Monday, September 01, 2008

Different is Better

Anthony Juliano wrote this recently at his SoundBite Back Blog:

When the everyday becomes a luxury, differentiation becomes even more important

Remember the menu question? Well, it wasn't about food, but a recent Time article shows why restaurants are such a great metaphor for marketing your organization to the 21st century consumer:

The U.S. economic downturn has claimed another victim: Bennigan's Grill & Tavern, the 32-year-old chain of casual-dining fern bars. Amid sky-high gas and food prices and tightening consumer spending, the chain's Texas-based parent company declared bankruptcy July 29, saying it would shutter 150 eateries. While the franchise outlets remain open for now, Americans who want to peruse oversize menus for oversize portions of unremarkable food in unremarkable settings may soon have to check out Applebee's or Chili's. Or Ruby Tuesday or T.G.I. Friday's. Or the scores of other family-style restaurants serving deep-fried mozzarella sticks beneath hypnotically rotating ceiling fans.

They're a lot harder to distinguish than they are to find. Bennigan's had an Irish theme, with burgers slathered in Guinness and a drink called the Blarney Blast, but it was about as Gaelic as Barack O'Bama...

Bennigan's failed a few days after the state of California banned trans fats, so it's tempting to blame its demise on an antiobesity backlash. But fast-food joints are doing fine. The real problem is that middle-class families are struggling, and food prices are soaring. In good times, a trip to the local Outback or Olive Garden could be part of the family routine; with gas prices near $4 a gallon, it's become a special occasion.

And Bennigan's--an Old Navy of cuisine, a Levittown of the dining experience--just wasn't all that special. If Americans still want chicken wings and chocolate desserts served with an Irish surname, they can always go to Houlihan's.

In a challenging economy, it's more important than ever to stand out so that you're the only option for your customers and to ensure that you get as much wallet share as you can. Trying to be all things to people is the quickest way to become an object lesson in the paradox of choice.

Photo: Ashley on Picasa
Hat tip: Matt G.

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