It’s spring break and I find myself sitting in a hotel room overlooking Times Square. This was not the original plan. My family and I had intended to be on the farm in Kansas. But other family duties called. My husband’s 81- year-old uncle — sharp as a tack mentally with an aching, aging body — has decided to make the move from his apartment into assisted living. It’s a move we’re all pleased with, because we’ll worry just a little less about him when he is no longer living alone.
Exhausted from packing and purging all day, I experience the gluttony of sensory overload below me: digital billboards bombarding hundreds of brand messages in a rapid-fire cadence. Only those that are overly large, clever or obnoxious seem to break through the clutter– a good reminder for the business I am in.
Another reminder is where I am staying and how it came about. I am at the Marriott Marquis, a very nice hotel in Times Square that’s crazy expensive by this Kansas farm girl’s standards, unless you have a ridiculous amount of reward points saved up and it is suddenly FREE with all the upgrades! “Thank you for your loyalty, Ms. Amstein!” the desk clerk said cheerfully when I checked in with my family.
So what the heck does my experience have to do with meat? Everything. I am loyal to a certain hotel brand because they reward me with freebies and make me feel just a little bit above average… like I might be sort of special. I study the advertising binge of Times Square, looking for my favorite brands, because I know that any brand with any clout is bound to be emblazoned there. I am loyal to certain restaurants when I travel because I know I can count on them to reward me with great-tasting food. For example, when I am in the Theater District of NYC, I always eat at Bistecca Fiorentina, because their Tuscan T-bone is to die for. I tell anyone and everyone coming to the city about it so they’ll go there too.
Loyalty. It can have a HUGE payout for brands.
What are you doing to create loyalty for your brand? As I see it, packer/processors have three “customers” for which to create loyalty:
Customer #1: Your Sales Force
When your sales force is juggling a million balls a day to keep your business moving, it’s critical to find ways to keep all brands front and center with your team. If you aren’t talking up your brands, providing sales support and creating excitement about your products, how can you expect your team to sell the full portfolio to their customers? Explore ways to regularly connect your team to your brands to generate loyalty internally.
Customer #2: Your Customers — Retailers and Foodservice Operators, the Gate Keepers to Consumers
When things are hectic, sales team members tend to default to talking to customers about their favorite brands or the newest brands, rather than taking the time to review a customer’s current portfolio to uncover new opportunities. By identifying branded opportunities for your customer that may address a specific weakness in their line up, you can help your customer become loyal to your brands. Filling a need fosters loyalty.
Customer #3: Consumers — those who ultimately Purchase, Prepare and Eat your Branded Items
Consumers are blasted with messages from a variety of brands all day long, and while it might not be as bad as Times Square, it can be overwhelming. Creating messaging that cuts through the clutter and helps the consumer identify with your brand not just once but every time they come in contact with it is the first step in building a relationship. Then, when you couple product attributes that the consumer is seeking with an eating experience that meets expectations, loyalty can begin to take root.
If you are not doing something to create loyalty with all three of these customers, take a hard look at your brand. My guess would be that your brand’s growth may just be stagnant. If this is the case for a brand or two in your portfolio, take a step back and think about how to reward the very best of each of these types of customers, give them a little something extra, and make them feel special.
And the next time you’re in New York, be sure to consider a stay at the Marquis and the steak at Fiorentinas on West 46th!