Brand Identity... Sonic Style

Brand Identity... Sonic Style


Most of our friends know that at ROBYN, we are focused on honing our marketing skills... And we enjoy sharing what we have learned! To this end, we are thrilled to introduce a side project we've been working on: The 7 Minute Smarketer.

The premise behind the podcast is to sit down with innovative marketers who are experts in different disciplines and give them 7 minutes to make us smarter. The podcasts are hosted on the 7 Minute Smarketer website, which you can hear by clicking the button below...


 7 minute smarketer     tamara stanley




Bobby Lehew:  Well hello everyone. Welcome to the "7‑Minute Marketer." Whether you are a small business, a solo entrepreneur, or whether you manage a large marketing department, this is the fastest place to get caught up on tools and techniques to make you a smarter marketer. My guest today is Tamara Stanley. Tamara is the Senior Director of Integrated Marketing Communications at Sonic Drive‑in, the nation's largest chain of drive‑in restaurants. Sonic has over 3,500 drive‑in restaurants coast-to-coast. Tamara, today we're talking about brand management and how to select the right agency. Welcome, Tamara.

Tamara Stanley:  Hi there. Thank you very much.

Bobby:  Thrilled to have you here. I have to tell you a quick story, I was so enamored by the coney commercials and the photos that I had to go out, I bought two of every single one of them and brought them back to the family and we carved them up. The New York dog is my absolute favorite.

Tamara:  Fabulous and the Chicago dog is mine.

Bobby:  Is it really?

Tamara:  The brilliance of those hot dogs is that everybody has their favorites. We feel like we've really given people a selection to choose from and we encourage everyone to try all of them because you just never know what might surprise you.

Bobby:  Yes. The new ones are fantastic too. Those are great. We're talking about brand management and how to select the right agency. Tamara, you know the drill. Basically you have seven minutes to make us smarter marketers about this topic or you owe me a beer. After speaking on that for an hour today, I assure you that will not happen, especially with someone like Tamara. Anyhow, I'm going to set the timer, Tamara, and we'll just get started. Ready?

Tamara:  Wait. Now, if I make you smarter do you owe me a beer?

Bobby:  You're the first. That's how smart you are. You're the first one to ask that so, yes, that's the case. I will owe you a beer. [laughs]

Tamara:  OK. Good. Fabulous then. I'm up for the challenge. [laughs]

Bobby:  Let's go then. What do you think?

Tamara:  What I really tried to focus on today [at the AMAOKC luncheon] is the most important part to hiring a good agency is really knowing who you are, which is how brand management comes to be a big part of this. From a Sonic perspective, we really took a long, hard look at who are we, how do we differentiate ourselves, how do we tell a compelling story to our customer, and how do we really drive more feet to the drive‑in? As a marketer, we all strive for that and want that for our brands, but it's a lot of hard work to make sure you get to the core of it. I didn't address this much in my speech but I think it would make everyone a smarter marketer is when you're in that process and you're trying to figure out who you are, don't forget to bring everyone in your organization along with you because everyone really is a brand manager.

I've done this a couple of different ways in my past and I've really found that if you want to set who your brand is going to be it's really important to make sure you have a voice from every division in your company. If you're an entrepreneur, you might own that, but it's important to understand what creates relevance with your customer.

It's a 360‑degree approach... understanding operations, how they work, how they do things, what do they do to set things apart and what your customers want, what you want to do from an advertising perspective, and any other division of your company that really plays a big role in delivering on a consumer promise, is important in brand management.

Bobby:  That also must help with buy‑in, too. When you do launch and make this change you've got buy‑in from so many different people that it helps. It's not a 100% win but it's certainly got to help pull that along.

Tamara:  It does help. It doesn't end there. You can't expect, "Oh I did this wonderful brand positioning and the work's over now we just have to develop the work." You have to keep repeating and setting people back on what you had agreed on and where you're taking the brand and what the brand means to the customer every step along the way. That's really what communication is all about. The good news is that when you set out to find an agency to help support you on that journey and you've already figured out the center of who you are, it's easier to communicate to them and get them to deliver work that's the best‑in‑cost work because you hired them based on that. It's really difficult if you just don't know who you are.

Bobby:  Right and that really helps because you don't have, going back to square one, people telling you who you are. You've already done that homework. If an organization as large as Sonic needs to go back and really address that, I think this is crucial for businesses of any size to stay in touch with who you are.

Tamara:  Yeah. That's right.

Bobby:  I saw Steve Jobs did an interview back when he returned to Apple. He talked about at that point that they had spent millions of dollars in advertising. I think it was '97, 1994, whenever Steve Jobs came back. He said, up to that point Apple had spent millions of dollars in advertising, but you wouldn't know it. I was stunned by that statement because he said that they actually didn't really identify their values as marketers and who they really were. It's amazing to hear you talk about that because here's another major, iconic brand who said, "Get true to the core of who you are."

Tamara:  That's right. That's right. You can spend millions of dollars and you can have a really effective advertising campaign, but if you don't know what is your compelling differentiation to your competition, it doesn't really do you any good. Even if people know who you are but they don't know what you stand for, it's not going to get into their minds to make a different decision when they need to make that decision.

Bobby:  Absolutely. Having a few millennials under my roof, I have to tell you it was really refreshing to hear the point of view that Sonic was coming from today. Can you talk a little bit about that, that core part of your branding?

Tamara:  Yeah. I think what we have to recognize as marketers in this world, is that the millennial generation is changing not only who the world is but who people are of all ages. It's trends among those millennials that is developing smart phones across all generations. Smart phone users aren't only young. They're old, but they tend to have a millennial mindset. At Sonic, the way we look at it, we actually have a fun little millennial test that we'll give people to tell them just how millennial you are, which is really important as we've begun to get people to connect with this target. It's funny. It's like a badge of honor. People are like, "How millennial am I?" The questions are like, "How many texts did you send yesterday? Did you read a newspaper? Did you read your news online?"

Key things like that that are just indicative of people's behavior and really shifting to that millennial mindset versus just a young consumer it makes a difference because at Sonic people really crave fun and adventure. It sets them back to a time when they were young even though they may not be young now.

Bobby:  That is fantastic.

Tamara:  It's a target that's been a lot of fun to play with. We still have some work to do on the right communication touch points to reach them, but now that we have them identified we can track every study against them. We can really learn new products we're going to develop, how do they appeal to that mindset and that target, not just to the broad public? It's a key piece of how we've defined who we are.

Bobby:  That's awesome. Well, Tamara, you've definitely made us smarter marketers today. Thank you so much for sharing your time with us.

Tamara:  You're welcome. You're welcome.

Bobby:  You folks can visit Sonic at sonicdrivein.com. The "7‑Minute Marketer" is brought to you by the American Marketing Association, Evolve Research and ROBYN Promotions. Tamara, thanks again. You've been wonderful.

Tamara:  Yeah, thank you very much.