Applebee’s America | Ron Fournier

Summary of: Applebee’s America: How Successful Political, Business, and Religious Leaders Connect with the New American Community
By: Ron Fournier


In today’s rapidly changing world, the key to successful marketing lies in connecting with people’s values and building a sense of community. Applebee’s America discusses how political leaders, businesses, and religious organizations can learn and adapt from examples set by Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. The book explores how these leaders used ‘Gut Values Connection’ to win over voters, and how the same approach can be employed to establish a deep connection with different target audiences. The summary you are about to read will shed light on the importance of authenticity, adapting to changes and, leveraging consumer data to engage with a diverse range of customers.

Gut Values Connection

The key to winning American votes lies in speaking to their hearts rather than their heads. In the 1990s and early 2000s, Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush realized the importance of making a Gut Values Connection with Americans. By appealing to citizens’ values rather than listing policy positions, they were able to make a deep connection. Clinton used the LifeTargeting strategy in his re-election campaign, which combined political and consumer data to divide potential supporters into nine subgroups. Bush took it a step further by targeting people according to their lifestyles and anger points, using microtargeting on cable TV, and creating a website for Republican voters. Both presidents understood that Americans craved a sense of community and togetherness and that the key to success was being genuine while drawing on those innate needs.

Applebee’s: Building Customer Connections Through Community

Applebee’s, inspired by the Clinton and Bush political campaigns, prioritizes building a Gut Values Connection with its customers. Its emphasis on community over product quality has helped it establish a comfortable and inviting environment for customers, especially in the suburbs. To achieve this, they implemented an adaptive business strategy that includes monitoring consumer attitudes and lifestyles by conducting consumer surveys and adjusting its menu offerings accordingly. Applebee’s aimed to become a place where people could gather and feel at home in a friendly interior design. To achieve its goal, Applebee’s focused on four areas, namely appealing to families looking for a night out, attracting singles with their bar-and-grill format, offering healthier menu items, and positioning itself as a neighborhood venue for essential social events. The corporation’s overall marketing strategy is centered on “marketing a lifestyle” and “selling a connection” by hiring great connectors and maintaining a welcoming atmosphere.

Building a Megachurch through Microtargeting

Rick Warren founded Saddleback, a megachurch, by adapting to the attitudes of Americans who found traditional churches tedious, unwelcoming, greedy, and inconvenient to attend. To create a welcoming, meaningful community, he microtargeted his congregants according to their lifestyles, demographics, and psychographics. He employed personal preaching that talked to his flock about their daily concerns and then used Scripture to illustrate their experiences. His marketing tactics made his church an attractive ground for politicians during the presidential campaigns. Warren’s Saddleback aimed at providing a connection in the potentially isolating atmosphere of the suburbs by helping congregants “meet new friends” and get acquainted with their neighbors.

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