Today I share with you a few branding lessons learned throughout my time in the trenches within the hospitality/F&B world.
For more than 20 years I’ve had the privilege of working with, and helping to build, some of the most iconic hospitality and F&B brands in the world. From bespoke international hotels to must-see destinations, to beloved regional spirits and beer brands, to mass-market grocery store snacks and sundries, creating and enhancing brand identities within this space has been my bread and butter. Over that time, I’ve learned to see what separates the standouts from the strikeouts, regardless of stage in the brand life cycle.
Today I share with you a few branding lessons learned throughout my time in the trenches within the hospitality/F&B world. Those of us who work in this category are fortunate to work with the types of brands that people turn to when they seek comfort, escape, and a wide spectrum of emotional fulfillment. It is a rewarding responsibility to deliver an experience that can so immediately enhance the day, night, or week of a customer, and when done right it’s magical. Here are four things to keep in mind when looking to do just that:
Define your story
The brands that stand the test of time are those with memorable and unique stories at their core to which consumers can relate. The work of our agency can be distilled into two key aspects: articulating – and amplifying – a brand’s story. We do this by uncovering how they came to be, what makes them unique, how they can enhance the lives of their customers, then ultimately determining the best vehicles and mediums through which to tell their story. Whether it’s reimagining a venerable historic restaurant as an edgy modern-day supper club, or discovering a Prohibition-era vault as the inspiration for a new generation of family distillers, a strong narrative energizes a customer base and keeps a brand top of mind, which is critical in the increasingly competitive hospitality and F&B space.
Sell an experience
The entire hospitality industry is predicated on customers immersing themselves in the world of your brand. Whether it’s a hotel stay, a visit to the bar, or a takeout meal, every touchpoint must confidently and cohesively reflect your brand story from the moment someone steps foot on your property or engages with your product at home. Visuals, copy, sounds, scents, and tactile materials all play a part in bringing your brand to life. Be methodical and meticulous about your brand experience, offering differentiated moments of delight that a guest/customer can’t get elsewhere – and always remember that hospitality is about making someone feel at home, welcome, and eager to return – whether online or offline.
Deliver on your brand promise
This is sometimes a tough one for clients to hear, but it is crucial in the worlds of hospitality and F&B. Marketing agencies can generate the most high-profile exposure imaginable, but we can’t make a customer come back if the goods aren’t delivered. Be honest with yourself, your agencies, and your customers in terms of what can be expected when someone engages with your brand; and when they do so, ensure that every interaction provides the consistent quality and experience you claim it will. From the server to the social media manager, every person associated with your brand should live, breathe and act upon the values you embrace. After all, you are what you do, not what you say.
Brands that stand the test of time are those with memorable and unique stories at their core to which consumers can relate.
Keep things fresh
Satisfied customers remain loyal to brands, but also crave variety; as such, it’s imperative to continue innovating while staying true to your core brand values.
Updating menu items, introducing new collaborations, refreshing décor, or simply rejuvenating packaging can be easy ways to keep things lively and new for your audience. Embrace trends when appropriate but do so in a way that authentically reflects your brand and offers customers your unique take on something, rather than just a replication of what someone else is doing.
It’s no secret that succeeding in the hospitality and F&B industries is particularly challenging of late. Yet we practitioners in the space remain motivated by the fact that we have the power and privilege to improve, enhance and enlighten someone’s day through an amazing brand experience that people need now more than ever.
By Marlo Fogelman
CEO of marlo marketing, an integrated marketing and creative agency specializing in all things hospitality, lifestyle and CPG.