1. Learn From the Cows’ simplicity.
I watched the Chic-fil-A bowl with my cousin on New Year’s Eve. What a pleasure to see all those branded, simple, single-minded TV ads. Not every single one is my favorite ad ever, but they just add up to convincing viewers that they’re a company that knows who they are (I am very precisely pretending that there was NO POLITICAL CONTROVERSY SURROUNDING THIS BRAND LAST YEAR because I like this brand—but if we’re “learning from the cows” then so be it; learn to keep politics out of the dining room).
My cousin is Chief Magistrate for Beaufort County—he’s not affiliated with marketing, except in the common sense way everybody is. And it was so obvious, sitting with him, what was dumb, what was forgettable, and what was just the outward evidence of an inward dedication to quality. And that’s what the cows are: no need to fill the script up with juicy tenderlicious words. Just convince me that you do business well, and I’ll apply that conviction to your product. (And then, when I show up, incentivize a return visit by providing me a really great experience, and happily—always happily; how do they keep those people so happy?—shoving a sack out the drive-thru with a really great sandwich in it.)
2. Learn from Taco Bell’s online activity.
They make interesting things to play with. They perform interesting stunts. They react quickly and in brand character to social media. Follow their Facebook page and tweet stream. See how they do it. Now, do the same thing only different. Also, if you can wrap any of your food in a beloved snack food, you might consider that, too.
Taco Bell, you are having fun. Most of us like being around people having fun.
3. Learn from Subway’s floundering.
Look, they’re big enough that it doesn’t matter. They can hire more jingle singers (man, I hate the current ingratiatingly smarmy jingle on TV right now) and they’ll be fine. But wouldn’t it be so much more efficient if they understood who they were and how they should talk, like Sonic or Dunkin Donuts or even Hardee’s? Everything they did could reinforce a big idea, instead of being a random series of disconnected promotions united only by the ubiquitous logo. They have the money to survive that kind of poorly defined brand. Probably most restaurants don’t.