Retail Branding: Authenticity is key to long-term success

Version 4
    Retail Branding: Authenticity is key to long-term success
    -Tom Kelley and Rick Wolf

    We hear story after story about operators trying to reinvent themselves or wondering
    why they have lost market share. Often times they are so close to the root challenge
    that they overlook it and try to advertise or promote their way out of slumping sales. A
    better approach: look deep to examine and refine your true brand essence and never
    loose sight of the essential emotional connection your brand must make to each guest or

    Over the years we have accepted the challenge of assessing and developing strategies
    to both launch and expand market share for operators and suppliers alike. There's
    always been a common thread: be true to what made your brand great and never loose
    sight of what makes you, your product and your service authentic and unique.

    Often times, when business goes south, the immediate reaction is either to slash
    proactive marketing expenditures or to try to advertise to regain market share. Neither
    works. What does work is having all principals and operations folks look back to what
    drove business when expansion was taking place. What products built the company?
    What did the brand stand for? What made guests and customers come back?
    With increased competition comes a desire or tendency to "act like the Jones's," rather
    than keeping the focus on a unique and authentic brand story. Long-term success, we
    have found and suggest, is found in remaining steadfast in delivery of a product that is
    beyond anyone's duplication.

    Good operators will realize the need, every couple of years,
    to take an objective and impartial view of what message their brand is sending -
    both by operational execution as well as through visual merchandizing in the restaurant.
    Our advice to operators in today's ultra-competitive environment: examine and refine
    your core brand. You may too close to daily operations to see how your original focus
    has morphed into something that is truly "not you."

    Don't be afraid to call in some experts help to look at all that you are doing, internally and externally, to see if you are
    truly showcasing your authentic core message. Whatever you do, don't wait until it's
    too late or spend thousands on unfocused advertising dollars.
    When you stand back and get assistance in taking a hard look at what truly put you on
    the map to begin with, you'll realize that same core brand message and product can take
    you to new heights as well. Just realize that as you examine your brand and your
    operations, you need to always seek to build emotional connections with your guests.

    Great brands aren't reinvented, just are continually improved and reinforced. When's
    the last time you really took a hard look at how true your operations are to your brand
    promise? Now would be a good time!

    Tom Kelley and Rick Wolf are Partners of Concept Group USA
    (, a strategic brand consulting firm based in
    Washington, DC and New England. The firm has over 120 years experience
    examining, refining and expanding brands primarily in the hospitality, retail and trade association