Archives For Brand Stories

I am always on the lookout for entrepreneurs who are creating new businesses and unique independent brands. If it involves food it is even better. Last week I attended a reception for Shoot Out For Soldiers, a 24 hour lacrosse game benefitting wounded soldiers. More on Shoot Out For Soldiers in another post.

The Shoot Out For Soldiers event was catered by a company called MISSION BBQ. The food was donated. The barbecue dinner was outstanding. I instantly asked the question, What’s the story?

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MISSION BBQ was founded by Steve Newton and Bill Krauss, a couple of 50 something friends who shared a passion for great barbecue and a desire to build a business with meaning and purpose. The pair opened their first store on September 11, 2011 in Glen Burnie, Maryland, ten years after 9/11. Their idea was to serve good old-fashioned American barbecue while giving back to the community. A portion of their profits go to the Wounded Warrior Project, which helps veterans and their families. It was a way to thank soldiers for their service.

MISSION BBQ and its employees are inspired by the following beliefs which are posted on their website. “We believe there is nothing more American than BBQ. And nobody more American than the brave men and women who have sworn to protect and serve our communities and our country. We do what we do for the love of our soldiers, firefighters, police officers, first responders – all our loved ones in service”. What a great focus. Mission BBQ knows who their customer is and who they want to serve. Each day at noon, they stop for a minute and play the national anthem through the loudspeakers at each location. They have create a unique brand and customer experience.

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MISSION BBQ is an inspiring story of two entrepreneurs who followed their passion and created a business with a purpose of giving back and thanking the hard-working people who serve our community.  I wish them will.

Have you eaten at MISSION BBQ?

 

 

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I am a big fan of the “Better Burger” concept. Better Burgers are one of the fastest growing segments in the fast food restaurant market. “Better Burger” restaurants provide upscale fast food that beats the chains on food quality and customer experience at reasonable prices. There are many regional chains emerging with exciting growth prospects. I have written in this blog about the product and marketing innovations of “IN N OUT BURGER”, “Five Guys“, “Smashburger” and “Shake Shack“.

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I am now working in Baltimore and recently discovered BOARDWALK FRESH BURGERS & FRIES in the Hunt Valley Mall in Cockeysville, Maryland. Boardwalk Fresh Burgers and Fries was founded by Dave and Fran DiFerdinando in White Marsh, Maryland in 1981. They were inspired by the legendary fresh-cut fries that they had eaten on the Boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland. The brothers had vacationed there as children. Their idea was to make the fresh-cut french fries they discovered at the Maryland shore available to people around the country. The brothers offered their french fries with a high quality fresh burger that was hand formed every morning and made to order.

I had lunch last Sunday at BOARDWALK. My meal was delicious. My burger was made to order. I enjoyed a 7 ounce Bacon Burger with cheese and fried onions. The fries are outstanding and worth the hype. The employees were enthusiastic and helped provide a pleasant customer experience. The stores are designed in an ocean boardwalk theme which adds to their appeal.    

Boardwalk has a simple menu. Customers have two options when ordering their burgers. They can choose one of the 3 signature burgers, or build a burger totally customized to their liking. The famous fries are hand-cut every day and only made to order.  They are cooked in 100% peanut oil. Boardwalk recommends dressing them the way they do in Maryland with loads of vinegar and Old Bay seasoning. I will try that option next time. Other menu items include beef hotdogs, chicken, shakes and funnel cake fries for dessert.   

Boardwalk currently has 18 stores in seven states. Plans are under development to add 200 restaurants across the United States in the next couple of years. Boardwalk has built a unique brand and concept with strong recognition in its local markets. Others have noticed. The New York Times ranked Boardwalk Fries on their baseball stadium culinary report. Boardwalk Fries are available at Oriole Park in Camden Yards Baltimore.

Have you tried Boardwalk Fresh Burgers and Fries?

My parents took our family to Ogunquit, Maine for vacation when I was a child. Some of my best childhood memories occurred on the rocky coast of Maine. Fortunately, my wife and children share my love of Maine. We try to visit southern Maine every 12-24 months for a long weekend. It seems that every trip we discover a special place that we can’t wait to visit again.

One of our favorite traditions on our trips to Ogunquit is starting our day at Amore Breakfast on Shore Road. It is easily the best breakfast I have ever had. The food is excellent and the service is outstanding.  At Amore, “Love is the Maine ingredient”.

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Leanne Cusimano opened Amore in 1994. Leanne’s background was in teaching and furniture sales. When she founded Amore, her goal was to create a place of her own where people could enjoy good food and feel at home. Leanne believed that “food is love”, thus “Amore”.  This year, Amore is celebrating its 20th year in business.

The menu features a number of signature egg and omelette dishes.The home fries are the best I have ever had. Each item is uniquely prepared with a slight twist that makes it special. The coffee is also excellent. The black and white interior creates a warm and friendly environment that reminds you of the 50’s.

In addition to great food, Amore has a warm and friendly atmosphere. This starts when you are greeted by Leanne and continues throughout your meal. Many of the waiters and waitresses have worked at Amore for several years. It is obvious that they love what they do. Amore Breakfast provides great service and the employees create a great and memorable customer experience. Amore creates an emotional connection with every customer who walks in the door. We eagerly await our next visit to Amore and are never disappointed.

The Amore Breakfast story has spread through word of mouth and positive reviews on Trip Advisor, a feature on Rachel Rays “Tasty Travels” and part of a New York Times article on “36 Hours/Ogunquit Maine”.

Amore has created a branded experience that customers crave. There are some great branding lessons to be learned from Amore Breakfast:

  • Great Brands start by building a culture first, the culture and employees drives the business and the brand experience
  • Make the product great and distinctive
  • Create an emotional experience that builds a long-term relationship
  • Sweat the details and create a great customer experience where people feel at home

Have you eaten at Amore Breakfast in Ogunquit Beach Maine?

Fast food is changing for the better. Every other Friday, I fly through Baltimore Airport, known to many as BWI, around 6PM after a long week of work. When I land, I am extremely hungry and ready for something good to eat. At most airports, I grab a granola bar and wait till I get home to eat because of the bad food.  BWI has the typical fast food choices: McDonalds, Quiznos, Subway, a sports bar with an overpriced burger, Dunkin Donuts, a tasteless pizza place and, of course, a Starbucks. BWI has something that most airports don’t have: a Chipotle. Chipotle is the only restaurant in the airport with any customers. Last Friday, I patiently waited in a 15 minute line for my usual, a steak burrito. There was no line at McDonalds.

Chipotle has changed the way consumers think about fast food. Chipotle has elevated the fast food experience through good food and natural ingredients at a fair price. As Joe from Chipotle tweeted “Its not easy to find good food in airports”. He’s right, but that shouldn’t be the case. Chipotle has successfully challenged many of the rules in the fast food industry. Consumers are willing to wait 15-20 minutes in line and risk missing their flight for the good food at a fair value that Chipotle is offering. Chipotle asked the question, “Why shouldn’t fast food and airport food be good and good for you?” They have changed the game and other fast food restaurants will need to change or risk major sales decreases.

Have you eaten at Chipotle?  

For the past year and a half, I have enjoyed reading Bernadette Jiwa’s Brand Marketing Blog “The Story of Telling”. Bernadette’s blog focuses on the importance of storytelling in brand marketing. Her posts are short, simple and inspiring.

Bernadette is a brand storyteller and strategist who challenges traditional approaches to marketing. She recently published a new book titled “Difference”. I highly recommend “Difference”. It’s a must read book for innovative marketers. Difference challenges you to re-think your approach to marketing. Many people view marketing’s role as creating demand for existing products. Conventional wisdom advocates developing a product and then creating a big marketing funnel in order to sell it.

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Difference redefines how successful brands will be marketed in the future. In Bernadette’s view marketing is not a department, it’s the story of how we create difference for our customers. The businesses that succeed tell a better story because they have learned to recognize what’s true for their customers and then create solutions that matched their worldview. As Bernadette points out, “the truth is that people don’t fall in love with ideas at all. They fall in love with how those ideas, products, services and places makes them feel”. People don’t buy features they buy promises.

One of my favorite parts of the book is when Bernadette shares her story of growing up in Dublin, the storytelling capital of the world. Bernadette describes how her little brother Johnny never greeted her by saying “hello” or “how are you?” The only question Johnny ever asked was, “what’s the story?” This is a common way to greet people in Ireland. It’s an open ended question that asks people to tell everything that’s important right now. Many great stories flowed from that simple greeting.

Difference thinking is more than the ability to connect the dots, though. It’s about seeing the truth, recognizing the opportunity in that truth and then acting on it. It isn’t the person with the best idea who wins; it’s the person who has the greatest understanding of what really matters to people.

The Difference Model outlined in the book flips product development on its head. Instead of starting with the idea, it begins with an examination of people’s current reality and explores what’s possible in a world where the problems and desires of those people are solved and met. A fundamental premise of the difference model is empathizing with your customer and asking questions to better understand your customer.

The Difference Model is consists of the following elements:

  • Principles – What’s the truth about us, the industry, the market and the people we want to serve.
  • Purpose – Why do we exist?
  • People – Who are the people we want to serve? What do they value? What’s their current reality?
  • Personal – How can we change how people feel?
  • Perception – What do people believe about you? What would you like them to believe about you?
  • Product – What do people really want?

Difference cites examples of many brands who have taken this approach to solving customers needs. Examples include Apple, Uber, By the Way Bakery, Warby Parker, Airbnb and The Rubix Cube.

Bernadette has created a Difference Map to help guide you through the process. You can download the map at Difference.is. It is a wonderful tool for planning innovation.

Read Difference and experience a new way of thinking about marketing.

Ten years ago Dove set out to widen the definition of beauty. In 2004 Dove commissioned a research study called “The Real Truth About Beauty” to more deeply understand the relationship of women, beauty and well-being. The results of the study were very surprising. Only two percent of women interviewed considered themselves to be beautiful, while the majority placed themselves in the average or below average category. The study found that women felt disconnected from the way culture describes beauty. The study found that women held different criteria for beauty than popular culture. Women see emotional qualities, character and individuality as equally expressive of beauty as the narrow physical aspects of beauty that currently dominate popular culture.

In 2004, Dove launched the “Campaign For Real Beauty”. The campaign was designed to change the conversation about the need for a wider definition of beauty. This campaign has had a positive impact on women, changed the conversation and generated strong sales increases. Dove produced one of the best ads of 2013 in “Real Beauty Sketches”. 

Last week Dove premiered “Selfie” an eight minute film that challenges young women through social media to take an honest selfie and to encourage their mothers to do so, too. “Selfie” premiered at the Sundance Institute in Park City, Utah. This marked the 10th anniversary of Dove’s “Campaign For Real Beauty”.

Selfie is directed by Oscar Winning Documentarian Cynthia Wade and produced by Sharon Liese. “Selfie” captures the journey of multiple generations of girls and their mothers in the western Massachusetts town of Great Barrington as they create a new type of selfie that celebrates their unique beauty. In the film, the girls admit that they adopted many of the insecurities that their mothers also felt. The girls are seen getting together with their moms to create a new type of selfie that features what they perceive as their least desirable physical features.  

A decade later, Dove has uncovered through a major study in the U.S. that 62% of women feel they are responsible for influencing their own definition of beauty, nearly triple the number from ten years ago. Women believe the definition of beauty has evolved to become more inclusive and have taken on the role of defining the standard for themselves and each other.

Social media has emerged as one of the most powerful influencing factors in how women define beauty. Social media offers women the opportunity to create their own media, personalize beauty and influence the conversation. More than half (55%) of women believe social media is playing a larger role in influencing the beauty conversation than traditional media.

“Selfie” is an excellent short film. Dove has done a great job promoting self esteem. As a father of teen age girls and a husband, I applaud what Dove has done. Once again they have redefined the notion of beauty. Dove has stayed true to their brand purpose of celebrating women’s unique beauty.

What do you think of Dove’s short film “Selfie”?

My daughters will be entering college in the fall of 2015. On Saturday, we visited Manhattan College in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. We attended an information session followed by a campus tour. We were all very impressed. It was a great experience. Manhattan has a great story to tell. Students and faculty told the story in a way that connected emotionally with the audience. Their passion and enthusiasm was refreshing. They lived the Manhattan College Brand.

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Manhattan College is a private, independent, Roman Catholic, liberal arts college in the Lasallian tradition. Manhattan College was founded in 1853 by five French Lasallian Brothers in a small building on Canal Street. Today, the campus is located on 22 scenic acres overlooking Van Cortlandt Park in Riverdale. The small intimate setting and layout of the campus is unique and provides many opportunities to connect with fellow students. It is a tranquil setting amidst the fast pace of New York City. Its proximity to Manhattan is a major benefit and selling point. The on-campus experience is one of the special things that differentiates Manhattan College from other universities.

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Famous Manhattan College Alumni include author James Patterson, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

There are nearly 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States. In a highly competitive marketplace, colleges and universities have become skilled in brand marketing.  Developing and managing the identity of a college is critical to the success of recruitment and development efforts. Brand identity plays an important role in helping schools secure grant funding, attract top faculty, and maintain strong community, government and media relations.

From my perspective Manhattan College has done an excellent job defining and communicating the uniqueness of their brand. The promise of the Manhattan College Brand is rooted in Lasallian Catholic traditions of excellence in teaching, respect for individual dignity and a commitment to social justice. The goal of an education at Manhattan College is to teach you how to think not what to think. Manhattan’s tagline “DREAMS DELIVERED” helps bring the brand promise to life.

Have you visited the Manhattan College Campus?