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brand challenges

Darden Latest to be Scored for Wages, but Bigger Problem Prevails

Posted by Dale Buss on September 26, 2013 06:37 PM

Besides poor sales this year that are resulting in layoffs, Darden Restaurant Group now is getting more pressure over its pay, similar to the "living wage" critique that lately has been leveled against the fast-food industry.

Only in the case of Darden and its Olive Garden and Red Lobster brands, critics are pointing out that operators can pay sub-minimum wages in many states because of tipping laws. That concern was the main subject of an opinion piece, titled "Why Your Waiter Hasn't Gotten a Raise in 22 Years," that received wide circulation recently. 

Sub-minimum wages "hel[p] large restaurant corporations and their CEOs pad their bottom lines while trapping millions of American workers in economic insecurity," argued Scott Klinger of the Institute for Policy Studies.Continue reading...

brand strategy

Denny's Moves to Shed its Breakfast-Centric Image

Posted by Dale Buss on August 6, 2013 10:36 AM

Like a drought on the prairie, the stagnation in the US quick-serve-restaurant market has the hungry herd foraging for more sources of sustenance. And that finds more brands moving out of their traditional comfort zones in search of sales and customers in other day parts.

Denny's has become the latest major chain to echo moves made earlier by Taco Bell and others. Brand stewards believed that Denny's needed to break out of its breakfast box, where its venerable Grand Slam Breakfast and, recently, Baconalia menus had secured its place in the market, but was no longer enough to sustain the brand. 

With that, Denny's has launched its "beyond breakfast" platform with a long list of new menu items that are devoid of bacon or syrup or any other connections to breakfast, but instead include a sirloin-steak entree, smothered cheese fries, a prime rib cobb salad and apple pie a la mode.Continue reading...

chew on this

America Still Nuts for Cronuts as Chef Aims to Use Fame to Help Others

Posted by Mark J. Miller on July 5, 2013 11:33 AM

A combination of a croissant and donut that debuted in New York in May has inspired plenty of people to stand in line, not just to sample one but to get a trademark for it, too.

New York’s Dominique Ansel Bakery in the city's Soho neighborhood started turning out its signature cronut pastry in May to the pleasure of thousands of customers who, thanks to foodie blogs and social media buzz, started lining up early each morning to snag their own.

In fact, so many fans started queuing up around the block (see brandchannel editor-in-chief Shirley Brady's photo below)—that the bakery had to increase its staff and limit how many cronuts a consumer can buy, with each cronut going for $5 a piece. The flaky pastry has even spawned some less-than-legal activity, including cronut scalpers and the "cro-job." 

Other bakeries took note and now cronut-inspired treats are also being sold across the US and overseas, from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, and even in London—much to Ansel's chagrin, Bloomberg reports. His challenge, of course: to sustain the buzz and build his brand without becoming a one-note, cronut wonder.Continue reading...

brand extensions

KISS Extends Brand with Expansion of Rock & Brews Restaurant Concept

Posted by Mark J. Miller on May 13, 2013 12:45 PM

When Gene Simmons and his cohorts took the stage at New York’s Popcorn Club back in 1973 with their makeup on and their new band name, KISS, and played for just three people, nobody was crowing about how Simmons, a former school teacher, was a marketing genius in the making. 

Since then, of course, Simmons has made a ton of cash not just releasing such hits as “Rock and Roll All Nite” and “Detroit Rock City,” but licensing the KISS name and logo to countless products. So much so that CNN has called KISS “the world’s most recognizable band.” Indeed, the band has sold more than $500 million in merchandise in the last 15 years.

Kiss cofounders Simmons and Paul Stanley debuted their own restaurant in April 2012, Rock & Brews, in El Segundo, Calif. Things must be going well because Billboard reports that the duo plan to open 100 more locations in the next five years.Continue reading...

brand makeovers

Chuck E. Cheese Slims Down Mascot to Help Grow Bottom Line

Posted by Mark J. Miller on May 1, 2013 03:50 PM

For decades, the eponymous mascot of Chuck E. Cheese has appeared to the general public as an extremely sizeable mouse that’s eaten a little too much of the famed restaurant’s pizza. For a time, the guy even carried a cigar around with him. But in a world that has heard a steady drumbeat against child obesity, it hasn’t exactly looked good to have a mascot who looked like he could lose a few pounds.

On Tuesday, Chuck E. Cheese execs and shareholders at the CEC Entertainment’s annual meeting in Texas met a slimmed-down version of Mr. Cheese, whose transformation began last year when his illustrated form changed shape in advertising and signage to become a lot more rock star than his past version.

With the change came the disappearance of the man who was his longtime voice, Duncan Brannan, and the introduction of Jaret Reddick as the new voice of Cheese, according to the Christian Science Monitor. Reddick, of course, is the lead singer of pop-punk band Bowling for Soup, which has a few albums Cheese execs probably wouldn’t want their mascot singing on, such as “Drunk Enough to Dance” and “A Hangover You Don’t Deserve.”

Changing the mascot may be the simplest thing CEC does this year. The 36-year-old company announced in February that its profits fell 20.7 percent to $43.6 million in fiscal year 2012. That’s a little surprising for a brand that was just named the No. 1 kid-friendly restaurant by Technomic's Consumer Restaurants Brand Metrics, based on customer surveys over the last two years.Continue reading...

corporate citizenship

Starbucks Former President: Why Same-Sex Marriage Support Matters

Posted by Kristen Van Nest on April 17, 2013 12:20 PM

Last year, Starbucks declared its support of same-sex marriage, which resulted in a boycott by the National Organization for Marriage. The coffee chain hasn't backed down one bit, however, as CEO Howard Schultz continues to blur the line between business and the personal lives of his millions of customers.

At a recent annual shareholders meeting, Tom Strobhar, a shareholder and founder of the Corporate Morality Action Center, an anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage organization, suggested the boycott had a negative impact on first quarter sales and earnings. The ever-outspoken CEO swiftly responded, “Not every decision is an economic decision... The lens in which we are making that decision is through the lens of our people. We employ over 200,000 people in this company, and we want to embrace diversity."

Schultz then told Strobhar he was more than welcome to sell his shares and take his money elsewhere. While the remarks seem brazen, Starbuck’s stance on hot-button political issues and support of equal rights for its employees have been a part of the brand’s long-term strategy to increase internal brand engagement and decrease turnover. What's more, taking a position on causes that affect its workforce has had a positive impact on its bottom line.Continue reading...

chew on this

LYFE Kitchen, Clover Compete in QSR Race for Healthy Millennials

Posted by Dale Buss on April 16, 2013 02:24 PM

Thanks to the efforts of a handful of entrepreneurs, American fast food is moving from a form of nutritional epithet to add an entirely new dimension: a fledgling business model that uses the quick-serve platform to get better-for-you fare into the mouths of more willing consumers.

At the same time, not to be outdone, traditional fast-food chains are tacking heavily into more nutritional fare after several years of more or less playing at it. Taco Bell, for instance, has just announced its strategy to offer healthier menu options, while McDonald's is veering more deeply into wraps.

LYFE Kitchen is probably the best known of the cluster of promising better-for-you startups which also includes Clover, Veggie Grill, Tender Greens and Native Foods Cafe. New York Times Magazine writer Mark Bittman chronicled some of what these brands are doing.

"After the success of companies like Whole Foods [and] Annie's and Kashi, there's now a market for a a fast-food chain that's not only healthful itself, but vegetarian-friendly, sustainable and even humane," he wrote. "And, this being fast food: cheap.Continue reading...

brand extensions

Condé Nast Extends Magazine Brands into Bar and Restaurant Scene

Posted by Dale Buss on April 12, 2013 11:53 AM

Condé Nast is used to long lead times and attention to detail with the publication of its high-end titles including Gentlemen's Quarterly, Glamour and Vogue. But in those regards, printing a magazine is nothing next to rolling out an entirely new strategy of brand extension and enhancement in businesses that have little to do with publishing.

Still, Condé Nast has been plowing ahead with its plans to add bars, clubs, restaurants and even a fashion school in various high-profile locations around the world in order to provide completely new sources of revenues, to exploit its magazine and corporate brands in profitable new ways and to produce an ever-more-valuable offset to a traditional magazine-publishing business that—while still comprising a majority of Conde Nast's revenues—isn't a growth industry anymore.

"Our business can no longer be defined strictly as publishing, but takes the form of brand management," Jonathan Newhouse, chairman and CEO of Condé Nast International, told Business of Fashion. "We want to bring the experience of the publishing brands to end users in new forms in order to strengthen the brands and their relevance. Of course, we aim to do so profitably."Continue reading...

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