June 2, 2007

Resist the Obvious!

I'm just back from a weekend road trip to the Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley and the Evangeline Trail in particular. In case you're wondering what the Evangeline Trail is; according to NovaScotia.com: "The Evangeline Trail parallels the Fundy coast, passing through some of North America’s earliest European history and the delightful villages and orchards of the Annapolis Valley." It's apple blossom time in the Annapolis Valley. But that not why I'm writing this.

We wanted to have lunch in a small village by the Bay of Fundy. We took a back road to a fishing village and walked into the only restaurant there. From the outside it appeared like any seafood restaurant next to a fishing boat wharf. My expectation was that the menu would have "Fish and Chips", "Lobster Rolls" and the like. But I was puzzled the second we sat down.

This was not your typical "by the sea" restaurant. It was German in flavour...it had many types of schnitzel, sausages and German beer. The decorations were nautical but with pictures of German scenes on the wall. There was some seafood on the menu...just token items for people like me.

I had the opportunity to talk to the owner after we ate. I spoke of my confusion around the identity of the restaurant. She labeled it as "eclectic" but went on about her marketing struggles. What kept her up at night was the difficulty getting more people to the establishment given its out of the way location.

Initially I thought that the solution's first step would require reinventing the identity of the restaurant to a singular focus on a traditional seafood format..especially seafood caught by fishermen on the nearby wharf.

But I stopped and remembered a primary characteristic of marketing success -- In order for products to succeed they must be clearly differentiated and superior to its competition. It's sad that we exist in a sea of sameness. We are conditioned to view the thing that's unique as undesirable. So here was this eclectic restaurant surrounded (not literally) by undifferentiated and "me too" competitors. And there I was with the impulse to tear down and reinvent it...wrong, wrong, wrong!!!

Resisting the impulse made the answer to the owner's issue simple. The answer was to increase awareness and focus on the uniqueness of the destination...not just the small fishing village but the restaurant itself. This would include improving their website, some search engine marketing, pay per click advertising and highway signage.

The bottom line here is: In a sea of sameness, keeping the essence of a product's uniqueness is exactly what will ensure success.

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