This is the first of several articles about branding. One of the world’s more recognized brands is McDonald’s. Ray Kroc was an American businessman. In 1954, he joined McDonald’s and built it into a global franchise. Time magazine included Kroc in its Time 100: The Most Important People of the Century.
You might say, “Wayne, what does that have to do with me?” Well, over the next several articles, I’d like to peer into your tire store and McDonald’s through a branding perspective. There are many relevant parallels, and hopefully this perspective will allow you and other independent dealers to see and discover opportunities for increased success. You don’t have to be the best tire dealer in the world, just the best tire dealer in your ZIP code(s).
Quotable Ray Kroc
Ray Kroc was famous for his very practical and straightforward quotes and sayings. Let’s look at a few.
- “We take the hamburger business more seriously than anyone else.”
- “The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.”
- “McDonald’s is a people business, and that smile on the counter girl’s face when she takes your order is a vital part of our image.”
- “Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get.”
Simply stated, branding is your promise to your customer(s). Branding is a beacon, a true north for business owners, employees, stat holders and participants. Branding guides and redirects a business both daily and over time. The old saying, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there,” is true, and branding done right is first and foremost a road map.In my mind, an effective brand starts with the heart and mind. A degree of passion and understanding is required, and like Ray Kroc said, it should be taken “seriously.” Branding is strategy. I’ve heard dozens of tire dealers, men and women, tell me the story of how they got into the tire business, and it often starts with “My dad was in the gas station business,” or, “My dad started a small retreading shop.”
I believe any tire business would benefit from a strategic branding or rebranding at this time in retail history. Customer expectations are changing dramatically, and distribution of products is changing rapidly. A customer can now buy tires from the worldwide leader in book sales, Amazon. They can buy groceries, a garden hose, a boxed end wrench and tires from the same company, and have their purchases delivered to a wide variety of places.
Things are changing, and I think Ray Kroc has a few good ideas that pertain to rebranding your business. We better take our brand and our promise very “seriously.” Our brand promise must come from the leader of the organization. I’m going to expand on one of Ray’s quotes and say that the quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves and others. The “others” includes employees, neighbors, community, customers, etc.
As leadership, we must rewrite a vision with new promises, which comes from understanding how to serve others in your marketing area. These ideas and visions are the foundation for your new improved brand, the new promises you will make and keep daily and over time.
Ray Kroc’s idea is true: If you’re not growing, you’re rotting. We must find new, better, expanded ways to serve others in our communities. Once defined in our hearts and minds, we create a new brand statement followed by a brand strategy. With the speed of change in the retail market (remember, we are retailers), it’s incumbent on us, as independents, to reinvigorate our businesses and our customers.
Unlike larger and often global competitors, as independents, we have the local knowledge, vision, and flexibility to see and exploit opportunities. The key is having a real brand, not just a good tire store on the corner, but a destination service center. Like Ray Kroc understood, the person working at the counter who greets the customer with a smile is an important element in brand execution.
As we discuss branding in the coming months with such topics as merchandising, in-store digital, speed-to-value, and value transparency, it is my team’s goal to inspire you with great ideas and designs that you might incorporate into your local brand. Remember this: We are retailers. Retail is changing at an unprecedented rate, and your ability to capture a new vision for the future will determine your success in your marketplace.
Winners win! Don’t compromise on a well-articulated brand! ■
Wayne Williams is president of ExSell Marketing Inc., a “counter intelligence” firm based in La Habra, Calif. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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