01 May 2005

You can try every marketing trick in the book, but your strongest tool in building a brand is people, says marketing consultant Ann Elliott

I've had a reasonably successful career in marketing - most of it in the hospitality sector. I've made ads, run multi-media campaigns, mplemented direct mail shots, instigated profitable loyalty schemes and made PR budgets deliver tangible results. I've invented brands, launched new concepts and re-launched brands that should have died. I also used to really believe that marketing made all the difference to the success of a business. I still think it makes a huge difference. Just not all the difference. In reality, marketing helps achieve three key things:

  • It creates brands. Most big brands would not have become market leaders without a well thought through and executed marketing plan.
  • It builds awareness. It can either build that awareness over time or it can create a blast with one big launch. Either way, marketing ensures the target market knows the brand and understands what it can do for them.
  • It creates trial. Marketing can get customers over the door, on the phone, or on-line. It can do it once or maybe twice, but that's it.

These results are just as relevant for small brands and businesses as they are for the big chain conglomerates.

But, if a marketing professional confines their activities to just these areas in this sector, then they miss what really makes a hospitality brand tick - people.
For some, "people" are an area that's best left to the HR department and the operators. It's a "they get on with their job and I'll get on with mine" sort of mindset. But in this industry, people make or break the brand. They are the brand.

All the marketing excellence in the world is useless if the waitress is unfriendly, the barman indifferent or the duty manager rude. That same waitress, bar person or duty manager represents the brand. They are the vital element in the holy trinity - food, service, and atmosphere - that make a restaurant or pub successful. It seems obvious, but how often do you ultimately reject a reasonable restaurant because its staff let you down?

It took me some years, while I was managing huge marketing budgets, to realise this. The truth is that all the marketing in the world will not drive sale if those working face-to-face with the customer don't fit the brand.

This "fit for brand" message can be seen very clearly in many businesses in our industry - Pret A Manger, The Orange Project and Chez Gerard to name but a few - where care has been taken to recruit the right person and then to train them in the way of the brand.


I am not suggesting that marketing teams should, for one minute, be involved in recruitment. They should have a say, though, in the sort of person a brand should recruit. More critically, they should also have an influence on how the business is going to train and grow that individual. Looking at training from a brand perspective will add, not detract, from the debate.

Training to me is more than talking about the nuts and bolts of an operation. It's about getting to the hearts and minds of those who work for you. It means ensuring that (whether they work front or back house) they understand the values of the business and the customers they serve. It's an extraordinary powerful business weapon.


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