Today, my team met at Denny's for breakfast. I try to eat healthy foods and rarely go to Denny's but it sure was good. As I was sitting there, staring at the bog blob of butter on my french toast (mmmmmmm), I was thinking about marketing (I told you I think about this stuff too much). You really don't see Denny's advertising (and they had some PR distastes in the last few years), but despite that, they do a good business.
I'm not sure if Americans are just risk averse, but Denny's most positive marketing tool is the consistency of the experience. I was in a meeting about 6 months ago where we discussed the value of consistency (with regard the the staffing services that we offer internal clients) and what it really comes down to is that consistently “OK” is better than inconsistent (we were targeting neither of these service levels, by the way). So going into Denny's, I knew my arteries were going to get a little clogged and the waitress was going to be a little gruff, but I already knew what the french toast was gong to taste like and that the coffee refills would keep coming.
I think another positive marketing tool for a business like Denny's is ubiquity (and this leads to the relevance of consistency, in a sense, unless you are going to the same store regularly). You can find Denny's everywhere, especially in urban areas where there area lot of bars. We were talking about Waffle House in the south and how you can pretty much get some smothered grits and pecan waffles at any time of day of night off any major freeway and many country roads.Would I pick that over some other outlet where I wasn't quite sure what I was going to get? Yep.
Starbucks does a good job of this too (although, as I mentioned, I am not a Starbucks customer anymore now that I have found Victors in Redmond). No matter which Starbucks location you go to, you get the same experience all the way down to furniture style and how their stir sticks are stocked (say that fast).
Quality is always an issue for sustainability, so businesses that are consistent, ubiquitous and excellent will obviously fare much better (In-N-Out burger, anyone?). The first 2 qualities are great, until someone better comes along (reminds me of how Wendy's came on the scene in mid 70s and really took a chunk of the fast food market). I think this is relevant outside of the food industry. It's just that with some yummy greasy french toast in my stomach, it's hard to think of anything else.
So, in the enterprise/tech space, who does a good job of this? Consistent, ubiquitous and excellent...