"Why Iteration is not Innovation"

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How legacy brands with legacy business models can harness AI to drive results

The word ‘legacy’, when used to describe things like brands or businesses, almost always contains a tinge of condescension. There’s also often a healthy dose of reverence for those legacy scions of an industry, but in the business press, it almost always connotes an outdated, outmoded business model — an old-fashioned way of doing things not compatible with modern technology or today’s consumers. And while I can’t speak on behalf of the technology press apparatus, I think a lot of that condescension is misplaced.

It’s not that legacy firms are by their nature luddites, curmudgeonly or unwilling to change, but rather that some legacy brands/industries are most definitely those things. I would argue just as many legacy brands make it a priority to adapt, pivot and compete in entirely new ways with new technologies to stay not only with the times, but rather to usher in the next wave. Because legacy brands became legacy by the nature of being successful enough to stay around that long — and you don’t get to that status without some useful adaptation and evolution.

What that looks like today

You see this with technology companies all the time. Dell pivots away from focusing solely on PCs and becomes a massive player in the enterprise network software industry through a shrewd acquisition of EMC and its subsidiary VMWare. Amazon moves beyond eCommerce to become the largest cloud computing provider in the country (which makes up an outsized percentage of Amazon profits when compared to overall revenue of the company). But less ‘glamorous’ companies in more traditional industries are taking best practices from the tech industry and applying it to great effect in their own market segments.

Take TGI Friday’s for instance.

Yes, that TGI Friday’s.

They’re using AI to drive increased customer engagement. By 500% in the trailing 14 months, according to the company. That’s no joke.

What does that look like, and how does AI actually help a true legacy brand in a legacy industry like TGI Friday’s within the Casual Dining industry?


“AI has created a tremendous impact in driving our off-premise business in the last year,” Sherif Mityas, TGIF’s Chief Experience Officer, says. “Everything we do that collects, captures, analyzes, and utilizes data for the benefit of our guests is a critical component of our marketing strategy, while using artificial intelligence to help us personalize engagement is critical to our success.”

Venture Beat breaks down what that looks like in practice:

The company collects a constellation of data points about customers — a snapshot of who you are, what you like, how you interact with the brand, what taste profiles you fit, when you like to order, and when you go out to eat.

From there, their AI tool helps craft the multi-stage, multichannel personalized communication strategy — for instance, a message about their new salmon salad, to you the salmon lover, just when you’re most likely to be thinking about dinner — that will have the greatest statistical probability of making you open your wallet and hand TGI Fridays your dining-out dollars.

“I’ve now created a personal, relevant engagement through the understanding of your data that’s designed to create a next-best action,” Mityas says. “That next-best action could be, you order from me online. You come into my restaurant. You make a reservation. Something happens because I engage with you in a more personal fashion. That’s what we’re doing… It’s meaningless to market to segments, millennials versus boomers, single white women in New York or soccer moms in California,” he says. “To differentiate your brand and create that engagement, you have to get to Rachel versus Mark. The only way to do that is to get into and really start understanding the use cases around AI and machine learning, how that can help you as a brand and help your marketing stack make that happen.”

The takeaway? No matter your industry, brand or business model, you too can utilize and weaponize emerging technologies to better serve your customers and drive revenue and profit growth for your company. You might not know how to do that today, but that’s where an innovation expert like ENO8 comes into the picture — we help you figure out what new technologies are here, what’s coming down the pike, and what combination thereof can help you take your business to the next level.


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Jeff Francis

Jeff Francis is a veteran entrepreneur and founder of Dallas-based digital product studio ENO8. Jeff founded ENO8 to empower companies of all sizes to design, develop and deliver innovative, impactful digital products. With more than 18 years working with early-stage startups, Jeff has a passion for creating and growing new businesses from the ground up, and has honed a unique ability to assist companies with aligning their technology product initiatives with real business outcomes.

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