First, let me ask this question: What is a brand?
Sadly, for all the people who consider themselves marketers and business professionals, very few answer this question correctly on the first try. Here are a few common responses. They’re all incorrect:
- A Name
- A Logo
- An Experience (getting closer)
- A Personality (closer still, but not complete)
So what is a brand, really? The right answer is surprisingly simple:
Your brand is whatever your audience says you are.
Your brand is not what you say you are. It’s not what your logo or your company name or your CMO says you are. Those things could describe what you want your brand to be, but the true owners and keepers of your brand are the people out there in the world who have been exposed to it; interacted with it; and they’re the only ones who know what your brand currently is.
Ask someone to describe you in three words or less. Their answer is your brand.
Anything else is brand denial.
Denny’s, it seems, has been suffering from brand denial.
As a recent article in the New York Times revealed, for nearly six decades Denny’s has described itself as a ‘family restaurant’. Apparently, there’s only one thing wrong with that description; Denny’s customers don’t think of Denny’s as a family restaurant. The chain has begun to do its homework and has discovered something wonderfully valuable: Denny’s customers think of Denny’s as a diner.
And that means Denny’s is a diner.
The term ‘diner’ was once pejorative in the restaurant industry. For that reason, Denny’s could have chosen to keep its head in the sand and really push the ‘family restaurant’ image. Instead, Denny’s has decided to embrace the current state of its brand and capitalize on its strengths. Thankfully for Denny’s, ‘diner’ has come to represent an almost nostalgic sense of friendliness, affordability and community.
None of the ‘me-too’ family restaurants like Applebees, Chili’s or Friday’s can claim the diner appeal, so by discovering and embracing its real brand, Denny’s can differentiate itself without a truckload of doodads on the walls.
So, for crying out loud — go ask somebody what your brand is. You’ll receive an incredibly valuable answer.