How to find a brand new market...visually

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I have been contributing to a branding program overat Restaurant Branding Roadmap which has been great fun since it combines two of my favorite subjects - branding and restaurants. My research has included lots of reading about the restaurant industry and documenting the details of my dining experiences from food to ambiance to service to unique concepts. This week, I was reminded about an exercise you can use to eliminate your competition - in any industry. You can draw a picture of a market and see a new opportunity.  

The restaurant industry is filled with thousands of concepts. Some of these breakthrough ideas are pioneering at first and later become brand concept legacies (think Starbucks) while others become short-lived fads that start with one innovator, a hot new food idea and then quickly become a not so special restaurant concept that many will imitate (think your average yogurt spot). New restaurant concepts, trends and fads, often take a common path. They open, earn media buzz and lots of word of mouth chatter and soon copycats emerge and you find marrow-filled dishes and red bean ice cream everywhere.

Your goal as a successful leader is to create winning, long-term concepts and not short-lived fads unless you've got a big bank account and lots of stamina to constantly create, launch, endure risk, reap huge profits, relaunch and repeat.

Sustainable, brand concepts tap fresh thinking, meet customer needs and are compelling enough to warrant authentic and lasting market buzz and attention.

Restaurant concepts are a hot topic, which got me thinking about how to best create a winning restaurant idea with legs, so that it can become a killer restaurant brand-of-choice and not a fad-of-month-failure.

New York Post food critic Steve Cuozzo recently wrote on the subject in his article "NYC Restaurants: 10 Things I Hate About You." Take a look and see if you've noticed any of these trends in your area. Granted, some of his points are well taken, and annoying, but on the flip side, these "out-there" ideas often put places on the map and become their brand distinguishing factors,  too.

Another restaurant concept and could be fad is the juice craze as cited in the New York Times article "The Juice Bar Brawl." The New York Times article details a brief history to date of the juice craze. There are juice stores for fresh made healthful options (think wheatgrass shots) and juices that are packaged for a short shelf life. A relatively new entrant to the market is Danny Meyer, a superstar restauranteur and author of one of my favorite books, Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business.

At the end of the article, Mr. Meyer shares that he used the Blue Ocean Strategy in developing the concept his new venture. I have used this model in brand development many times and have found it very useful. Blue Ocean Strategy is an excellent thinking and visual tool to help create and test your business concept and go-to-market plan to avoid the trap of becoming a copycat or being just another quick fad player fighting to survive in a crowded hot new market.

Blue Ocean Strategy comes from the book Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim and Renee A. Mauborgne published in 2005. Try this exercise when you are thinking about your branding, a new marketing plan or even customer experience. It may help you find new, unchartered markets. Here are the basic principles.

1. Red Ocean - In a red ocean, companies operate in overcrowded industries, competing head-on which results in nothing but shark-filled, bloody “red oceans” of rivals fighting over a shrinking profit pool. In red oceans, companies strive to beat the competition and compete for a fixed number of customers.

2. Blue Ocean - In Blue Oceans, companies set out to create new market spaces, to make the competition irrelevant and to create new demand. Basically, create something that didn’t previously exist.

3. How to find the right ocean – The Blue Ocean Strategy has a Blue Ocean Strategy Canvas that lets you map out how the competition operates and shows you how you can create a Blue Ocean and truly be different. As an example, I drew a Strategy Canvas for the Juice Market:

blue ocean strategy

First, examine the marketplace and how other companies in your industry operate. In this case, the article mentioned product attributes “healthy” “colorful” “culinary” and “flavorful.” Availability of the product is “fresh” vs. “off the shelf.” By plotting out the way everyone else does it, you can find opportunities to do things differently and create a Blue Ocean. By using this model, you are not criticizing the way your competitors operate; you are just finding ways to avoid competing in a crowded market. In this example, most companies occupy the same space on the Low to High Axis on five of the seven offerings variables. Now, you look for new factors to add to your business to help you move away from the crowds. In this case, there was an opportunity to consider adding “Hospitality and customer Experience” in order to move into a Blue Ocean. Creative Juice also chose to focus on the flavor and pleasure factors which is not a priority for other juice offerings.

Whether you are launching a new branding concept or revamping your current marketing plan, try mapping out your competitive landscape and make your own Blue Ocean, then leap in.

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