Your brand isn’t what you say it is. It’s what your customer says it is.
Your logo, tagline, in-store colors, advertising messages… These things add up to the perception you want people to have of your store. Unfortunately, your customers may think of your store in a way that you don’t. They may have branded you in a way that is different from the way you’d like them to brand you.
This is why research is so important. It’s essential to learn what customers really think of your new store. If it’s positive, don’t fight it, don’t try to change it – go with it.
Let me give you an example. I used to go to this Chinese food place for carryout every Friday night. It was in the same strip mall as an anchor supermarket, so there was plenty of parking and I could do a little grocery shopping while I waited. They had a couple of tables inside the small space. People would sit at the tables and wait for their carry out, but I rarely saw anyone actually eat in there. And who could blame them? It was loud and crowded inside, the lighting was harsh and the decor was awful… The place had zero ambiance, and yet, there was always a line at the cash register.
There was parking, like I said, but, mainly, it was a good value and it was fast.
The owners had convinced themselves that people were coming because of the food. And they wanted to expand to have more room in the kitchen for the cooks and to be able to serve more people. They thought that if they moved to a bigger place – with ambiance – they’d keep all their carryout customers; plus, they’d get new customers who would want to stay for dinner. So they did. They moved to a bigger place – further away from me. They dolled it up real nice, they kept the same name and they priced everything up a bit to pay for the higher rent and the cost of renovation.
The reverse of what they wanted. Nobody stays for dinner and fewer people order carryout than before… and their rent is higher.
Why did this happen? What didn’t the owners know?
They didn’t know their customer. They didn’t know that their customer had branded them as a carryout, not as a dine-in, restaurant. The people came for the food not because it was sit-down restaurant quality but because it was a good value, fast in a convenient location. So, who among their customers was going to pay casual restaurant prices in a less convenient location?
This isn’t just a lesson in “brand.” It’s a lesson in brand “extension,” as well. If the owners of the restaurant wanted to grow their business under the same brand name, they should have opened a second carryout place in another location. That would have worked because they wouldn’t have been trying to change how their customer had already branded.
So, in conclusion, find a way to learn what your customers really think about your store, or, how they have branded you. It’ll be good for business.