How @Canlis Crushes It

I had the good fortune of attending the Puget Sound American Marketing Association lunch yesterday (@PS_AMA), where the speakers were the Canlis brothers. If you don’t know about these guys, here’s the quick low-down –

Canlis is one of Seattle’s premiere restaurants. It’ been around for over 60+ years. It’s got a legacy and menu that is second to none. It’s been nominated again and again as one of America’s best restaurants. But it also has something else in its wheelhouse: A huge branding problem.

Both the brothers Canlis inherited the restaurant from their father, who inherited it from his father before that. As a result of such longevity, the restaurant has a few baked in perceptions. When Mark and Brian went around the room to ask people to describe Canlis in one word, answers like ‘Excellence’ were offset by ‘Stuffy’ and ‘Exclusive’. Not words you want to hear when you’re in a less than welcoming economy.

So the brothers set out on a quest to rediscover themselves from the ground up. Wiping the slate clean, they searched for the soul of their brand and landed on three words they wanted people to associate with Canlis –  “trustworthy, generous, other-centered”. A restaurant that served great food, of course, but also understood that customers were trusting them with most valuable asset: time. A restaurant that gave more than it received. A restaurant that revolved around the people it served.

This quest coincided with the immense rise of social media, and they smartly used this to communicate their new spirit to the community. You can read all about their expert use of this here, which is well worth the price of admission (and ties into the the above photograph).

This whole story dovetails nicely with a book that’s been kicking around the HCFmedia office, The Thank You Economy by the one and only Gary Vaynerchuck. In it, he points out this astounding fact from Eric Schmidt of Google: Every two days, we now produce as much content as was produced since the beginning of time until 2003. Read that again. Our culture has become a content creating machine.

So Gary asks the question: With so much content being made, how do we differentiate ourselves? What really makes a great company?  In his opinion, one thing.

Good intent.The Thank You Economy.

That’s what Canlis has discovered and solidified over the course of 60+ years. It has to be foundational in every company, in every person, in every experience.

Now that’s something to chew on.


Author: Chris Donaldson

Chris Donaldson is Executive Producer at HCFmedia. Can film making change the world? The Short Answer: Yes.

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