The Brand Goes Back To Their Roots


It is a phrase you hear variations of all the time from bands.

“We’re going back to our roots.”

Even mega-stars U2, after their strange musical wanderings of the 1990s, publicly proclaimed their mission to “reapply for the job as the best band in the world.”

When a band’s creative instincts take them away from their fans’ expectations, quite often they wise up and “go back” to find future succes.

The same thing happens in business. For example, Wendy’s is about to nationally roll-out their new Dave’s Hot ’N Juicy Cheeseburger after a few months in test markets. The burger is an attempt to reach back into the past, reviving the memory of founder Dave Thomas and taking customers back to the days when expecting a hot and juicy hamburger (instead of a dry and thin patty) wasn’t all that unreasonable.

Having not tried the new burger, I can’t say if they’ve accomplished that mission.  But I do like the direction.

Faced with upstarts like Five Guys, the award winning Virginia-based burger chain that is growing rapidly across North America, restaurants like Wendy’s are under pressure to provide a higher level of quality in their fast food.

What impresses me about Wendy’s new initiative is that they are recognizing what customers expect from them and attempting to deliver exactly that. Instead of trying to sell pizzas (like  McDonalds in the 80s) or spending their marketing money on salads (as KFC did a decade ago), Wendy’s is investing nearly $25,000 per store to accommodate a new burger that embodies all that is great about a fast food burger. It will be thick, juicy, messy, and probably immeasurably unhealthy. That’s okay, because it lives up to customer expectations.

There are certain branding truths, and one of them is the futility of trying to change minds. Customers have expectations. Those expectations are pieces of valuable mental real estate. Trying to change those expectations is nearly impossible. When you own some of that real estate, your best option is to embrace the expectations of your customers and turn them into your own expectations as well. Resistance is generally futile.

The case of U2 and the concept of living up to the expectations of your fans is covered in depth in chapter two of Brand Like A Rock Star, available now online in paperback and digital ebook. It arrives at retail on October 1, 2011.

Don’t forget to grab a copy of the Musical Companion as well, a chapter-by-chapter playlist guide to getting to know the bands discussed in the book.

The World Release Event featuring an all-star branding panel is at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on Friday, October 7 at 4pm. Tickets just $28 and on sale now at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino box office.



Calgary, AB – Tuesday, September 27

Red Deer, AB – Wednesday, September 28 (am)

Drumheller, AB – Wednesday, September 28 (pm)

Edmonton, AB – Thursday, September 29


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Five Guys, KFC, McDonalds, U2, Wendy's 15 Comments