Little interview

‘If pubs don't stand for anything, they will fall for everything’ says marketing guru

By Nikkie Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

Advertising push: food and drink marketer Mark McCulloch hails the benefits of showing branding off on social media
Advertising push: food and drink marketer Mark McCulloch hails the benefits of showing branding off on social media
Pubs need to have a clear brand, which staff should be aware of and represent, according to a marketing and branding expert

Founder and CEO of marketing company We Are Spectacular Mark McCulloch laid out how operators need to shout about themselves in a strategic way.

How do pubs go about creating their own brand?

The starting point is to get the brand word defined. Brand is a promise delivered and not a name, badge or logo. So this is about the promise you're making to people and you're thinking about how you will keep that through every customer interaction: the culture, products, services and reputation of what you are creating.

Work out what your story is, what your purpose is (not to just sell booze), who your customers are, what their motivations are, what your USPs are (true ones, not rubbish ones like 'my people' – everyone says that), what your personality is (if your pub is a person), then look at all that and create a statement that says "our role in life is to... " 

Then and only then, with these firm foundations, can you start to name your baby. How many people choose names for their kids before they are born and then, once they see this fully formed human being, decide they look like a <insert name here> instead?

It's the same thing. Subjectivity will fail you eventually. Spend the time on the brand structure then naming, logos, straplines, etc, become easier. 

Why is it important that pubs have a clear brand? 

It's about having a differentiated offer and experience serving the customers you are targeting. If you don’t stand for anything you will fall for everything.

How can you tell your teams what they are meant to do and how they need to be when representing the brand if you​ don’t know? Even worse, if you don’t know the customers will be confused and you then become commoditised.

Brand strength is the difference between you staying open and closing. If you don’t have a strong ethos or principles, you will start making poor decisions on whim rather than with a strategy in mind.

What are your top tips on doing really great marketing?

It's too much to write down here, but I have a process that always keeps me on track. A five-step process.  

Creative is the variable – but again, this should be in line with the tone and promise of your brand that is always relevant to the audience to whom you are marketing.

How should licensees make social media work for them?

I could write 5,000 words on this. Simply put, get to know it, get obsessed. Don’t ever say 'I don’t get this' or 'I hire people under 25 to do this' or 'I ask my 14-year-old daughter what’s happening on social'. Get an expert in or search online, as there are thousands of guides, videos, tips and free info.

Would you run a pub without knowing how to pull a pint? It's the same with this. You can’t plead ignorance as you will die eventually, along with the more traditional forms of marketing.

Set up your pages in accordance with best practice. Know that organic will get you only a small percentage of total followers. Spend money on advertising on social, mainly Facebook, and have a way to create great content. 

Doing this is tough, but it's where the customer's attention is and, if done well, you'll have a superbly connected business and an engaged customer base that will bring you profits and help you stay relevant. Really, you should have been doing this years ago. It's getting harder to stand out on social, but start today and you will succeed.

Should pubs look into advertising outside of social media/website?

Sure, it's a marketing mix after all, but it depends what issue you're trying to resolve. I'd be tempted to focus 80% to 90% of your spend and efforts on digital and then, once that is maxed out and you really understand it and can see it working, look to other areas. But when was the last time an offline ad really cut through? The John Lewis ad – if you have £10m, great. If you have £500 for an ad in the local paper, I’d spend it on Facebook.

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