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Monumental Differentiation

- Friday, January 12, 2018
a picture of Mount Rushmore under construction showing scaffolding and George Washington face, Thomas Jefferson's face and Abraham Lincoln's face nearly completed, but, Theodore Roosevelt's face just getting started.

How Mount Rushmore came about

You may have visited Mount Rushmore National Memorial and seen the 60 ft high granite faces of U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. You may even recognize the name of the sculptor Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln who later was in charge of the project. But do know the story of how Mount Rushmore came about?

In the 1920’s, roughly 30 years after South Dakota became a state, the official state’s historian Doane Robinson was thinking of ways to increase tourism. The major asset South Dakota had was its scenery of granite mountains and vast areas of trees, but other states in the area including Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and pretty much every state in the northwest U.S. all offered some form of mountains and trees.

Mr. Robinson, quickly came to the realization that “tourists soon get fed up on scenery unless it has something of special interest connected with it to make it impressive.” His idea was to build into the mountain the famous figures of frontier such as Lewis and Clark, Red Cloud, and Buffalo Bill Cody. So he sent a letter to Guzton Borglum who was currently carving granite in Georgia, to come see the potential project.

Changing the concept

When Borglum arrived, he felt frontier figures was too regional and that this needed to be national monument, so he changed the concept to four presidents that represented the first 150 years of history of the United States.

The measurable impact of differentiation

Because Doane Robinson had the idea to differentiate the mountains and trees of South Dakota with a sculpture, the state now sees over 2.3 million visitors to the area annually. That is truly a monumental differentiation.

A Formula for Failure

Doug Stucky - Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Failure = Success – Strategy – Capital – Opportunity – Time

Businesses set out to be successful, they don't set out to fail, yet according to the SBA, 50% of new businesses fail within one-year. That number jumps to 66% over two years. Where businesses fail is that they know how to do one thing and they think that is enough. It is the "Field of Dreams" approach, "if we build it they will come." This is simply not true. You have to have a strategy to differentiate, promote, attract customers and establish a brand. You have to have capital to survive a minimum of 12 months while fully supporting your strategy, and you have to be committed to making this work. That means putting in the time and creating the opportunities, but it also means be willing to make the necessary changes to make it work.

The statistics show you have between 10 to 24 months to get your business established and moving forward before you run out of capital, opportunities and time. If you make it past year two, you have great shot at making it. Roughly one-third of the businesses started this year will be around in year 10, make sure your business is one of them.

Dinnertainment Is Coming To A Restaurant Near You.

Doug Stucky - Wednesday, March 09, 2016

First came restaurants, cafes, truck-stop diners, fast-food, and dining experiences. Themed restaurants such as Hard-Rock Café, Planet Hollywood and Rain Forest Café were the next evolution in engaging diners. Today there is a new concept being served: Dinner + Entertainment = “Dinnertainment.”

Dinnertainment is many different things to different people. It ranges from private meals tied to an activity, to elevated dining experiences at entertainment events, to small restaurants featuring live music or even a small show (think updated, scaled down version of dinner theater), to the newest craze featuring physical activity in a restaurant environment. In other words you get to actually play with your food.

Why would you want to go be active while eating? Well, it is all about socialization. Activities bring people together, give you a shared purpose, and facilitate creating memories.

If your restaurant can be associated with friends reuniting, a bachelorette party, or a well-deserved victory, you have emotionally connected your customer’s experiences to your brand. Strong emotional connections lead to referrals through story telling by your patrons and ultimately brand loyalty.

Sports bars tapped into this concept by providing a place to watch your favorite team in a space big enough to hold all your friends, without you having to clean your home before or after the game. The draw of sports bars relies on your connection to a team or sporting event. If your team is not playing, you are less likely to visit a sports bar. The logical next step is to go from watching activities to participating in them. Activity based venues are not reliant on the TV or sports schedule thus expanding the repeat visit opportunities within their target audience.

In Denver a local favorite is Ace Eat Serve, which combines food, drink and ping-pong. Level 257 in Schaumburg, IL is 42,000 sq. ft. of casual dining, drinking, bowling and video games. The name Level 257 is direct reference to the kill screen of the original Pac-Man, which once you hit level 256, the game became unplayable. This makes sense because the brains behind Level 257 are Namco USA which is part of the world-wide company Namco, who invented Pac-Man. To them Level 257 is the next level of play. To participants it is a chance to hang-out, enjoy good food, drink, socialize and have a little friendly competition.

A new firm in north Kansas City is building their first Chicken ‘n Pickles, combining food and pickleball. The full venue will feature indoor and outdoor seating and courts.

The rise in social media has created opportunities for socialization in other areas of our lives. Dinnertainment concepts engage diners by providing "Social Grease" through activities that encourage socialization. The benefit to the restaurant is that Dinnertainment drives up per ticket sales by holding the diner's attention beyond food. Simply put, they stay longer and spend more.

Did you forget you have a website?

Doug Stucky - Tuesday, November 17, 2015

When was the last time you looked at your website? Is all the content up to date? Have you made any updates to it since your web designer said it was live?

My wife had inkling to go to a restaurant we had not been to in years as it was on the other end of the city. We searched to find their website and found that it looked like the same ole place, same food, and same atmosphere so we were excited to back.

I looked specifically at their hours of operation on their website to make sure it was worth the drive. Yup, open Monday – Thursday and Sunday 11am to 9pm, Friday and Saturday 11am to 11pm. But when we got there, they were closed with a sign on the door, Closed Monday’s.

A sign on the door is too late, we’re already there. This is not only a failure to use your website effectively, it is an experience failure. We have now gone from excited to disappointed, to we don’t trust the website to be accurate including the menu, pricing, atmosphere, and most of all the food. Essentially the brand trust is now completely broken. Additionally, there were other cars pulling into the parking lot expecting to dine at this restaurant that night as well. Now there is no way of knowing how many of the other hungry diners also went to the website, but it seems logical in this day and age that several check the website for an address, hours, or menu.

Having a website is not enough, in fact not keeping your website current is worse then not having one. The online experience sets the tone for the brand experience. Actually, you should be updating and adding fresh content on a regular basis to help with search engines, and to build a loyal audience because a fail online leads to a failed brand experience. Again I ask, when was the last time you looked at your website to make sure it is displaying current and relevant information?

There is a connection between experience and value.

Doug Stucky - Tuesday, November 17, 2015

We were having some work done on the back of our house and hired a local handy-man based on a recommendation. It was one guy and a truck that showed up. At first I thought this is great, I won’t be paying for a bunch of guys standing around. Then the project grew, he actually needed to jack up a section of the house to make a repair to frame that attaches to the foundation. I knew he would be back with a team to complete the task. But the next day, it was just him and his trailer again. I asked when the others were coming, but he said calmly that he did not need anyone else to assist. I watched as he methodically moved from outside to the basement with necessary jacks and equipment. He made the repairs and within a half day the job was done.

Afterwards I asked about the process and his answers were very specific as if they were step-by-step instructions. When the bill came it actually less then anticipated for the job.

There are a couple of key points to gain from this. One, dealing with experienced quality professionals is cheaper in the end then dealing with inexperienced people. An experienced person moves through the project quickly and precisely. Value was created by time saved in dealing with problem, a lower overall cost, and knowing the problem had been solved correctly the first time.

The second point is that his experience made him confident he could fix the problem, which made me confident. The proof is that I became confident enough to give his name to a dozen people or so looking for work done to their house. Experience is value and value sells!

Root Canals and Donuts: A Branding Lesson.

Doug Stucky - Tuesday, November 17, 2015

I know you are probably thinking this has to do with eating donuts and then having to have a root canal. Well, that may be the case, but not what this article is about. This story is about branding and how even something as unpleasant as a root canal can actually have a brand. The rest of the story relates to the donuts and what affect brand experiences have on us.

Like many of you have experienced, I too had to have a root canal about 10 years ago. I remember being somewhat fearful leading up to it not knowing exactly what to expect.

When I got to the Endodontist (big word, meaning expensive specialist of pain, torture and root canals) office I had the usual paper work to fill out. Sign this, update that and so on. Then comes the fun, not the actual procedure but the 15 to 30 minutes you sit there in the waiting room waiting, and thinking and waiting and thinking how bad is the going to be. Minutes feel like hours.

Then you are escorted to room with the big light, as if an interrogation as to why you need a root canal is about to happen. The doctors comes in stuff gauze in your mouth and tries to talk to you. The actual procedure was a mouth numbing experience, but overall not a big deal and certainly not what I had built up in my mind. Thinking back on the anticipation, this must be a daily thing for the their office. People not excited to be there, afraid of what is about to happen, and certainly not looking forward to writing a check for the experience.

Fast forward to a few weeks, and yes, I am again in need of another root canal (insert too many donuts joke here.) I went to the dentist who confirms my suspicion and then suggests several Endodontist specialists and proceeds to tell me that one of them handled my first root canal years ago. Without thinking my response was, “I will call him, I had a good experience with him.” Now, two minutes before that I could not have told you his name, but I remembered leaving there feeling like I had been well taken care of, and somehow was able to the justify the cost as value. The point is that experiences matter.

A good experience is what branding ultimately is about. Products and services that meet or exceed our expectations and create a positive experience that will bring us back. Even for a root canal.

The second part of this point about experiences is that they lead to memories. Obviously, positive experiences lead to good memories and negative experiences lead to bad memories. Often people say they have tried to mentally block out a badexperience. Yet, to know they are consciously trying to do that means they still remember the bad experience. A good experience on the other hand, is desired to not only be remember, but experienced again. Why else do people travel to the same place over and over again, become repeat diners at their favorite restaurant, or go back to the same Endodontist?

In anticipation of not being able to enjoy solid foods after my up coming tooth surgery, I rerouted my plans to make sure I drove past my favorite donut place. I was half way through a chocolate glazed and the memory of going to a donut shop as a kid came over me. My mom would take me there on special occasions. This was a pre-chain donut place, a standalone, totally unique experience. Glass windows let you watch as the donuts were cut and dropped into the fryer. Then the conveyor would move them out under the glaze. Hot and fresh (your mouth should be watering at this point.) There was a bakers door, a half-door with top half open and the baker was dressed in all white would personally select and hand me a fresh baked donut. I would get a carton (looks like what milk came in at school) of orange drink to go with it. That experience happened over 40 years ago, and at the time I had now idea that it was some form of branding, but it was. It was the best kind of branding… an experience that lasts a lifetime.

Look at your company’s brand experience, is it positive in everyway. Will it be remember for a lifetime? If not? Why not? As brand leaders, we should strive to make every experience our customers have with our brand at least as good as the guy selling root canals and hopefully more like the baker in the donut shop.