This local branding story does my heart good because it combines a bunch of my favorite things in one story: branding, cheeseburgers, and local business success stories.
Denver-based Smashburger is Forbes’ #1 most promising company, thanks in large part to a strong brand strategy.
Strong branding will drive sales and growth.
Smashburger’s branding has been in the news quite a bit lately, because the company is investing in its conviction that smart branding will drive long term sales and growth. Despite being only a few years old and not really being a national power (yet) in the quick service, casual restaurant space, Smashburger plans to expand internationally into Latin America and the Middle East in 2012. This is an unusual move, as most restaurant chains aim to saturate the markets they already operate in before pursuing aggressive expansion.
The difference here is that Smashburger is taking tech brands like Google as a model, treating their brand as a sales tool and growth driver, and assuming that success with this strategy will allow them to circle back to grow locally.
The take away.
According to this interview with the Huffington Post, one of the secrets of Smashburger’s success is that they hired experienced hotel and restaurant managers to run the locations that Smashburger owns (about half are franchised). This aspect of their success made me think back a bit to the dot com bust. A lot of companies with apparently strong brands, interesting products and great ideas didn’t make it – they never became profitable, grew too fast and flamed out, or couldn’t secure enough capital. I think many of these promising companies failed because they didn’t pay enough attention to the fundamentals.
Smashburger’s combination of business innovation, brand strategy, and attention to the basics seem destined to help the brand succeed where its predecessors have failed.
What lessons does Smashburger’s success offer other startups and emerging businesses? Here are 4:
- Strong branding is a sales and growth tool
This one is important to us here at Phases obviously, but it’s nice to see a company truly leveraging brand awareness to drive their growth. Lots of smallish and midsize companies give great branding lip service, but not a lot of them follow through on it with real conviction.
- Offset innovation with experience, especially in finance and operations
A great idea will still become an epic fail if not executed properly. Take your great new idea and back it up with real experience and expertise.
- Treat corporate culture as part of brand
We talk quite a bit at Phases about the importance of internal branding, and the Forbes story teases out an instance where internal branding is an integral element of Smashburger’s success. They “over invest in what’s really important,” incentivizing speedy service and good customer reviews with cash money, and by keeping a psychologist on retainer to assess potential managers’ aptitude for the high-stress hospitality industry. This demonstrates that their brand promise of serving a “better burger,” is implemented at every level of the business.
- Look in unusual places for business role models
Great branding and business lessons are all around you at successful companies. When you’re looking for new ideas to grow or improve your business, look everywhere, not just within your marketspace.