Reality TV: May the Best Brand Win?

Like millions of others out there, I’m an admitted reality television addict. I used to feel a bit guilty, but recently I started noticing PR lessons in my reality shows.  Clearly I can now justify this pastime.

This moment of enlightenment occurred while watching The Great Food Truck Race on The Food Network. Each week the teams travel in their food trucks to sell their fare for two days. Whichever team makes the least amount of money goes home. There’s the occasional immunity challenge (they call it a “truck stop”) but no subjective weighing of who has the better personality or “really wants this.” 

When it comes to making money, and thus winning the competition, one team is blowing everyone else out of the water every single week — the Nom Nom Truck from Los Angeles.  Their advantage? A killer communications strategy.

Here’s a few of the tactics the Nom Nom team has employed:

1.    Building partnerships. Each week the trucks travel to a new city, and the Nom Nom team works the phone from the road to find a local grocery store, farmers’ market or coffee shop to partner with. This ensures a good spot to park, and often the partner will direct its customers to visit the truck. Last week their partner even sent out a message to their Facebook fans to let them know the Nom Nom truck was in town.

2.    Branding.  Nom Nom isn’t just a truck; it’s a brand with a clear design strategy. There’s a bright logo, a memorable name and even apparel. The team even has its own terminology – for instance, fans of the truck are called “nomsters.”

4.  Media relations.  It doesn’t help the teams any if the local media only covers the competition after the teams have left. The Nom Nom team proactively called the media to let them know they’d be in town, and invited them to come try their food. They got a mention (along with their location) in the newspaper, leading to a rush of patrons.

3.    Skipping the “challenges.” Nom Nom did something I’ve never seen before in a reality competition: they ignored an immunity challenge. While in New Mexico, the teams were asked to create a dish with peppers. A local chef tried each of the pepper dishes, picked the best and granted the team who made his favorite dish immunity. The Nom Nom Truck team took a look at their line wrapping around the block and decided to stick with making their food instead of trying to be someone they weren’t, and ended up making nearly double the profit of any other truck that week. 

For the record, the team’s Vietnamese food has so far outsold burgers, sandwiches, French food and Cajun fare in California, New Mexico and even Texas. Selling unfamiliar food could be seen as a disadvantage, but not when you have as much going for you as the Nom Nom team does.

Moral of the story? The other teams could just as easily be doing these things, instead of simply wondering while the Nom Nom team doubles their profit every week. Maybe your organization isn’t in a reality competition, but if you follow this team’s example, it might actually benefit you to act like you are.