We had the pleasure this past weekend of joining several thousand other ardent foodies for LA Magazine’s Food Event 2013 — a cornucopia of flavors, textures and treats from across Southern California.

Participating restaurants included some of our favorites, like Malibu’s new V Restaurant and Bar, Wolfgang Puck’s venerable Spago (whose Hamachi ceviche was our second-favorite), the remarkably bold Bestia, and Santa Monica’s own FIG Bistro, whose luscious, richly flavored curried lamb rib earned our highest honors.  (The list of supporting libations was studded with standouts, too, including Ketel One, Stella Artois, Cielo Wines and, of course, Malibu Family Wines.)

But the event wasn’t just fun (which it was), or an inspiration for a full week of exercise (needed to work off an afternoon’s indulgence).

The remarkable sight of several thousand affluent, and otherwise quite busy Angelenos taking the time to drive deep into the Santa Monica Mountains to taste, sip and share was also an an inspiring reminder of the importance, for brand managers and marketers, of determining exactly what it is about your brand that people connect with most passionately.

Which is tougher than it sounds. In our experience, there’s an understandable tendency for marketers to pour everything into brand messaging, out of fear that by leaving something out you may lose some audience interest around the edges. Over the years we’ve sat down with plenty of clients in search of that single tactic or idea that spikes traffic, attention and sales.

Problem is, they haven’t done the work of figuring out what it is about their brand, or site, or service that best connects with the target. The reality is that the “all things to all audiences” strategy most often renders a brand diluted and undefined. Better, instead, to find out what the people on your radar are most passionate about, and then begin the rigorous, sometimes-painful process of honing your brand and your messaging in ways that connect with those passions.