Monday, January 14, 2013
A TRUE BRAND STORY
We hope you’ve had the chance to listen to last week’s podcast about or to read the actual article entitled “New Year’s Resolutions for Marketers.” The resolutions really represent a kind of manifesto of what we believe in…what we have been espousing in these weekly Dispatches for more than a dozen years. You could say that the proposed resolutions are the fundamental principles of “Big M” Marketing, in which the Marketing Function operates as a lead strategic thinker and growth driver within an organization (as opposed to “little m” marketing, which tends to operate mainly as a support service within the organization).
It’s difficult, if not virtually impossible, to say that any one of these resolution-principles is preeminent. But if we were asked to encapsulate them in a short sound-byte, we might simply say that the over-arching resolution for marketers everywhere is “Build a true brand.” Sounds pretty basic, doesn’t it? But we’ve found that, particularly in recent years, this very basic reason for Marketing’s existence gets a lot more lip service than it does actual effort. Of course, our established fast-moving consumer goods marketers (and their senior management), in general, maintain some level of commitment to building and marketing brands, not merely selling products. Yet we still hear a good many pharmaceutical and medical device marketers (and their senior management) skeptically ask the question, “Now, once again, exactly why should our marketing organization and their efforts be aimed at building brands?”
Over the holidays we had the opportunity to spend some time in Bangkok, Thailand. While there, we had a conversation with a young Thai friend who has opened a new restaurant (a Vietnamese restaurant, in fact) in the heart of the chaotic city within the last six months. This conversation was remarkable: for the fundamental insight about brands that our young friend articulated; for the intuitive knowledge about a “brand experience” that he had; and, most of all, for getting at the very heart of why brands matter—a lot more than products—to everyone. We would like to share the gist of that conversation with you; think of it as a true brand story.
The MJ too™Brand & the Thip Samai™ Brand
Our Vietnamese restaurant operator-friend (he goes by the English name, Joe) has actually been running a similar restaurant outside of the Bangkok city limits for the past eight years. His success has been reasonably good, despite a location that is not easily reached by the Bangkok millions. Ever since opening that far-flung restaurant, Joe had dreamed of opening a second location within the city center…near to endless apartments and businesses. Finally, late last summer he lucked out, or as he prefers to express it, “Buddha answered his prayers.” He was able to secure a favorable lease at a prime location, in a popular neighborhood that is frequented by Thai’s and foreigners alike—due to its proximity to the famous “Golden Mount” temple. So he opened MJ too™.
Joe’s first six months of business in this prime location have been quite good…mainly because his food is so good. You might think that opening a Vietnamese restaurant in the center of Bangkok would lead naturally to this reaction: “Excuse me. Shouldn’t it be a Thai restaurant?” The thing is, Thai’s really, really like good Vietnamese food; however, despite Bangkok’s world-class size, there aren’t many really good Vietnamese food restaurants in the city. Over a delicious meal of the house specialty, nam neung and a big bottle of Leo beer at Joe’s MJ too™ restaurant, here were some of his comments (by the way, while an accomplished restaurant operator, Joe has only a high-school education and has never studied marketing):
(On why the food is so good)
“Thai people love fresh. We’re the only Vietnamese restaurant, as far as I know, who buys fresh produce every night (at the all-night “fresh market”) and who makes all the sauces fresh every day. Sauces are never made in big batches or refrigerated for future use. Why do we do this? I want customers to prefer us over all the others; and I want customers to come back again and again.”
(On Joe’s dream for the future of MJ too)
“It’s pretty simple, really. I want to make a brand—a popular brand that will last for years to come. I want to do what my friend up the street has done with his Thip Samai™ restaurant brand. It’s one of a kind and it has been around for nearly fifty years. It has the best pad thai in Bangkok, probably in all of Thailand…and everyone knows it. You can go there any night (they’re open nightly from 5 PM until 3 AM) and the lines of customers—Thai’s and foreigners alike—never end. But here’s the best part: the Thip Samai™ brand is so well-known and so well-liked that they can charge 250 baht per plate (about $8 per plate, which is easily four times what other pad thai restaurants would charge for a similar serving).”
(On what still needs to be done to build the business)
“By continuing to deliver the same, just-made-fresh dishes each and every day, we can increase even more the number of visits of our regular customers. But, just as important, we need to do some basic marketing—to ensure we keep bringing in new customers. Word-of-mouth recommendations are very important to us, but so is making more nearby businesses and hotels aware of us.”
Pretty interesting remarks coming from a high-school graduate who grew up on a rice farm, huh? We would say that Joe’s thoughts and intentions go well beyond being interesting—they’re downright inspiring! In just these brief comments, Joe makes perfectly clear why building a brand matters:
- It engenders a sustainable customer preference;
- And that preference stimulates continuous business;
- It becomes a meaningful, enjoyable part of people’s everyday lives…even, over time, a much-loved part of the culture;
- Perhaps best of all, it legitimizes premium and super-premium prices, which in turn, deliver unbelievable, long-term profits.
As we get into the new year, there is no better time to ask the question, “What would it take for my brand to do these same things?”
Richard Czerniawski & Mike Maloney
PS: If you’re interested in learning more about Bangkok’s most popular pad thai restaurant, Thip Samai™, just google “best pad thai in Bangkok.” You’ll see that the first several blogs or travel sites all focus on this restaurant. Here’s what one of them had to say:
“Thip Samai has been a Bangkok institution specializing in Pad Thai since 1966, and it’s often mentioned as the best in Thailand. Commanding high prices for curbside food is not easy given all the competition in this free market, but Thip Samai manages to charge 5x the average price, and it’s still crowded from the moment it opens until the doors close.” (Thai Street Vendors—ImportFood.com)
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