6 Branding Lessons from Geno’s Steaks

By November 11, 2013 Uncategorized

Despite a heavy travel schedule over the past 15 years, last week was my first trip to Philadelphia.  While there, I asked some of the locals I met the best place to experience an authentic Philly Cheese Steak.  Of course, I received plenty of opinions but went with the most common suggestion – Geno’s Steaks. So on a Saturday afternoon, I found my way to Geno’s.  Not only did I have an awesome experience, I learned six more lessons about branding from Geno’s.

  1. Keep it simple – Cash only.  Simple menu.  No inside seating.  Brands tend to way over-complicate things.  To paraphrase Steve Jobs: sometimes the consumer just needs to be told what to buy.
  2. Stand out visually – There is zero doubt when you find Geno’s.  Bright signs.  Name on all street-facing sides of the building.  Everything painted Geno’s “orange”.  All employees in Geno’s gear.
  3. Create a line – The massive line out front also told you that you’d find Geno’s – and that it was worth the wait.  Ordering from a single window wasn’t the most efficient for Geno’s or the customers – but it created a massive line of people publicly stating their willingess to wait for something different.
  4. Have secret codes –  In addition to the recommendation for Geno’s, I was instructed in great detail about how to order.  My friend Kevin had taken me step by step through the process of how to order and what to say.  As I approached the window (20 minutes after I got in line), I simply said “Provolone with” and handed the lady a $10 bill.  I then watched the guy after me ask a bunch of questions and generally look like a tourist.
  5. Don’t afraid to be polarizing – At the order window is a sign that says “You are in America.  Order in English”. Being different (and controversial) forces polarization.  Polarization gives you a clear audience to attract.
  6. Stay true to your roots –  As this was my first Philly Cheese Steak experience, I don’t know if it was better than other cheese steaks in the area.  But I believed that Geno’s believes it is.  You can feel the pride and conviction for their brand.

A brand is a meaningful, relevant presence in the marketplace.  100% for Geno’s

Branding is the authentic amplification of what makes you awesome.  100% for Geno’s.

It’s not a brand if it doesn’t create stories, emotion and memories.  100% for Geno’s.

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