Julia Carcamo
Julia Carcamo
I hear it all of the time. “We need to rebrand.” The right side of my brain welcomes the chance to create something new, but the left side of my brain needs to ask, “Why?”

Typically I’ve found answers fall into a few categories:

  • A new management team has come in. They’ve either seen a need or feel the need to make changes. Launching a new brand certainly creates a splash. The curious will be driven to make a visit, and perhaps some long overdue guests will come in as well. A rebrand says, “We are here. Look at the new great beautiful things we’ve done.”
  • A new target has been identified and the offerings do not meet the needs and wants of that audience.
  • Construction dollars are available, and along with changing carpeting and fixtures, why not change a name or two?
  • Sometimes the management team has just grown bored with what they’re working with. The passion for the existing brands has faded.
  • Often, it is just a brand past its prime. I find this is typically the case when we look at the once great themed casinos that sprouted up all over the country some years ago. These aged environments just don’t have the same spark as the newer, less themed competitors.

 

ASK AND ASK AGAIN

But should you rebrand? Ask your employees. Ask your guests. Number one of my Jules Rules is to “know your customer,” but perhaps most important, it’s to know that you are not the customer.

Employees are the best starting point since they are charged with delivering the brand experience day in and day out. When was the last time you asked them what the brand stood for? Do they know their role in the life of the brand? Do they even know they have a role in the brand and what it ultimately means to adding shareholder value? Do they have the tools they need to play their role? The answers to these questions may lead you down the path of a brand education program versus a full rebranding.

Guests vote each day for your brand with every dollar they spend and with every comment they make to their friends and family, but often they are voting for something completely different than what you may have put on the ballot (so to speak). Informal and formal focus groups can help you determine whether you have an offering past its time or whether you just need to clean up your act.

Before you can put a new name on something, you need to be ready to deliver something new, not just the same thing with a new name. Sometimes that delivery requires capital—new signs and collateral, new uniforms, new training, maybe even changing the equipment and/or flow of the kitchen to create a new restaurant. All this means it is time for a cost analysis. Let’s face it, a new name and logo are great but if you’re not going to produce increased revenue, what’s the use?

During a recent stint with a regional operator, we looked at our food offerings and noticed that we were lacking an offering for a good casual meal at a good price that was served tableside—something that was not a buffet or a steakhouse. That was our observation, but we needed to understand what our guests wanted and what the cost would be. As you can see, building a brand is not solely a marketing project. It is one for construction, finance, HR, purchasing, IT, and everyone in between.

 

COUNTDOWN TO RELAUNCH

Once you’re in the process of creating the new experience, it’s important to communicate constantly with guests and employees. Typically, the closure of an outlet or any downtime in an area of the casino makes employees worry about what may be coming down the line. Communicate with them. Let them see uniform considerations. Let them be a part of the evolution of the experience. Start showing off the changes as they come along, rather than hitting employees with them with it all in one “training.” When you get to the training stage, make sure it’s fun and interactive rather than a lecture. Make sure that everyone can walk away with the essence of the brand and their role in the brand.

The rise of social media has made communication with guests not only mandatory but relatively easy to do. The success of one particular brand launch was a case-study in leveraging a social audience. Along with the typical teaser and launch ads in the traditional media, the social media outlets gave us a platform to provide a look behind the construction wall, letting guests see what was going on both in the space and in the kitchen. Guests were able to interact with the kitchen staff and chef to see what ingredients they were working with and even give input into dishes. It even allowed us to announce a price increase that was actually received with little to no resistance. Who has ever experienced that?

What if the research and/or cost analysis say a rebrand isn’t the right move? Brands can be reenergized without being capital-intensive. I like to call that a “brand refresh.” A brand refresh looks at the tools and training that are available as well as the creative elements. Remember that the sign on the door is not the brand. The brand is the experience you are providing. This can be accomplished at the employee level as long as they value the role they play, but in order for them to do that, you have to value their role first.