Just when you thought there wasn’t anything more to brand images and identities than what you learned in Part I…
There’s something else important for small businesses to think about:
People are willing to pay more for a brand image that they think is strong and positive than a brand image that they have little connection with or one for which they don’t particularly care.
This time, let’s talk about a new consumer. We’ll call him Buyer Bob. Buyer Bob wants to buy a new pair of headphones so he can listen to music at work without disturbing his officemates.
In his search for a pair of quality headphones, Buyer Bob notices Studio Beats, a pair of headphones made by Dr. Dre (famous for his musical expertise) that cost $300. He also notices a pair from Walmart that aren’t created by a musical artist but that only cost $50. Is there really a $250 quality difference between these two pairs of headphones?
Before we answer that, let’s add another factor into the equation. Buyer Bob also frequently sees famous people wearing Studio Beats headphones, like music producer P. Diddy, NBA star LeBron James and USA’s Olympic basketball team. Buyer Bob loves music and basketball, so these are all people with whom Buyer Bob wants to associate himself. This is a positive correlation for Buyer Bob. Guess how much more Buyer Bob is now willing to pay so he can create that association? About 600 percent more!
Buyer Bob thinks that the next time people see him wearing his new Studio Beats headphones, they will look at him and think, this guy must care and know a lot about music. He may believe that some people will look at him and think, this guy might be a music expert.
Suddenly, buying Studio Beats headphones has made Buyer Bob believe that he is showing the world he is a hip, cool music expert and sports guy. Studio Beats just won itself a new customer who will endorse the brand!
And even if there isn’t a 600 percent difference in quality between the generic headphones and the Studio Beats headphones, Buyer Bob has little doubts about paying that much more for the latter.
Another moral of this example is that a company can charge more (which often means higher profit margins!) because people are willing to pay more just to be associated with that brand image.
Buyer Bob is now a loyal customer.
How Can I Apply This to My Catering Company?
Now let’s think about how this concept can apply to you as a caterer.
How do you create that upscale, exclusive reputation as a caterer? Or perhaps you’re more of a down-to-earth, friendly, middle tier caterer. How do you portray that identity? This takes coordination with all aspects of your brand, including the look, feel and messaging behind your:
- Sales scripts
- Plating and presentation
- Client list
- Testimonials and reviews
- Event staff uniforms
- Menu items
- Menu item names
- Venue (if applicable)
- Floral arrangements and centerpieces
- Services offered
- Preferred catering listings
- Event photos
- Brand name beverages
- And more!
If you’re going for higher prices, higher scale strategy, then it’s your job to give every possible aspect of your company a facelift to look like an Tier I catering company—one that is fashionable, chic and luxurious. At the same time, it’s also your job to make sure your event execution follows suit.
Upholding this brand (once you reach that identity) is equally important! Brands take years to build and only a fraction of a second to fall (think BP oil spill).
It’s a daunting and sometimes scary task, but the outcome is worth the work. Happy, eager clients who want your company’s name to grace their event’s cocktail napkins and programs means that you can charge higher prices, just like the famous clothing, shoe, bag and jewelry designers.
What Else Can a Strong Brand Image Do for Me?
Oh yes, there are even more benefits to strong brand images besides a consumer’s willingness to pay more for your services. Here is yet another thing to consider when building your brand:
A strong brand image means you can more easily expand your product line.
Let’s use Apple as our example. You would be hard-pressed to find another brand that has a strong following like Apple. Think of all those who purchase Apple products. Chances are they have or have had more than one—iPhones, iPads, iPods, Macs…the list goes on and on, and now that list includes the Apple Watch.
Apple’s brand image is so strong that if it chose to introduce a new line of office furniture, most Apple followers would have no problem buying it. Why? Because it’s Apple!
Sure, Apple’s current products and success have nothing to do with office furniture, but Apple’s followers believe in the company so much that they would jump right over to an Apple store to redecorate their office.
It’s easier for strong brands to successfully expand their business.
Suddenly, Apple has successfully expanded. Again.
How Can I Apply This to My Catering Company?
When you have helped maintain a successful brand image as a corporate caterer to where you’ve built up a following of loyal corporate clients, the chances that you will succeed as you expand into the residential, wedding or social market grows exponentially.
This happens because you have built up such a loyal following who believe in your brand enough to—with little to no questions asked—consider hiring you for their parent’s retirement party, their daughter’s wedding or their company’s picnic next summer.
The Bottom Line
Here is what it all comes down to:
- Control everything that you can control about your brand image in an effort to make it positive so that you will get more people calling.
- Control everything that you can control about your brand image in an effort to keep more people calling.
- When people have a positive brand image of your catering company, you’re going to make more money.
- Strong brands allow you to charge more, and people are less likely to question it.
- Where you used to be a commodity (which means just another caterer selling food), you’re now a desired brand with whom people want to associate for your experience.
- People believe in you, and they want to hire you as a caterer, and they are willing to pay for it!
Bonus Material: Employees and Your Brand; One More Thought for the Road
It’s also worth noting this important notion:
Your employees impact your brand image more than you think they do.
In and out of the office, this statement is 100 percent true all of the time.
You are XYZ Catering.
Let’s say your entire staff has sweatshirts with your company’s name and logo on it.
One of your salespeople is out to dinner at a pizza joint, wearing this sweatshirt. This salesperson complains to the waitress that his or her food isn’t good enough and the service is lousy, making a big scene in front of the entire restaurant. The other people in the restaurant see this sweatshirt on your salesperson who is responsible for interrupting their dining experience, and now they associate your company with that salesperson’s outburst no matter how warranted it might have been.
Sure, this particular salesperson might be the friendliest and most customer-focused person in the world while at the office, and sure, you may be the best caterer in town, but to those people in the restaurant, your brand image has just been compromised.
The same goes for your company vehicles. What if a company vehicle (with a clearly branded wrap or decal decorating the outside) is parked outside a bar in between deliveries? What might passersby think when they see this? Perhaps they think the driver is having a drink inside. Regardless if the driver is inside drinking or is just there to use the restroom, people will make their own judgments, and now all of a sudden to those passersby, your brand image has unsafe, dangerous associations.
While you cannot ask your employees to be purely angelic outside of work, their behavior certainly impacts your brand.
So, it’s important that your entire team understands how they impact the brand and what they can do to help create a positive brand image in the consumers’ minds. And it’s important that when you hire employees, you’re doing so with this idea in mind and select future employees with whom you won’t have to worry about this issue.
Phew, you’re done with Part II! But that’s not all there is to learn about branding.