What I Learned About Marketing From A Dinner At Olive Garden


On a somewhat recent and even more rare date night with my wife, I was sitting in a booth at Olive Garden stressing over whether I should start my $12.99 Tour of Italy with soup or salad.

I was there because my five years of marriage intersected with this deal of a lifetime — all for under 575 calories — that was introduced to me on Pinterest. What a great deal I thought.

One hour, four breadsticks and a tortellini later, I was waddling out the door holding a box of leftovers in one hand and my bursting belly in the other. What a great place to eat I thought.

And that’s when I began to think about marketing (because that’s how I spend my Saturday nights), and how even marketers with strong brands can always benefit from demand gen. I was there because it was Olive Garden. And who doesn’t love Olive Garden?  But I was also there because my Pinterest feed was a mouthwatering feast of affordable chain Italian cuisine.

It’s important to fully understand the dynamics of these different marketing initiatives, and how it intertwines with any CMO’s efforts. Just like breadsticks and soup, you can’t have one without the other.

Demand Generation & Branding: Why You Need Both

Demand generation, is the bait. It’s the solution to your problem, the item you’re looking for, the service you need and the deal you can’t refuse. It exists in the form of featured products, coupons, promotions, and free trials.  

Demand generation is using Pinterest to offer unlimited salad and breadsticks. It’s helping your customers find you when they’re not sure it’s you they are looking for.

Branding is the hook. It’s the thought that enters your mind before a purchase and the feeling that lingers there long after. It exists in the form of quality, customer loyalty, trust, authority and authenticity.

Demand gen  is looking for a delicious restaurant and finding Olive Garden. Branding is hearing “unlimited salad and breadsticks” and thinking Olive Garden.

How Do These Tactics Work Together??

Demand gen is what drives your brand. It introduces new customers to you, when they’re looking for your product or service but don’t yet know they are looking for you. And while building a brand doesn’t happen overnight, the efforts to do so can start with the  material you’re publishing today. Here are three ways CMO’s can better use their content to drive their brand.

Educate, don’t just sell.

Your content, videos, commercials and graphics can’t just be a hook with no bait. Produce and publish educational material that shows off your respective subject matter expertise or discusses industry trends. Develop how-to tutorials related to your product or service. Publish a list of tips or advice. Answer the FAQ’s of your audience.

Making an effort to inform your audience brings two key benefits to your brand: For one, it will showcase your authority. And two, your audience will respect you for treating them as people and not dollar signs.

Be consistent.

Your published media should have a consistent voice. If you’re Lexus, your media is smart, sleek and sophisticated. If you’re GEICO, your media is funny and light hearted. Know your brand voice and speak to your audience in a consistent tone across all platforms to reinforce your character. Don’t deviate from your brand voice or create a sense of multiple personalities. And don’t be afraid to remain in character while engaging with your audience personally.  

Release often.  

Branding never stops and neither should your content efforts. In order to keep up with the latest in your industry, you need to produce and publish material on a continuous basis. Staying on top of the market means staying ahead of your customers and shows that you’re active, engaged and involved. Plus, your competitors may fill gaps that were previously less competitive. Demand gen, just like branding, is not a one-and-done project.

Demand generation is what unearths prospects and generates sales. But branding is what creates loyal lifetime customers.

Always keep your brand in mind when formulating your demand generation materials. Properly aligning both efforts will solidify your position in the marketplace and build the right kind of customer base.

I can’t wait for our next date night so I can take another Tour of Italy while still getting home before the babysitter charges for overtime. I’ll go because of the demand generation. I’ll stay for the brand.

About The Author, Christian Worstell

Christian is a Senior Copywriter at Demand Signals. When he’s not helping clients generate inbound leads through search-optimized and generally awesome content, Christian can be found chasing a little white ball around golf courses in Raleigh.