March 1, 2011 |

Marketing Matters: Branding, not just a pretty word

By Scott Anthony

What does the word “brand” mean to you? Unless you are the marketing director of a large organization, it may carry little importance, as people will likely not make the mental connection when they hear your name. Your marketing dollars are in short supply and the economy is uncertain at best, so why should an independent operator care about branding their concept? In a very fundamental sense, branding makes a consumer associate a specific product –– pizza –– with a specific manufacturer –– YOU.

Think of it this way: (B)e (R)emembered (A)nd (N)oticed (D)ominantly. When looking at branding in its basic form, this is not only an attainable goal, but also necessary to gain consumers’ confidence and have the competitive edge. Howard Schultz of Starbucks says: “Customers must recognize that you stand for something.”

Your brand is something that will run throughout every way you represent yourself. Notice how a concept from Chicago is able to open five locations in the huge Los Angeles market in just a few short years. Fresh Brothers Pizza’s brand is stated in their name — they are known for using only the freshest ingredients. Their stores have a fresh new look, different from your typical pizzeria. The fresh theme runs dominantly through their logo, menu, graphics, stores, Web site, e-mail, etc. There is no “disconnect.” What I see in the menu is what I expect, and it’s what I get when I visit any of their locations. The brand is reinforced at every junction and therefore remembered.

What can grow to be your brand? Secret recipes, family, unique location, cooking methods, any one of these aspects can be turned into a brand. Cocca’s Pizza of Youngstown, Ohio, builds brand around family. The company’s ads feature a relative making pizza and enjoying the family atmosphere. Owner Steve Cocca personally voices his own radio spots. Backing this with a quality product, Cocca’s four locations have grown by 30 percent thru branding, proving that his stores are a dominating force in their markets.

Branding is seen in word and deed. My pizzeria’s USP is “From Our Den to YOUR Den.” It conveys a warm family tone with strong ties to the community. To build that brand, my menu features a local landmark along with professional pictures of my actual product. What you see is what you get. My dining area is designed with this in mind. We use the same warm, inviting color scheme when choosing wall color, tablecloth design and décor. A den is a warm and nurturing place where food is dispersed with a little TLC. Our staff is trained to reflect that, to participate in community events and remember customers’ names. This strengthens our brand and gets us noticed. I have learned to not just stick my logo on any ad slick. In order for my brand to make a consistent impression on consumers, I need to have my menus, mailers and box-toppers all have the same unique look and feel. If you do not have the experience, a professional marketing partner can help you accomplish that.

Scott Anthony is a Fox’s Pizza Den franchisee in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. He is a monthly contributor to Pizza Today and a frequent guest speaker at the Pizza Expo family of tradeshows.