Re-Branding in the Neighborhood

Julia Stewart, the president of IHOP, is credited with a tremendous turn around there: marketing, advertising, remodel, prototype, new menu. She credits turnaround to the franchisees and the communication - collaboration - conversation with them.

Now she’ll have a new challenge: IHOP just bought Applebees. Stewart knows what the problems are, she was COO for 3 years until 2001.

From Restaurants & Institutions magazine:

In her conversation with analysts, Stewart, a double major in marketing and communications at San Diego State University, made clear that marketing changes will be needed to revive Applebee’s. It will need a tightly focused and communicated brand positioning that is reflected in everything from menu to restaurant design to advertising.

“Everything needs to come from having a crystal clear brand focus,” she said. “Everything should go through the brand filter, which is what we did at IHOP.”

Although I’m a great proponent of branding, I do think Applebee’s problems go deeper. Mainly the cooks, the waitresses, the food, and the pricing.

Frankly, I liked their marketing. That’s why I bothered to eat there a few times, but I each time I left somewhat disappointed… and now I never go there. In my opinion, Applebee’s stopped paying off on their brand promise, so I stopped going. You can have great marketing, but if the brand doesn’t deliver, it won’t work.

There are 3 different Applebee’s within 15 minutes of my home, more than another other casual dining restaurant. It would be great if they “fixed” their problem. Looks like last Friday, McCann Erickson was selected as agency of record and will have a new campaign ready for this fall.

Julia… I’ll be watching. I hope you “fix” the problem, not just rebrand the restaurant.

UPDATE September 2010: Guess what? I used to skip Applebees, but funny, I’ve been to Applebees just about everyother month since this post. I like their WW specials and their 2 for $20 specials.

Author: Chris Brown

Business owner operating a marketing consulting firm. Online Publisher. Keynote Speaker.

3 thoughts on “Re-Branding in the Neighborhood”

  1. You’ve made a good observation here, Chris. IMHO the food is too bland and tends to be boring. My sense is that could change with better cooks, recipies and attentiveness to quality. You pay cheap, you get cheap! But more than that, it could have to do with how these folks have been treated.

  2. I totally agree with the sentiment about branding, and design, for that matter. Branding can only go so far it can get the customer through the door but doesn’t make them stay or come back. The same can be said for direct marketing campaigns, a good piece of direct marketing can get a response but its how it is followed up that wins over the potential customer.

  3. We stopped going as well, and I agree with these comments.

    One thing I’ve noticed about Applebees that I’m sure Julia’s looking at is location selection for the restaurants if any expansion occurs.

    It looks like they take available sites, sort by price, and pick from the bottom of the list sometimes.

    IHOP on the other hand seems more strategic.

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