Jimmy Buffett wrote the book on branding

By Gordon Hecht, Contributor

It wasn’t the lead story on the news. You may have missed it the other week if you were at a Labor Day Weekend show. Rock icon Jimmy Buffett passed away on Sept. 1 at the age of 76. 

By any account, Jimmy had a successful life. Hundreds of thousands attended his concerts and his song catalog is valued at over $50 million

Jimmy Buffett never had a number one hit on the rock & roll charts. He did achieve 13 Hot 100 hits during his lifetime. His signature anthem, “Margaritaville,” reached No. 8 in 1977. Buffett logged 20 hits on the Hot Country Songs chart, including eight Top 40 titles.

His impact reached far beyond the music world. “Margaritaville” inspired an entire lifestyle. Everything Jimmy did or sponsored meant “chill” to his fans. 

That’s the key word in the entertainment and resort hotel business. We go out dine or vacation with the goal of “getting away from it all.” A hotel, restaurant, all-inclusive resort, casino or cruise line with the name Margaritaville virtually ensures guests will have a “chill” time.

“Margaritaville” became more than a song. It morphed into a powerful brand. 

Your retail empire is your brand. As you build your brand you must consider what message your name shouts to shoppers, customers and raving fans. The instant a shopper hears your name she should have an image of what your business represents. Think about these businesses and the image associated with their names:

  • Neiman Marcus > high-priced quality goods
  • Chick-Fil-A > good food served quickly
  • Volvo > safe, precision-built vehicles
  • Viking cruises > see the world on a luxury vessel
  • Amazon > endless aisles, quick gratification

Whether your shop is new or has been around since the Eisenhower administration, you can create (or re-create) your brand image. It starts at the front door to your store and the homepage of your website. Branding carries through to your shop’s interior design, dress code and how you answer the phone. 

Next is your advertising messages, truck skins, social media and email messaging. Wrap that around the merchandise you sell and the service you provide.

Your message should be singular. Jimmy Buffett didn’t promote his Margaritaville restaurants, hotels and cruises as relaxed environments and cheap eats. Check out the Margaritaville at Sea website — you can blow out your flip-flops on any deck. But don’t you dare wear a tuxedo in the dining room. 

Your branding can scream that you’re the low-price leader, but don’t try to tie that in with being the white-glove service provider. You can be luxury brand shop. You just can’t be the no-credit-check store at the same time.

Yes, you can offer all the above, but promoting it to the public will leave them with a mixed message.

Building your brand will build your business. The Margaritaville brand encompasses 33 Margaritaville restaurants, 18 Landshark restaurants, nine airport lounges, eight hotels, thre hotel casinos, an all-inclusive resort, a cruise line and a planned community in Daytona Beach, Fla., with 6,900 home lots.

When it came to branding Mr. Buffett certainly had a clue. He left this world with a net worth over $1.5 billion.  That’s enough to replace a lost shaker of salt over 2 billion times. Build your brand right and shout it from the rooftops and you’ll be chilling soon too.  

Gordon Hecht is a business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry and a regular contributor to YSN. You can reach him at Gordon.Hecht@aol.com.

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