From Mike Cordoba, founding partner, Empresario Capital.
Established brands have the benefit of a tried-and-tested formula, but as market needs and consumer demands change, brands, no matter how beloved, need to respond with flexibility. In 2010, RAMMP Hospitality Brands Inc acquired MR MIKES and re-branded as MR MIKES SteakhouseCasual. With a 50-year-plus history, MR MIKES was confronted with the challenge of revamping a heritage brand to appeal to new customers without neglecting its roots of being a casual and affordable steakhouse – core values they built their business upon.
“We were speaking to a new generation, but we still wanted to retain MR MIKES’s come-as-you-are quality,” said Mike Cordoba, CEO of RAMMP. “When we rebranded, we stayed true to our roots, and our rebrand reflects both a sense of belonging and unpretentiousness.”
While defining your business’s brand identity is important, a rebrand isn’t necessarily the right strategy for everyone. Franchises need to access both the risks and rewards involved, but most importantly they need to define the why. For some it’s to attract new clients or they’ve outgrown their original brand identity, while for others they may be breaking into new markets. By first knowing your branding goals, it’s easier to take strategic steps to achieve them.
Here are MR MIKES SteakhouseCasual’s top four branding tips to consider:
1. External change must match your internal strategy
When you’ve acquired a new brand it may be tempting to make sweeping cosmetic changes. While a new coat of paint, updated logo and new menu offerings are great in theory, the changes need to reflect your company’s internal brand strategy. It’s not enough to change for change’s sake.
When RAMMP acquired MR MIKES, they rebranded as MR MIKES SteakhouseCasual. “We were excited to establish MR MIKES in a new dining category that we like to call ‘SteakhouseCasual’”, said Cordoba. “For existing customers they could be assured it was still the MR MIKES they knew, while the ‘SteakhouseCasual’ reflected the idea that going out for a steak didn’t have to be reserved for special occasions only, it could still be accessible and affordable for anyone.”
2. Tailor your message
Make sure you don’t diffuse your brand identity by trying to be all things to everyone. Trying to attract both kids and the happy hour crowd are vastly different segments. By knowing who your target audience is, it’ll be easier to tailor all your touch points to speak to them.
MR MIKES SteakhouseCasual has chosen to grow their business in small booming towns and select cities across Western Canada, where the demographics match the core and loyal MR MIKES customers. By targeting men and women between ages 25 and 50 in growing areas, they are presenting new options to people looking for a place to relax and enjoy a social dining experience.
3. Make it local
While franchises share a brand identity, they don’t have to be cookie cutter. There are still opportunities to make the brand local to your market. MR MIKES SteakhouseCasual has a feature wall at the entrance of each restaurant that welcomes customers to their location. Be it adding a local beer to the menu or fundraising for a local charity, there are ways to bring a regional kick to what is a general business model.
“When we look for potential partners, we are looking for local ownership,” says Cordoba. “The business is much stronger when you can bring aboard someone who has established connections in the community. It also aligns well with our value of giving back to the community that we work and live in.”
4. Stay social
Staying social is more than being active on different social platforms. It’s important to remember that connecting to your customers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn is about having a conversation. No one wants to only hear about the Wednesday night wings promotions every week. Social media is a handy tool to also monitor what’s being said about you and your brand persona.
“Be it a compliment or a complaint, we engage so we can jump in on the conversation to share a laugh or to ensure any issues are immediately addressed,” says Cordoba.
Not everyone is savvy on social media. Give your franchisees clear social media guidelines and ensure they are familiar with the dos and don’ts of representing your brand in the social media space.
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