Here at MSC Retail, we believe that branding can be just as crucial as location and operations when it comes to the success of our clients. We’ve learned a number of key lessons both from designing and maintaining our own brand as well as from keeping our finger on the pulse of current trends in the retail and hospitality industries. This is the third and final post in a three part blog series that we’ve put together to share our favorite design and branding insights and ‘aha’ moments. Read on for tips to help take your retail or restaurant concept to the next level!
Our need to stage our lives on social media influences where we shop, eat, travel and more. As consumers, we’ve come to expect our meals to be as post-worthy as they are tasty and our vacations to be as deserving of “likes” as they are relaxing. As Marinn Jackson, head of industry and restaurants for Facebook, pointed out in a recent interview with QSR Magazine, “Your diners are spending more and more time staring down at their phones. So your opportunity sits in the palm of your diners’ hands.” (Source) Our third and final Focus on Design series post explores how mom and pop retailers and restaurants without a big advertising budget can use social media to capitalize on our collective need for social media validation.
Your customers want social media-worthy experiences…
Can you say, #eatingfortheinsta? Although your salivating taste buds may be unenthused by your bestie snapping photos of your perfectly-plated avocado toast before you dive in, it’s become a common attribute of what makes a dining experience, well…an experience.
Bluestone Lane’s photogenic breakfast offerings keep Millennials’ stomachs (and social feeds) satisfied
Millennials are the largest living generation in the United States and guess what, they’re spending more money in restaurants per capita than any previous generation (Source). With 90% of users on Instagram younger than age 35, there is an entire generation out there hungry not only for quality food, clothing and other products, but also quality photos (Source). Even though chefs and restaurateurs may find it frustrating that certain Millennials care more about how food looks on social media than how it tastes, there is no denying the marketing advantages of a social post with your local restaurant’s Italian cheese spread appetizer receiving 250+ likes, 30+ googly-eyed comments, 10+ social shares and countless mental notes to “check that place out.”
Creating social media worthy-experiences goes far beyond food and beverage. Take one of the latest social posting trends, for example: neon signs. An element of interior design and certainly not edible, neon signs can still offer bold, distinctive, imaginative, inspiring and creative social content. All of which are qualities that provide unique visuals likely to get attention on Instagram, according to a recent study by Facebook. Whether it is a motivational quote or a brightly-branded logo, neon signs offer sharresistible© photos for the everyday ‘grammer.
At Soulcycle, guests can come in for a sweat and leave with a social media worthy snapshot
…that align with their cultural preferences
There’s more than what meets the eye when it comes to consumer social sharing. Consumers are looking to interact with brands that align with their personal brand. According to Harvard Business Review, cultural connections are more important than celebrity endorsements or other bygone marketing gimmicks (Source).
In the food and beverage industry, the landscape is changing to appeal to a generation of consumers seeking out brands that offer customized food choices, quality ingredients, freshness, authenticity, transparency, and environmental and social responsibility (Source). Just look at honeygrow’s dedication to “honest eating and growing local.” Started in Philadelphia in 2012, the fast-casual restaurant now has 15+ locations offering wholesome, fully-customizable meals. On top of that, honeygrow maintains a local presence through community activation such as honeygrow Athletics (free public workouts) and honeygrow Giving Local (meal proceeds donated to local charities and organizations).
Diners can’t get enough of honeygrow’s “Honest Eating and growing local” mindset
For mom and pop retailers and restaurants, storytelling is a must. It not only engages customers from an interesting angle, it also builds trust and a sense of humanity that smaller brands may be otherwise unable to capture. It comes down to relatability and connecting with consumers on a different level other than just selling products. Take for instance, Red Robin’s charitable marketing campaign. Rather than selling their wide selection of burgers and shakes while beating you over the head with their slogan (Reeeeddd Robinnnn, yuummmm!), the restaurant chain sells consumers on the fact that a percentage of their food bill goes towards different school clubs. For local restaurants and retailers, smaller brands can follow suit by partnering with school fundraising events. Whether it be through community activation, sourcing local products, charitable contributions, etc., building a brand that consumers believe in resonates with a generation that invests in brands that align with their core values.
Red Robin’s brand ambassadors know that a little bit of charitable work can go a long way in building brand loyalty
Your customers can be your best advocates…
Your customers can be your brand ambassadors on social media: “When it comes to loyalty, multicultural Millennials give as much as they get,” according to Buzz Marketing CEO and founder Tina Wells for QSR Magazine (Source). “They know what they like, and aren’t shy about sharing that information with their friends and contacts.” While self-promotion by companies is often viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism, surveys show that Millennials trust their friends’ recommendations of where to eat and shop.
Social media provides a unique avenue for allowing your audience to build brand loyalty. When your audience shares your message, it’s like getting free promotion of your brand’s story. According to a recent report from Stack Commerce, 53% of Facebook video views in 2014 were specifically from shares (Source).
Loyal customers to your brand who are active on social media are more likely to comment, share, follow or post social content of your brand. In turn, you have social sharing to credit for extending your brand’s reach on social media and beyond.
…if you connect with your audience
It takes more than creating a few social profiles to truly impact your audience and build your brand through social media. In a world full of tech-savvy, social sharing-minded Millennials, smaller businesses can take advantage of generating buzz online without paying for advertising. But how do you use social media to build a loyal following?
“The world Millennials have grown up in is all technology, all mobile, all interactive campaigns, and interactive engagement with themselves,” said George Bruton, CEO of SkoolLive. “They want to access this information and to be engaged and appreciated, and they want it to happen in a fast period of time.” (Source) Engaging in conversations and responding quickly provides consumers with the opportunity to speak to brands while maintaining their attention.
In order to elevate your brand on social media, keep in mind everything that makes your brand #instaworthy. Everything from colors, images and words are all important factors as you establish your brand’s personality. Emotionally connecting with your audience and engaging in conversations will help you express your brand in a positive way and ultimately, give the small retailers and restaurants on the block a big time advantage.