Since this article is about branding and I’ve been a branding strategist for many years, let’s be clear from the get go. I’m not talking about logos! This is about brand personality and marketing positioning. It all started with my recent world travel to Singapore and Malaysia. The trip lasted nearly three weeks. And while I enjoyed the local cuisine (Malay, Chinese and Indian) I did experience a craving or two for Western fare.
Imagine my surprise when at the Subang airport (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) I entered donut heaven. Homer Simpson eat your heart out!
I was not alone. Malaysia is a fusion of cultures and ideologies and yet it was donuts that brought us from many walks of life together one day.
The donuts from which I speak were a far cry from anything I had experienced from US mainstays Dunkin’ Donuts and Krispy Kreme. And as I devoured my triple chocolate piece of paradise, the sugar rush got my brain going on a few important branding takeaways for you to consume…
Branding Lesson #1:You Can Differentiate a Commodity
I always considered donuts a commodity. And pretty much every donut place had similar offerings: glazed, with sprinkles, cake donuts, same old same old. Yet what I saw at Big Apple Donuts was taking the humble donut to heights not seen previously.
The advantage of starting with a commodity is you don’t need to educate people on what you’re selling. Most consumers know what a donut is. Have you ever thought of selling as a two-step process? Consider this:
Step #1: generic sell. In this case, selling the donut.
Step #2: Proprietary Sell. You sell them on why YOUR donut is special.
So if your market or industry has been commoditized, see what you can do to un-commoditize it. You can use the following inspirations #2 and #3 to do just that.
Branding Lesson #2:Make Personality Part of the Recipe
One effective method to transform a commodity is to infuse it with personality. The variety of donuts, complete with tongue-in-cheek monikers did exactly that. Here’s a sampling of some of the donut choices:
- Dough Vinci
- Duren Duren
- Tom and Cherry
- Apple Ke Dapple
- Presidential Sweet
Not all 30-some varieties had clever names but all were unique in their own right, either in name, recipe, topping or filling.
Branding Lesson #3:Simple and Visual Wins Eyes and Wallets
The humble donut as canvas for true artistic expression? Definitely. Sure the donuts have fun names. Yet what seals the deal is their appearance.
Some donuts are real works of art. Something you would expect to find in an upscale restaurant here applied to the humble donut.
In essence, it’s not about a donut. It’s become the donut experience. Sure, I have a sweet tooth but it was the donut story that got me hooked. And will keep me coming back.
Branding Lesson #4:Novelty Without Quality = Fail
Sure, the donut names are fun and they look scrumptious, but what if the donuts didn’t taste as good as they looked and sounded?
I’m happy to report the donuts met and exceeded my expectations. My donuts were very fresh and I’m told contain less sugar than their American counterparts. (Although you’d never know it from the taste!)
The key takeaway here is the quality of the product was consistent with the branding of the product. If the product was high novelty but low quality, maybe they get the initial sale but the customer won’t come back and buy again.
You may be thinking, “sounds great” but how does all this branding and fun donut stuff translate into sales and business success? Well the proof is in the pudding, or in this case, the donuts.
Big Apple Donuts is currently in four countries: Malaysia, China, Thailand and Indonesia. They’re expanding rapidly (nearly 40 locations in Malaysia alone) and global expansion beyond Asia is in the works. I for one can’t wait!
Please share your feedback and comments below.