As a restaurant owner, you're always looking for new ways to lure in customers. So, when an enormously popular event or trend comes up—like the Super Bowl or the Mannequin Challenge—it makes sense to jump on the bandwagon and tie it into your marketing. But in order to do so without alienating your customers, you should make sure that brand alignment is on point with any promotion you run.
"Brand alignment" refers to the ongoing act of sticking to the core principles and values of your business and imbuing them into everything you do. If the word "authenticity" comes to mind when hearing this, your instinct is right because staying true to what your brand represents lies at the heart of strategic brand alignment. But how can you incorporate events and trends into your marketing when it seems like the event or trend in question doesn't align with your brand? Simply put, the answer is to get creative.
Here are a few suggestions on how to nail your next marketing campaign for your restaurant or bar.
Understand Your Customers
The most important aspect of restaurant marketing is to understand your customers. If you don't know your restaurant's ideal buyer personas, which are the archetypes of your perfect customers, you won't know how to wow them. And wowing your ideal customers should be the goal of every restaurant or bar's marketing efforts. Once you know your customers, you can craft compelling campaigns that give them what they want and exceed their expectations. Then they'll love your brand and rave about their experience to everyone they know.
If you run a fine-dining restaurant with a decent following on social media and believe that you can't tie the Mannequin Challenge into your marketing, think again. With a little creativity and a dose of humor and fearlessness, you can make a quick video of your staff (line cooks included!) posing completely still in your restaurant and looking sharp in their chef coats and service attire.
Post the video to Instagram with several hashtags, including one with your restaurant's name and perhaps even some custom ones, which can easily be tracked, to create a buzz. Your loyal followers will love that you embraced a fun trend and may share your post, and you'll attract new potential customers who were simply looking for Mannequin Challenge videos.
Be Fun and Unique
People who take themselves too seriously can be a big turnoff, and the same goes for brands. Even the most sophisticated companies show their sense of humor and humility once in a while, and doing so can strengthen your brand, according to Bloomberg.
For example, if you run a high-end ramen shop, why not offer a "Souper Bowl" challenge during Super Bowl week. Tell customers that they can win a prize if they finish a massive bowl of spicy soup without stopping between slurps. At a minimum, the prize could be something inexpensive, such as a T-shirt, gift card, or comped meal. You could make the challenge even more memorable with a photo on the wall in a special section of past "Souper Bowl champions," which will also help to build enthusiasm for your branded event for years to come.
Align Your Food and Drink Menus
Brand alignment extends all the way down to the plates and cocktails you offer. With each promotion you run, think about how you can make your menu best fit in with the event or trend you're tapping into. For example, you don't have to run an Irish pub to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. Fine-dining restaurants can offer unique, gourmet spins on corned beef and cabbage and shepherd's pie, and taquerias can sling spicy corned beef tacos and source Irish stout and ale as beer specials for the week.
Also, don't think you have to take advantage of every event or trend that comes up. Italian restaurants may not want to run a Cinco de Mayo promotion, and it would take some serious creativity for a vegan restaurant to execute a marketing effort for Meat Week (although anything is possible).
As long as you remember to be authentic and focus on maintaining brand alignment with any marketing effort you engage in, your restaurant can take advantage of just about any event or trend to boost its profile.