At the National Restaurant Association Marketing Executives Group (MEG) conference, the keynote speech from Dan Kim, founder of Red Mango, was a real treat. Kim’s marketing strategy is elegant, and there was even something for a pricing aficionado like me.

Kim attributes the growth of his frozen yogurt and smoothie chain to three principles:

1. Respond to customer trends with prediction and innovation.

While Kim maintains that customers can easily state their preferences, they can’t tell you what they need. He suggests that it is up to a leader to utilize available information on trends and behaviors and predict what customers will want next. This is his definition of “innovation.”

2. Deliver value uniquely.    

Kim was quick to point out that, for Red Mango, value is about offering the right product and the right way to deliver it. For him, value in a recession does not equal price. He pointed out that the company has avoided daily-deal and group-buying programs.

Instead of coupons, customers want control and variety, and customization and co-creation are key. Hence, the company’s self-service arrangement at its stores, where customers can choose from 112 flavors in five to six machines. Customers pay by weight, and they actually then tend to spend more.

Red Mango ensures it is delivering value to customers by measuring guest satisfaction feedback and social networking.

3. Let customers own and shape your brand.                            

In today’s environment of ease-of-access to information and heightened competition, customers embrace brands by continuously rediscovering and shaping them. For Red Mango, in-store ownership places guests in full control of flavors, toppings and portion.

Dan Kim

Because social networks enable advocacy and constant connection, Kim believes, they are the most powerful way to engage customers. Kim is an advocate for social networking for all businesses. In fact, he concluded his presentation at the MEG conference with a Twitter-friendly summary.

Lastly, according to Kim, customers want the “four Cs”: comfort, connection, convenience and control. Control and comfort happen when customers dictate portioning. Convenience and connection are served with innovations such as contactless payments and mobile ordering.

When asked if he sees Red Mango as a restaurant or retail brand, Kim responds that he is not a restaurant guy. Instead, he envisions Red Mango as a consumer brand that represents a lifestyle, which makes it beyond a restaurant brand.

Restaurant guy or not, Kim knows great marketing.