Making sure that your bar or nightclub has longevity requires knowing and understanding the brand you’re trying to sell. Frequent guests reward consistency, individuality and authenticity. But to be a well-known brand in the over saturated hospitality industry requires a strategy that will make your establishment a go-to hotspot. Chris Lenahan, author of “The Little Black Bar Book” and an industry expert, explains that a proper and well-implemented branding plan will separate your bar from the competition.
1. It starts with marketing. Lenahan says the first step to creating a brand that works is to create a brand that explains to your consumer what you are. It’s “just like putting the mission statement of your venue into the name,” he says. For example, “if you’re opening an Irish pub, naming the venue Bob’s or Rick James is not sending the message to the consumer. When creating a brand, create a brand that works for you and your consumer,” he explains.
2. Internal branding. “How do you maximize your message to the consumer?” Lenahan asks. “From the door to the floor.” When a guests walks into your establishment bombard them with your band in subtle ways. But, Lenahan says, in-your-face branding works, too. The hostess greeting, server greeting, food and drink menus, employee uniforms, glassware and pens are a few ways to ensure that when consumers leave your bar, your brand is imprinted on them.
3. External branding. Lenahan says you can break this into two categories: marketing, which includes radio, hand flyers, wrapped vehicles, TV, Internet marketing and social media outlets; and brick-and-mortar branding. This includes external signage, banners, flags and other visually branded items.
4. Retaining customers. “The brand truly begins to get its legs when it can track returning or loyal customers,” Lenahan says. “At some point the brand itself will evolve,” but it will be the consumers that determine the path and the power of the brand. This, he says, “gives the brand staying power.”
“One test of a strong brand is when another similar venue opens and attempts to capture your consumers,” he continues. “This will test the strength and quality of the brand.”
5. Create an atmosphere. Although independent bar owners might feel as though they don’t have the brand power as some of their chain counterparts Lenahan says that’s not the case. It’s not about “creating a bigger better venue but in creating a better experience,” he says. Bigger brands struggle to make swift changes that smaller brands are better at doing. “Smaller venues have a freedom that the larger chains will never have," he says.
6. Brand identification. Lenahan says that consumers want a strong brand over a new brand. But consumers are curious, he warns, and they will try out that new brand. But “having a strong brand will shorten the total time in which consumers might check out the new hot spot before returning to the tried and true.”