Keeping a food truck business competitive is a challenge that entrepreneurs must be ready for. Year after year, the array of mobile food businesses that customers can choose from just keep on increasing, which makes it ever more important for a food truck to make a lasting impression. And this can be achieved with great branding.
But what exactly is branding?
Some may think that branding and marketing are the same thing but traditionally, each has its own significance for your business.
Branding is the fulfillment of a business’ promise and also shows a company’s characteristics and identity. Successful branding delivers the impression that customers get after experiencing your food truck’s products and services. It is more strategic, encompassing all the aspects of the business, and answers the questions of why the food truck exist, what it stands for, and what value it provides. A successful brand resonates, pulls, and transforms people into loyal customers.
If branding is strategic, marketing is more tactical and consists of specific activities that support your brand. It includes actions that push your message to activate buyers. Usually, marketing campaigns have shorter time frames than branding efforts and are crafted for particular aspects of the business like launching new products or announcing promotions.
Knowing the difference between branding and marketing is the first step to creating a successful and strong food truck identity.
Defining the business brand should be a priority of food truck owners or risk losing control of how customers perceive it. Fortunately, there are many ways mobile food entrepreneurs can be creative in building their brands.
Based on how it appears, customers can make a split second decision whether to buy or not from a food truck.The name, color theme, logo, slogan, menu design, and product packaging can create a story that affects how appealing a food truck can be. Just like how a dish looks like affects its perceived flavor, the food truck’s appearance can greatly influence the experience of buyers. Based on research, certain visual cues can increase the effectivity of your food truck’s design, for example, warm colors can attract attention and stimulate hunger.
In addition, the food truck’s online identity must be consistent with what customers will experience on the field. This consistency helps reinforce brand recall and makes it easier for satisfied customers to point prospective buyers to your food truck.
Branding is not just what people see but how they feel. Food trucks are not just in the business of providing delicious dishes but offering unique and enjoyable experiences. This makes convenience a great selling point for mobile food businesses. Designing your business operation to make it as easy as possible for buyers to get their order can encourage repeat sales and recommendations. An efficient ordering system is a great area to start with. Online and mobile tools can also be utilized (like getting advance orders via social media or an app) to decrease the amount of time customers need to spend in line. In lieu of having a dining area, designing the packaging of products to make it easy to eat on the go is also a great way to encourage people to buy from your food truck.
Another way to provide a great customer experience is with convenient payment methods. With the growing demand and popularity of mobile payments today, food trucks that can process payments beyond credit and debit cards is an advantage. Online payment services integrated with your mobile business’ website enable users to place advance orders.
In addition to hassle-free service, people love having choices. If your products permit it, giving customers the option to customize orders has always been a great way to add-value. Pizza restaurants have been successful with this strategy and Starbucks has capitalized on customers’ obsession with personalized coffee drinks to increase the demand of their products.
An aspect of the mobile food business that leaves a huge impression to customers is their interaction with employees. This is not limited to the behavior of workers but can also involve their attire. A customer will most likely trust food coming from a well-groomed person than from someone who looks sloppy.
Strengthening customer confidence can also be accomplished when they are given access to information regarding your products. Food data like dietary and nutritional values, allergen alerts, and sources of ingredients can reassure buyers with the quality of your products. Your food truck’s brand narrative that may include providing safe and healthy options, using organic and cage-free ingredients, or supporting local farmers can be reinforced by keeping customers informed.
In addition, having the ability to easily voice out their comments or inquiries and getting timely feedback from your business is something that customers will appreciate. It also gives buyers the impression that your business is willing to improve by accommodating their requests. If they see that you and your business are listening, buyers are more encouraged to communicate and create a relationship.
The goal of successful branding is leaving a lasting impression to customers. There are many ways of achieving this but looking at the most successful brands today, there are several key factors that these businesses have in common.
Consistency: Though first impressions can last, loyalty can only be developed with repetition. If customers experience the same high quality of products and services each time they buy from your food truck, there is higher probability of continued patronage. People gravitate to familiar or comfortable experiences and using this innate characteristic in your food truck’s branding encourages greater success. Brand recall is also easier to establish if customers can easily associate your business to certain positive images or feelings.
Coordination: Branding represents the identity of your food truck business. Every aspect of the venture (marketing, sales, customer support, and others) can affect its success or failure. Having a concrete framework that aligns the activities in the different parts of the business ensures that they will not conflict with each other.
Research: Though customer impressions of businesses can be based on emotions, your decisions as a food truck owner should be motivated by information. Know your target customers by using focus groups or surveys. Understand your competition by researching their branding efforts. Analyze the industry landscape by gathering economic and government data based on relevant factors (fuel prices, sources of ingredients, laws and legislation, among others).
Resonance: Showing the values and traits that your business have in common with customers leads to a stronger brand. Make your branding efforts personal and intimate. Tell the story of your business, what it stands for, and why it is relevant to people. Businesses that appear to exist solely with the aim to profit rarely gain long-term success.
Vision: Usually, marketing has a shorter and more limited scope than branding. But just because you have defined its identity today, it does not mean a business cannot change. Circumstances can shift and may force your food truck to grow or adapt. Having contingency plans ready for different possibilities of re-branding or brand expansion can keep a mobile food business from being caught off guard.
With higher competition, creating a unique food truck brand today takes a lot of planning and effort. But having a well-defined business identity benefits your mobile food business by giving it a sense of direction and a powerful connection with customers that can turn them from one-time buyers into loyal customers.