Branding That Works: Buffalo Wild Wings

In Branding, Case Studies by Jake Gibbs

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“Wings, beer, and sports” – three things that while perhaps not technically found on Mavlov’s hierarchy of needs, are certainly on the wishlist of most Americans, especially come football season! Founded in 1982 and now with almost 1,100 franchises in all 50 states, Buffalo Wild Wings (BWW) proves that delivering these 3 simple things well, combined with effective branding, leads to tremendous growth and profitability.

From Buffalo Wild Wings, we learn that it pays to be bold with your value proposition, to differentiate yourself from your competitors, and to have a completely unique tone and design.

What have they done to successfully stand out in the super-saturated restaurant market? How can your company apply their successful patterns? Let’s look at 4 factors: differentiation, execution, communication, and design.

1. Differentiation

BWW zigs when most other restaurants zag. Countless restaurants provide top-quality, mouth-watering, leave-you-full-and-happy food. To stand out, BWW not only provides great food, but does 2 things differently.

First, deep-fried, richly-spiced chicken wings in many seasonings are not commonly offered at most restaurants.

Second, the combination of their unique menu, beer, and sports viewing experience is completely unique. You’d be hard pressed to find a better place to enjoy watching your team play. In other words, if you want to go to a restaurant AND watch a game, BWW is your place, hands down.

WHAT ARE YOU OR CAN YOU DO DIFFERENTLY FROM YOUR COMPETITORS?

2. Execution

Wings. Beer. Sports. All three are promised, and all three are delivered extremely well.

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  • Wings: Not only do they have delicious wings, offered in 16 different seasonings, but their entire menu is appropriate for sports games. BWW intentionally caters their menu to go hand-in-hand with sports. From nachos, chili queso dip, potato wedges, burgers, and philly cheese steaks, your hands and belly will be full as you cheer on your team. Check out the full menu here and see for yourself how well they execute a sports-friendly menu.
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  • Beer: From their fancy nucleated glasses, wide variety of domestic, imported, and crafted beers, and well-trained bartenders, BWW ensures that fans enjoy a good swig or two (or more if their team is losing!).
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  • Sports: “If you want to watch it, we’ll put it on,” they promise. Boasting 30+ high definition, large TVs per restaurant, they play everything from football and Olympics to UFC and hockey. There isn’t a better venue to watch a game then BWW.
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HOW STRONG IS YOUR CORE VALUE PROPOSITION AND HOW WELL DO YOU EXECUTE IT?

3. Communication

BWW knows their target audience: sports aficionados and socialites who want to make the game an experience. Their customers don’t come to eat and discuss politics and life. They come to chow down, have fun, and cheer on their team. Knowing this, let’s look at how their tone addresses this audience well.

Specifically, their communication style is edgy, funny, and fun – totally appropriate and effective. Check out the following examples from their website and commercials to get a feel.

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This is exactly how customers want to be communicated with – on a conversational, non-stuffy way. Bravo, BWW.

DOES YOUR BRAND HAVE A COMPELLING, UNIQUE TONE OR DO YOU SETTLE FOR TRADITIONAL AND BORING?

4.Design

Last but not least, let’s look at the BWW design choices and how they reinforce their fun brand vibe. Check out their branding guidelines here.

  • Logo: Their logo is immediately recognizable. It highlights their primary offering, buffalo wild wings. No one else has a logo like it, making their brand stand out from the crowds.
  • Colors: It takes guts to choose yellow as a primary brand color. Not only is it a challenging color to design with, but if not executed well it can appear tacky and unappealing. But BWW pairs yellow with black and white! Genius. Not only does this create amazing contrast, but it makes yellow shine on calls to action and other focal points. Yellow, which few other companies are willing to make the focal point color, makes BWW differentiated from all others. When you think yellow and restaurants, you think BWW.
  • Fonts: Their 2 fonts, Aachen Bold and Trade Gothic, complete the feel of casual, bold, and fun. The blocky headline fonts make them stand out and the secondary font is easily readable.
  • Overall: From compelling images, interesting shapes and layouts, and excellent contrast, BWW follows all the design best practices to create a highly compelling brand.

DOES YOUR BRAND DESIGN SET YOU APART? DO YOU NEED TO REBRAND?

From Buffalo Wild Wings, we learn that it pays to be bold with your value proposition, to differentiate yourself from your competitors, and to have a completely unique tone and design. Combined, these elements make you stand out from the crowd and leave plenty of customers full and happy, whether their team won or lost…badly.