endearing your audience and stakeholders in a way no other single tool can.  “Facts tell but stories sell”.

Another one-liner I like to use came from one of our copywriters who wrote a bestselling book on direct response marketing.  He said the motto in direct response copywriting is “Tell me quick and tell me true, not how this product came to be, but what the darn thing does for me”.  It makes sense.  Customers don’t care so much about the facts of your restaurant as they do the narrative that those facts create when put together in the form of a story.

The best way to lead and to effectuate word of mouth is to build a powerful and compelling brand story and tell that story to any and everyone willing to listen.