Branding Insights

Brand of the Month: Cracker Barrel

19 Sep , 2017  

This is a new addition to my blog. Every month I will highlight one notable brand, an example of branding best practices. Expect to see a wide range of brands over the coming year. If you have a nomination, send me an email at t-calkins@northwestern.edu

 

Perhaps the most important marketing lesson is this: you can’t be all things to all people. If you try to make everyone happy, you will end up with a mediocre product that is only moderately appealing to lots of people. In a competitive market, this approach won’t work; more specialized and focused players will steal share. To stand out and last, you have to delight people, and that requires focus.

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store shows how targeting can deliver tremendous results. The restaurant chain understands its customer and proposition, and it consistently delivers. In the process, Cracker Barrel produces some strong financial results.

The Cracker Barrel Proposition

Cracker Barrel is a line of mid-priced, sit-down restaurants with a country theme. The locations are unusual because each one has a small store at the front selling a wide variety of items, from popcorn to scarves to syrup.

According to Cracker Barrel materials, here is the brand promise:

“Cracker Barrel provides a friendly home-away-from-home in our old country store and restaurant. Our guests are cared for like family while relaxing and enjoying real home-style food and shopping that’s surprisingly unique, genuinely fun, and reminiscent of America’s country heritage…all at a fair price.”

If you’ve been to a Cracker Barrel, you know the core consumer: an older person who is looking for a relaxing meal with friends or family at a moderate price. Indeed, baby boomers and matures make up 43% of visits.

Cracker Barrel is true to its core proposition. The restaurants aren’t quick, and there is nothing trendy about the menu—last time I was there I didn’t see any kale or quinoa. There is no internet service.

It isn’t for everyone.

If you are in a hurry, don’t go to Cracker Barrel. If you want trendy food, an exceptionally low price or a focused work space, look for a different restaurant.

Cracker Barrel is perfect for a certain need state. It is an interesting and fun place to go with a lot to look at. It has a warm, cozy atmosphere, the people are friendly, and the food is good and fairly priced.

Results

Cracker Barrel has delivered some remarkable results with this focused proposition. There are now 644 Cracker Barrel locations nationwide. Revenues for the 2017 fiscal year (ending July 28) were $2.9 billion. Profits were $313 million, up from $280 million in the prior year. Cracker Barrel has a market cap of $3.6 billion.

The future is bright for Cracker Barrel. An aging U.S. population means that Cracker Barrel will enjoy a rising tide. In addition, the chain is starting to build a second brand called Holler & Dash to drive further growth.

Lessons

There are three important lessons from Cracker Barrel.

First, focus on your customer. Understand who you serve and do it exceptionally well. Don’t get distracted and try to serve everyone.

Second, be consistent. If you shift your brand meaning, you will confuse people. Cracker Barrel hasn’t significantly changed its proposition since its founding back in 1969.

Third, pay attention to the total brand experience. Cracker Barrel watches everything: the entryway, the shop, the staff and the merchandise. It all adds up to a remarkable, unique and  successful brand.

 

 

 



2 Responses

  1. emitahill says:

    Troy Cracker Barrel has internet. I have brunch there with a friend 2-4 times/year coming and going from Hamburg. The display of merchandise is hilarious. The brunches are reliably good and staff very friendly. Nice to see you recognizing them.

  2. Rod Taylor says:

    It helps that they have a relatively large and high margin “country merchandise” section in the waiting area and that they get 14K visitors on average per week. Additionally, part of their strategy is to be adjacent to a major interstate freeway. They know who they are and they execute with excellence.

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