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In-N-Out meal

It takes the right “mix” of ingredients to put something on the menu. How these ingredients are put together, however, is what creates something special. It’s this “special sauce” that helps make it stand out from the crowd and keeps people coming back for more, again and again.

Let’s just say this specialty is a hamburger. Lots of people make them. The ingredients are basically the same, yet some are clearly better than others. So what makes a better burger, better?

As any In-N-Out Burger brand loyal customer knows, all their burgers come with a special sauce somewhat similar to Thousand Island dressing. But their real special sauce lies in their business model, which hasn’t changed in over three decades since they opened their doors. According to their model:

In-N-Out Burger exists for the purpose of:

1. Providing the freshest, highest-quality foods and services for a profit and a spotless, sparkling environment whereby the customer is our most important asset;

2. Providing a team-oriented atmosphere whereby goal-setting and communications exist and
providing excellent training and development for all of our associates;

3. Assisting all communities in our marketplace to become stronger, safer, and better places to live.

Their special sauce – the simple but clear business objectives – has kept them focused, and has built a solid brand that keeps people coming back. Their burgers are pretty tasty too.

So what if I decide I want bacon, avocado or chili sauce on my burger… Where does innovation enter the mix?

As with any business, they must innovate to grow. The need to innovate comes up time and again as both an expectation and as a critical component of survival. According to a recent Forrester study:

Ninety percent of worldwide executives, representing all major industries, cite innovation as a strategic priority in a recent study by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG). And nearly two-thirds of them place innovation in the top three on their priority list.

Some businesses fail or thrive on the basis of innovating – or lack thereof – losing their inward vision and trying to keep up with their competition.

Sponge Bob and Patrick in burger car

Here’s a great example. In the popular cartoon “SpongeBob SquarePants” on Nickelodeon, central to the plot are two competing hamburger joints, the “Krabby Patty” and “The Chumbucket.” SpongeBob works at the Krabby Patty, at which exists the “secret formula” that somehow makes their burgers better than the Chumbucket could ever serve. Plankton, the owner of the Chumbucket, spends all his time trying to steal the Krabby Patty recipe instead of focusing on how to simply make a better burger. In other words, his vision is so outwardly focused that his business fails to innovate and thrive. I suspect that even if he ever got his tiny hands on it, he would never be able to implement it successfully. After all, it’s the focused passion behind creating something special and memorable that makes the secret sauce happen in anything, right?

The most relevant brands in the world all share a common trait of innovating, or shifting the way they do business. Sometimes it’s a subtle “one-degree” shift – just enough to make a difference but alter your trajectory completely. Sometimes it’s much more, at greater risk.

So what’s the “secret sauce” to marketing innovation?

As the “C-suite” becomes more aligned and marketing executives are being held accountable for the marketing-to-sales process, building a culture of internal marketing innovators and brand evangelists has become of greater value. When internal teams are integrated and sharing relevant information with each other, innovation happens. CEOs share business objectives. CFOs share budgets and goals. CTOs share technology capabilities. CIOs share business intelligence. CSOs share vision and strategy. And CMOs share content, messaging and the creative to drive people coming back for more.

Just as our predecessors in the “Mad Men” era, who were the trend setters and change agents of their time, the formula for innovation remains the same. Clear business objectives, meet marketing results. Marketing results, meet clear business objectives. In big business, it’s rare… but it’s possible, and it’s very tasty when it’s well done.

The bottom line: Keep it simple. Collaborate your teams. Have a clear vision and objectives. Be consistent. The innovation will follow and will become your secret sauce that keeps people coming back.


Bryan Kramer is the Social Strategist and CEO of San Francisco-based agency Purematter. An author and influencer, he has been named among the Top 50 Social CEOs by the Huffington Post and Forbes. His most recent book is Human to Human: #H2H. This article originally appeared at BryanKramer.com.

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by Brandon Gutman
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Brandon is an expert connector and seasoned business development professional. As Principal of Brand Approved, he's led the advisory to become the bridge between brand marketers and best of breed service providers that are reshaping the industry.

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