Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The branding lesson of a breakfast sandwich

Given the choice, would you willingly spend 100% or more for one product over another essentially identical product, all other things being equal —quality, service and ease of purchase?

A no-brainer, you might think.

Think again.

What I’m about to share with you — as obvious as it might seem once I reveal it — has important implications for your success as a Green Industry service provider, my guess is far greater than many of you realize, especially those of you that, because of the excellence of your services, have earned great loyalty or positive word-of-mouth from your clients but still struggle to gain traction in your markets.

A muffin with egg, cheese and sausage

Strangely, I’ve come to this conclusion after studying the simple and popular fast food breakfast sandwich of egg, cheese, and sausage patty on a toasted muffin.

Let me start at the beginning for some perspective.

For the last several years I’ve been working from a small messy office overlooking my wife’s flower garden. Working in a home office has its good points and its bad points, but mostly good points. I no longer own and maintain an extra car, and am free of the hassles and expense of the daily commute. Best of all, shedding the drive has added extra time to my life. I spend one of these hours almost every weekday morning walking a mile to the local Number Two national burger chain outlet where I enjoy a cup of coffee, read the newspaper and share a minute of friendly banter with its staff. As I walk home I relax and plan my workday.

Better and less expensive

My early morning stroll takes me by a franchise location of the Number One fast food chain. But I continue to Number Two across the street because it’s cleaner (especially the rest room), quieter and less expensive. In fact, I can buy a coffee for 1/3rd less there and essentially the identical egg, cheese, and sausage and egg muffin sandwich for $1 there compared to the $2.38 for basically the same sandwich at Number One.

Gven the better customer experience and lower cost for food, why do people crowd into the dining room, endure longer waits and pay the extra cost of the simple breakfast sandwich at the rival’s drive-thru window? Wouldn’t cost be the biggest buying factor, especially for comparable products, such as coffee and a simple breakfast sandwich?

What I see almost every day is that cost doesn't have to be (and often isn't) the biggest factor in customers’ buying decisions.

The power branded marketing

If not cost, then what?

People buy products and services for many reasons, but developing a brand, then keeping that brand top of mind with advertising and marketing is incredibly powerful in influencing customers to buy one product or service over another — even identical products or services. Once consumers become, in effect, bounded to a brand cost becomes less important in buying decisions. Why else do so many more people buy the $2.38 sandwich instead of the $1 breakfast sandwich?

The message seems clear. Even when the economy is tough (and probably especially so), consumers will pay more for branded products and services. I don't see any reason why this would be any different for landscape products and services than it is for breakfast sandwiches. — Ron Hall

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