From the CEO: Your Brand and Your Mission

From the CEO: Your Brand and Your Mission

By Anthony Anton, president & CEO of the Washington Hospitality Association

About 10 years ago, I found myself at a legislative reception in a bustling catering hall. I got introduced to a new legislator by another legislator. When I said I was from the restaurant association, the new legislator’s initial reaction was a derisive “Oh, the anti-minimum wage group.”

To my pleasant surprise, the legislator who introduced me said, “Actually, the association is a very pro-community group. It’s always interested in training and growing employees, and I know many of the members who are small restaurants always serving with me on different neighborhood task forces.”

The legislator continued on and gave a couple of examples of her positive experience with the association in the Legislature.

Let’s talk about brand.

The new legislator brought in her impression of what we stood for as an industry — as an anti-minimum wage, anti-worker industry.

The legislator who knew us presented a very different impression, one of a community-driven and solutions-oriented organization.

If one legislator was to introduce you to another legislator, what would they say about you and your business?
There’s a difference between your brand and your mission. The mission really drives what you’re here to do. The brand drives customer impressions and how the public perceives what you are.

When I was a lobbyist, my attire was part of my brand in the Legislature.

Everyone knows I’m most comfortable in a golf shirt and Dockers. But, each day on the hill I would wear my suit. I wanted legislators to take our industry seriously. I wanted the association to be seen as one of the most important business organizations in the state. Anthony in a suit best represented our brand.

The crux of brand is not only the color or the cartoon character or the font. It’s those impressions that lead to a reaction.

According to Jerry McLaughlin, a marketing writer for Forbes, “Your brand is what your prospect thinks of when he or she hears your brand name. It’s everything the public thinks it knows about your name brand offering—both factual (e.g. It comes in a robin’s-egg-blue box), and emotional (e.g. It’s romantic). Your brand name exists objectively; people can see it. It’s fixed. But your brand exists only in someone’s mind.”

You want to empower your team to make decisions that leave customers with the impressions of your brand.

Simple example: One of your employees is buying art for your lobby. Your brand is local. If you put in pictures that are clearly mass-produced, you’re leaving the impression that your business is canned or pre-manufactured. If you put in pictures of the local berry fields and bottles of Washington wine and the attractions in your area, you’re reminding customers and guests that you’re local.

You don’t want to go out and buy the pictures. You have to run your company. But you want the people who do to think about this. This goes to clip art on your website, taglines on your customer email list, all the way down to dress code.

Now at the Washington Hospitality Association, every day we work to make sure the legislator meeting us for the first time and the legislator who has experience working with us will both say our industry is made up of local, community-oriented businesses seeking solutions and helping our workforce succeed.

I encourage you to learn about brand, identify it for yourself and for your business and strengthen it to help you meet your mission.

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