Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Brand Positioning Can Open New Doors. Or Close Them.

It has happened twice in the last month to restaurants near me.  Both closed suddenly, after their owners made huge investments of time and money in their dreams and visions.  While this happens across the country to businesses everyday, there are similarities between these restaurants that more than hit close to home;  they emphasize the importance of brand positioning and how it can either open new doors to customers, or close them.

Restaurant A was in a very popular and trendy northern suburb of Chicago. The owner was a first time restauranteur who bought the property and totally gutted it.  New floors, tables, music stage, lighting - you name it. He wanted it to be known, or positioned, as a great restaurant with a lively bar and awesome music scene.  Aside from the fact the food quality didn't start out of the gate that great, people didn't like that their meal was served with loud music and congestion from the crowded bar area.  Was it a bar with decent food or a great restaurant with music?  Turns out we'll never know...he should have followed the lead of the previous owner who carved out a nice niche of being a cozy bar with decent munchies.  

Restaurant B was located right in our office building, so I had the chance to witness its demise on a nightly, and painful, basis as I'd walk past a near empty dining room almost every evening. This owner had a vision to create a fun, family-oriented 50's diner right in downtown Arlington Heights.  After pouring roughly $2MM into the new spot, complete with a '57 Chevy converted into dining booths, the restaurant closed less than a year later.  Again, a case of poor brand positioning.  While the brand was supposed to be a "fun, family diner," the promise and promotion went undelivered.  Even though the waitstaff wore 50's attire, that's as far as it went.  Think Ed Debevic's in Chicago and this was the total opposite.  The prices were too high (enough to turn families off) and neon beer signs were everywhere (also turning off grandparents seeking to take their grandkids out for a fun meal).  Oh, and the food was terrible.  Again, what do you want to be and to whom do you want to target were questions that apparently never got answered.

These classic tales of poor brand positioning cost these business owners millions of dollars and several lost years.  For hospital marketing purposes, the stories translate and the lessons are relevant. 
  • How is your hospital positioned and is it clear to the right audiences?  
  • Is the brand promise fulfilled in as many ways and touch points as possible?
  • Is signage and other promotional elements also supportive of the brand position and promise?
  • As a healthcare provider, is your level of care and service great? These attributes are expected among your consumers as a "have to have," not a "nice to have." Just like good food in a restaurant.
  • Are all the sensory ingredients in place in terms of noise levels, lighting, and even smells, as you position your hospital or healthcare entity?
A clearcut brand position is vital to an organization's success.  It gives you a framework to work within that will appeal to certain segments of the population and set you apart from your competition.  Remember, strategy is sacrifice, and you can't be all things to all people like the restaurants above tried to be.  Unfortunately, they learned the hard way and their restaurant brands went right down the disposal.

Rob Rosenberg is President of Springboard Brand & Creative Strategy, a brand strategy and communications firm specializing in hospital and healthcare marketing, located in the Chicagoland area. For more information on Springboard or to discuss this and other ideas, please contact Rob at 847.398.4920 or rob@springboardbrand.com

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