What can Gordon Ramsay teach us about positioning?

Recently, every night without fail, a Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares video appears in my Facebook feed. Watching them has become somewhat of a nightly routine. Whilst they may not have my political views worked out just yet, Facebook knows with confidence that I’m partial to a Gordon Ramsay video, or ten.

But in between the lacklustre food, even worse kitchen conditions, and multiple F-bombs, there are some relevant and insightful marketing takeaways from the show. Despite what you think of Gordon Ramsay, he does have a powerful sense of the importance of positioning.

What is positioning?

In its own right, positioning is the essence of marketing strategy. It looks at how you want consumers to think about your brand relative to your competitors. It’s the space you want to occupy in your target market’s mind. When thinking of positioning your brand, using the 3C’s can be extremely beneficial.

Don’t send the wrong messages.

So, what are the 3C’s?

Competition, Company, and Customer.

To better explain how to implement the 3C’s, let’s go back to 2004 – Season 1, Episode 1 of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. It takes place in Silsden, a quiet town in West Yorkshire at Bonaparte’s restaurant; a self-proclaimed ‘fine-dining’ restaurant (although you’ll hear Gordon incessantly challenging that narrative). Following the same format of episodes to follow, Gordon is tasked with helping to save a financially-sinking restaurant.

But why are they in this position in the first place?

Competition

Sometimes referred to as ‘versus’, competition is where we clearly show what our company stands for to customers by explicitly displaying the differences between ourselves and our competitors.

Bonaparte’s started on the right foot. Rightfully so, they analysed the competition and noticed a common theme. The vast majority of their competitors offered cheap, casual dining to the residents of Silsden. Using a perceptual map (a relatively simple example for this article), we can see just how unoccupied the fine-dining space was in this reserved British town.

On paper, it suggests that moving into this fine-dining space would be extremely lucrative, providing them with a point of difference and ultimately leading to customers flocking to their doors.

Company

Without ruining the episode for you, Bonaparte’s hired a chef they thought was capable of curating a fine-dining menu, which later proves to be untrue. To quote the episode and Gordon accurately, Bonaparte’s is the “fucking pits.”

But, because we weren’t there to try the food ourselves, let’s assume that the food was nothing short of outstanding and instead, look at things we can quickly assess. Firstly, they’ve ticked the all-important food box. However, because positioning influences how consumers view a brand, all touchpoints (the subject of an article in itself) become pivotal. The décor of Bonaparte’s restaurant, the waiting staff, and even the signage of the restaurant do everything to position against fine-dining.

It comes as an essential lesson. When analysing your company internally, be rigorous in determining whether your brand is capable of delivering on your desired position. And if it isn’t, don’t move forward until it is.

Customer

Arguably the most crucial and forgotten step. After all, customers are the people transacting with your brand. For Bonaparte’s, they neglected the demographic make-up of Silsden, a town that ultimately did not care for fine-dining, and also could not justify the price point. This insight comes from a magnificent piece of qualitative research done by Gordon himself. Residents of the town are tasked with choosing their preference between Bonaparte’s current fine-dining menu, and a more rustic, casual dining menu representative of what the residents of Silsden grew up with, and are accustomed to. It’s no surprise which one wins.

For the purpose of this article, we’ve looked at the customer last. In reality, it should be the first step you undertake. Quality research will provide you with the clarity and confidence as to who your customer is so there’s no guesswork involved (In case you missed my last article, read it to see how you can do this research yourself). Spoiler alert – Bonaparte’s ultimately didn’t succeed because they ignored the advice and went back to their old ways.

Who would have thought?

To summarise, below is an excellent list of criteria for vetting your brand’s position, courtesy of the University of Virginia. Oh, and one fun-fact for the road; Gordon manages to use the F-Word 111 times throughout this 1-hour episode.

Vetting your brand position

  • Relevance – Do consumers care?
  • Clarity – Will consumers “get it”?
  • Credibility – Will consumers believe it?
  • Uniqueness – From our consumers’ viewpoint, does it set us apart from
    our competitors in a meaningful way?
  • Attainability – Can we deliver? Are our claims consistent with our
    performance?
  • Sustainability – Can the position be maintained over time?

If you need any help with positioning, drop me a line at nic@haarper.co
and pick our brains over a (virtual) coffee.