What Chefs Can Learn From Rock Stars About Marketing And Branding

by Mark

Hello again my fellow Rock Star Chefs!

My hope is that this blog post finds you in good spirits and that your businesses are rocking! I am honored to have recently spoke at a culinary conference held in New York City for chefs and restaurateurs about best practices in marketing, branding and positioning. The conference was attended by some of the most highly respected chefs and successful restaurant owners in the country. Many industry executives and culinary educators were also in attendance. The tactical ideas and frameworks I shared with the audience will apply to any chef or restaurateur who is looking to more strategically position and brand themselves, their restaurant or their products & services.

Whenever the time comes for you to present an offer to a customer or prospect, you need to be very thoughtful and strategic about the sequence of that offer. What I mean by that is, you have to compose the messaging in a way that has the most logical AND emotional impact…much like a rock concert.

Most entrepreneurs and business people follow a methodical marketing process and it goes something like this; Here’s my product or service, here’s why it’s cool or why you should buy it, followed up by here’s how much it costs.

So what’s wrong with the order of this “recipe” of Product/Service, Benefits and Price?


From my perspective and experience of working with solo entrepreneurs all the way up to multi-billion dollar companies for the past couple of decades, if you follow this Old World way of presenting and engaging with the marketplace you may never make it into the Culinary Hall of Fame.

If you think about it, rock concerts are actually really big sales presentations. Of course, most musicians enjoy performing in front of a live audience. I can tell you from personal experience that there is something amazing that happens between the audience and a performer on stage. Let’s also be very clear that almost all rock stars also love building up their bank accounts as well. Live concerts are a venue for rock stars to promote not only their latest work, but to also showcase and remind you of their library of other music. Let’s not forget all of the additional revenue that comes from t-shirts, hats, jewelry, posters, concert programs, and “limited edition” releases of music and concert DVD’s.

The culmination of all this marketing, merchandising and promoting is that Rock Stars are VERY aware of their content/message and the order of their performance/presentation.

Think about the last concert you went to. Remember if you can,  the order in which the set list was played. I don’t think they began the show with some low key, slow tempo ballad or love song…no, they flooded the stage with lights and lasers and fog. They maybe played a couple of notes from the opening song to get the crowd on their feet, yelling and screaming. Then, they appeared on stage, there was probably some wiz bang, extremely loud pryo-technics that blinded the audience for a split second and then they ROCKED IT OUT! They grabbed your attention and brought you out of your repetitive day-to-day grind and brought you into their world of their music, artistry and craft.

A great concert, like a great meal has a methodical rhythm, cadence and momentum to it. As a chef, you instinctually know how to do this. Well Rock Stars also know the power of this process. Towards the middle of the concert, once they have your engagement, your emotions, your adrenaline rush and most importantly your involvement…they will seize the opportunity to introduce material that you may not have heard before or perform songs that have a little slower pace to them. Maybe they even bring out the long, slow love ballad.  They earned that right because they blew you away at the beginning of the show.

Now, when it comes to the end of the concert, the finale if you will, what do they do? You got it. They crank up the amps to 11 (obscure Spinal Tap Reference ), start up the lasers and fog machines and they play the sure thing, their absolute greatest hit. These guys want you leaving the show drained, weak at the knees and ears ringing. However, this is the secret to their magic, when you are so “in the moment” from what you just experienced and are walking past the merchandise tables on your way out of the arena, you can’t help yourself from wanting to buy anything and everything with their name on it.

Therein lies the framework of what I am trying to illustrate to you…what’s at play here are two ancient human philosophies: Primacy and Recency.

The simplest, modern day definition of Primacy is that “first impressions are the most lasting impressions”. The simplest, modern day definition of Recency is “what you see last, you remember longest.”

So here’s the genius and brilliance of rock stars: In a live concert they cover both ends of the spectrum. Primacy with the opening number, Recency with the over the top closing finale.

So let’s go back to the question I posed to you earlier.

So what exactly is  wrong with the order of most presentations that follow the Product/Service, Benefits and Price structure when it comes to marketing messages? Well, I will tell you. The conscious decision most marketers and brand people make when deciding the structure and order of their sales message is that in the beginning they will wow their customer or prospect with the power, desirability and impact of their product or service. From there, they will blow them away with all the benefits and cool features. And what do they bring to the big finale…PRICE! Yep, the slow downer of the long, slow love ballad to close out the show.

The decision that most marketers make is to end the presentation on an emotional low point. And worse yet, Recency suggests “What you see last, you remember longest.” Is that REALLY what you want your prospects to leave thinking about, remembering last and longest? Really?

It’s highly unlikely that a discussion of taking money out of the customer’s pocket and putting it into your’s would be the emotional high point of the presentation or discussion. Is anyone surprised that most entrepreneurs and business owners tell me that at the end of their pitch or presentation, all that the buyer or prospect thinks about and wants to discuss is PRICE, PRICE, PRICE?

So as chefs, restaurateurs and food service executives, what have we learned from Rock Stars?

Well, we have learned that there IS a logical order to the sales process that supports both philosophies of Primacy and Recency. We’ve also learned that much like a multi-course meal, you have to engineer how things flow together and in what sequence.

Here’s that process in 3 easy steps:

1. To begin with, it makes sense to bring your customer into the world of  YOUR products and services. A simple overview could go something like this; “here’s what I got and here’s why is it better/different than anything else out in the marketplace or “here’s what makes me/us unique”

2. Now that you have their attention and have them captivated with your world…at this point you have earned the right to take the presentation to the relative emotional low point, a conversation about price. It’s your equivalent of a slow, long love ballad.

So what’s your finale? What do you want them thinking about last and longest? That’s right. It’s you describing the depth and breadth and “cool factor” of your offering and explain in very detailed language how your solution will directly impact them.

What they are actually buying is a long-term relationship with you and your company. Serve them with excellence and distinction. That’s what you want them remembering last and longest when they leave your “show.”

I’m not telling you if you present in this order you’ll ever be on the cover of Food Arts, but there will be a difference in how your prospects and customers feel and what they think about as they pass by your (figuratively speaking, of course) merchandise table…



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