It’s the sizzle that sells the steak…not the cow.

by Rolf Gutknecht, Agent of Change (c) 2012

A friend of mine sent me a video by email last week that, as a marketer, I loved. It was one of those ‘old school’ videos featuring “America’s best salesman”…Elmer Wheeler, who’s message is as relevant and meaningful today as it was when he delivered in the 60’s. After watching it a number of times, and because of the subject matter, it made me think of an interesting way to look at what the brand experience is all about.

So here goes:

Imagine that you and your significant other decide to go to a well-known, fancy-schmancy steakhouse for a special night out dinner. Have that in your mind? Good. Now, picture another steakhouse of similar reputation. Both of the steakhouses prepare the same quality of steak but with one difference….. whereas the first restaurant makes a steak the way it’s supposed to be made (a thick clean cut, placed on the center of the plate) and presented with some tasty vegetables nicely positioned on the side and professionally put on the table, the second restaurant has a similar plate presentation but with no steak on it. Their steak gets delivered just a minute later on a hot stone tablet to your table…simmering and sizzling. The waitress presents the steak with elegance, and sprinkles some salt and pepper on top. While the aroma of the steak makes your mouth start to water and the sizzle gets your full attention, she begins to tell the story of the family who own the vineyard of the wine you selected. What a different brand experience that is! Same item, same quality, different way to engage the consumer. The difference isn’t about the steak but rather about the sizzle.

So why does the “sizzle” matter?

1. Anyone can make good steak

As we know, product or service quality is a fragile thing. No matter how many patents you have, how well you have integrated your supply chain and perfected your quality standards, no matter how much money you spend on R&D, anyone who really, really wants to go after you will eventually copy what you do or make and perhaps even perfect the product you so passionately protected.

2. The sizzle is a difficult thing to copy

Branding, brand equity and brand engagement are difficult to copy. They are strongly linked to your brand, and your brand alone. The depth of everything “surrounding” the product is complex, deep and interwoven with stories, emotions, associations, you name it…all those good things that make a brand unique!

3.      The sizzle adds the emotional layer

Back to the restaurant example: Guess what? People will come back for more. Not just for the steak, but for the feeling they get when they are IN that experience. Human beings thrive on emotions, and seek repeat of pleasure.

Now, I’m not suggesting for one minute to only focus on the sizzle. Without that good, juicy, perfectly cut and excellently cooked filet mignon steak there is no reason to add sizzle in the first place! The sizzle is the icing on the cake; without cake there is no need for the icing.

Selling the sizzle and not the steak is something good marketers have known since forever. Give your customers the meal that they desire…and they will come back for it time and time again.

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