Posts Tagged ‘panera’

Panera Adds Community Services

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

What I love most about digital is that it opens up so many simple ways to provide meaningful marketing to a brand’s customers. As much as we all like to spend hours developing deep digital strategies and playing with the latest innovations, it’s often best to go to the absolutely simplest slam dunks that you can think of. My current favorite example of a no-brainer in meaningful digital marketing is a program called MeetAtPanera. is a very simple website that allows people to set up a meeting with a friend or group of friends and send invitations to join up at Panera. It is a natural outgrowth of Panera’s historical strategy of embracing community meetings and friend join-ups. Its restaurants provide free Wi-Fi access, have open seating with moveable tables, and usually include a “community room” that can be reserved for large meetings at no charge. The business benefit of this approach is clear-cut: By embracing groups, Panera brings in a large number of regular visitors, who repay it with recurring business.

The MeetAtPanera tool is basic but complete. You can select the restaurant to meet at as well as a time, and send the invite to multiple email addresses. Each invite arrives with driving directions and an option to add the event to your calendar. No registration is required, and there is no email list that you are automatically pre-checked to join. There is even an offer for a free coffee for you and your group if you bring in the invitations.

If there is anything to complain about it’s the fact that this could be done instead with other tools that people are already comfortable with. Most people will likely either just send an email to friends, or potentially use Facebook to set up an event. But that’s OK; some people will use the tool and feel more connected and loyal to the Panera brand. And the cost to set up this small site is likely very, very small.

So kudos to Panera for making the effort to add some value via this online invite system. Although I’m unlikely to personally use it for setting up meetings, it reminds me that this brand is working to keep my business.

Adding Marketing to the Value Equation

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Every business in the world right now is talking about how to better communicate value to its customers. Our agency, along with many others, is briefing clients on value case studies and preparing projects that aim to convince consumers that top brands are relevant and worth the price premium over store brands and lesser competitors. There is a lot of talk about what “value” really means. Elements include product performance, of course, and even some mentions of terms such as ”brand trust.” But what has been missing from far too many calculations is consideration of how brand marketing itself can add value.

At his m-cause blog last week, Ryan Jones writes about the idea of a value equation, beginning with a great quote from Ron Shaich, CEO of Panera Bread: Value is about the totality of the experience. This got me rethinking about common value equations from the marketing textbooks. The common formula for customer value is (Product Benefit + Brand Equity)/Cost.

But this formula fails to consider one large source of value that should be added to the numerator of this equation: the added value of the marketing itself, where applicable. I’m talking about Marketing with Meaning, of course. By creating marketing that people choose to engage with, marketing that itself improves people’s lives. Of course the textbooks and company trainings don’t include this (yet), because they are used to a world in which advertising is a cost of delivering eyeballs to a product offer and brand equity. It has always been a necessary expense, rather than a valuable investment. It’s time to evolve the value equation.

Panera Bread’s offer of free Wi-Fi service in its restaurants is clearly an example of added value marketing. When Pringles allows buyers to create their own decorative labels, or Doritos creates a mystery flavor and invites buyers to create a name for it, people get more enjoyment for their $.99. When Vicks offers cold and flu alerts, or Similac provides a pregnancy guide, people receive valuable information that store brands fail to offer. When Home Depot teaches people how to install plumbing, or ConAgra Foods helps people make more balanced life choices, the brands are actually delivering value far beyond the products that either sells.

And so, here we have yet another reason to shift your business model to the method of Marketing with Meaning. In this space, I have shared how meaningful marketing grows short-term sales, builds long-term equity, and allows for more efficient cost savings. Now add “improving the customer value equation” to the list.

My dream is that marketers in conference rooms around the world begin asking themselves: “How is our marketing plan improving the value equation?” Suddenly that annoying TV ad or useless sports sponsorship looks a lot more “costly” than ever, and meaningful marketing becomes the most logical direction to turn.