Here’s a dirty little secret: Brand Managers don’t always know what’s best for their brand. For the most part, Brand Managers are sitting behind desks, combing through research and telling themselves how smart they are. They’re not out there in the trenches and experiencing the daily challenges their brand encounters on the street.
Here’s another dirty little secret: just because promotion agencies get paid to come up with awesome ideas, they don’t always deliver.
The point here is that a lot of the time, the ideas that actually increase sales come via collaboration with the people who don’t get paid to come up with awesome ideas that actually move product or increase sales. It might be a sales person out in the trenches. It might be the a retailer who sees a golden opportunity. It might be a consumer that is passionate about the brand and sees an emotional connection that others don’t.
Most great ideas just can’t bubble up to the top from a consumer research deck or creative brief. The best ones come via the true collaboration with the people that are out there actually making things happen and out there truly interacting with the brand.
How much time do you spend collaborating with these people?
It feels like it’s time for another Brand Audit, and since I at lunch at Noodles and Company today, let’s see what they have going on.
Background – Noodles & Company was new to me until I moved to Colorado. Noodles is huge out here, but according to Wikipedia, they’ve really expanded their footprint and are not out on part of the east coast. If you haven’t had Noodles, they offer a variety of noodle dishes inspired from America, Asia and the Mediterranean. So you can get Mac and Cheese or Bangkok Curry and everything in between.
Branding – Noodles & Company is about as consistent of a brand as you’ll find. They do a great job of sticking with their core identity. If you’ve been to a Noodles & Company, you proabably know what I’m talking about. Whether it is broccoli trees or a noodle fountain, all of their branding is consistently unique and communicates a friendly attitude. Everything is about the food, but its fun at the same time. That’s a hard balance to strike, but they do it well.
Noodles sells a very small selection of wine and craft beer. It’s definitely not the type place that sells a lot of adult beverages, but just having them available makes the place feel trendy.
Website – Noodles smartly offers a flash and an HTML website. The Flash website navigation is set like a city called Noodleville. They offer a newsletter called a Noodlegram. When I signed up, they asked my birthday and preferred location, so I assume they use that info to send some targeted information.
Advertising – Noodles & Company doesn’t really do much – at least as far as I can tell. I seem to remember some OOH during the summer last year, but nothing huge. But, I’m cool with that. I haven’t seen their numbers, but by judging their traffic and what I assume are HUGE margins, they really don’t need it.
PR – I found a few press releases online, so it seems like Noodles seems to stay active by promoting new entrees and new store openings via public relations.
SEO/Social Media - I conducted a pretty simple Google search and didn’t find much in terms of Social Media, but they seem to have optimized Yelp, Urbanspoon and Chowhound.
Overall – I like the Noodles brand and I think they do a pretty good job of managing it. The brand is quirky and fun but focuses on the food and creates a healthy perception.
Once upon a time there was a professional sports league that was on the rise and could potentially challenge the NFL and MLB in popularity. It was the early 90′s and some teams has such a public demand for their playoff tickets and watching their games on TV, that they actually implemented a “pay per view” model! Times were good for this league, indeed.
Then they started changing the fundamental way the game way played. You see, this game did some things that the mainstream thought of as taboo – like fighting. So, in an attempt to make EVERYONE like them, they tried to get rid of it.
Then the players went on strike and the league was gone for almost two years.
When they came back, they did a lot of good things to get the fans back in the seats. But all of that stuff is gone now and the league has gone back to being out of sight and out of mind.
The NHL has lost their way. Sure, the strike hurt – but other leagues have managed to rebound from those dark times. The real problem is that the NHL got greedy and changed how they did business. They got a taste of glory and thought they could get more by appealing to the mainstream. This didn’t work for Hockey and it usually doesn’t work for any brand.
Fighting was part of the NHL’s DNA. Fighting was part of the game. Instead of giving in to the activist groups and the big network advertisers and curtailing the fighting, the NHL should have educated the fringe fans on why fighting is part of the game and how it is part of the league’s long history.
They didn’t do that. They went for the BIG bucks and national TV deals. Now they find themselves on third tier network delivering ratings that are less than professional bowling!
Stick to your core identity. It’s the only thing that works.
I had a conversation this week about the conversations, and subsequently, friends I have made on our Flying Dog Twitter. I was bragging about these consumers and how loyal they were, how they recommend our brand to their friends, and blah, blah blah.
The person I was talking to said, “I don’t think you want people stalking the brand.” I’m not sure I’ve ever disagreed with a statement more in my life.
Brand Stalkers is EXACTLY what we (and any marketers, for that matter) want. To me, stalking is the next level up from brand loyalty. I LOVE our stalkers!
Brand Stalkers are:
Consumers that are extremely engaged in all of your brand’s activities conversations, innovations.
They’re opinionated and involved.
They’re emotional about your brand.
They obsess about your brand.
They talk and recommend your brand.
They congratulate you when you do something good and they let you know when you do something bad.
So I want to thank that person for helping me better understand #1 objective as a marketer: attracting stalkers.