You vs. Them – A branding lesson in understanding your audience
23/07/17 Branding & Marketing Strategy # , , , , , , , ,

You vs. Them – A branding lesson in understanding your audience

You’re reaching the launching point of a new brand and you’re anxiously waiting to unfurl the new look and brand to the world. You’re certain it will be received with positive feedback, or, at least, it won’t be hated. You know this because you’ve guided the process from beginning to end based on what you know and like mixed with some gut intuition. The brand launches and something isn’t right. People don’t dislike the brand, nor are they drawn to it quite the way you thought. The audience doesn’t react or attract the way you planned and you’re left wondering what went wrong.

This scenario plays out quite frequently. The storied brand was supposed to draw in the millennial audience, but decision makers used their own ideas, perceptions, and, often times, misconceptions, to guide the brand’s look and feel. The results isn’t necessarily an outright failure, but the glaring miss will get bigger and bigger as time goes on if not rectified.

Unfortunately, branding can be quite subjective and very personal to the people involved. No matter how objective we seek to make the process of designing a brand, there is always a bit of subjectivity that seeps in. More often than not, during the evaluation of design is where subjectivity comes into play. Over the years we’ve discussed how we can go about reducing the amount of subjectivity in branding, but we haven’t found the answer as of yet.

The problem arises because crafting a brand is inherently a very personal task. Usually brands are forged in the hearts and minds of a person despite some stating that it’s purely a business transaction. In short, they’re building it to make money. Despite the financial goals, we inevitably end up in back and forth over look and feel that’s fueled by that person’s feelings, rather than the audience of focus.

So how do you start thinking like your audience? Here are a few ways to begin:

Find peace with the fact that you may not like the look. If you’re not a member of the audience you’re trying to attract, then you SHOULDN’T “like” the look very much. It’s not for you. It’s for them. In order to move forward you’re going to have to swallow your pride of authorship and make peace with not liking the look. Unless you and people like you are going to be patronizing the brand, your opinions and personal tastes have to be put aside.

If you don’t get it, it’s probably a good thing. A lot of times we catch clients saying, “I don’t get it.” It usually happens when the age, sex, or cultural divide is significant between the client and their intended audience. Our response is always, “you’re not supposed to, they are.” This is when focus groups can be a good tool. Getting a small group of people that represent your core audience will help assess the strength of visual elements in a brand.

Don’t look to family/friends for feedback. Feedback is crucial in helping form ideas and designs that hit the mark for your audience. However, random, knee-jerk feedback is rarely valuable or accurate. Asking your spouse if they like something isn’t viable feedback upon which you should build a brand. People’s perceptions are formed based on a culmination of what they know and what they have experienced. Their reactions to certain questions will inevitably be skewed by preconceived notions and ideas. Therefore, if you want innovative thinking, asking friends and family is an exercise in futility. You’ll definitely get an answer, and it will certainly be bad advice.

Force yourself to see the world through their eyes. It comes down to forcing yourself to see through the eyes of your audience rather than your own. This is the toughest thing to do, but one of the most important skills you can foster. When you start to trust what your eyes are seeing, despite what your gut says, then you can start to pull together brand identities that work and succeed. It’s about them, not you, so always try to reset into their thinking before evaluating visuals. What would they like? What would speak to their personalities and world?

Seeing the world through another’s eyes is difficult, but something that must be done if you’re to create a brand for an audience other than yourself. It takes purposeful controlling of pride and gut reactions to objectively evaluate design through the lens of others. However, when done correctly, it can be the difference between a disconnected concept that you like, and a holistically connected concept that’s isn’t your favorite. One of those scenarios succeeds, the other plateaus.

Here is more on building consumer connections for restaurant brands

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Key components of successful branding: Be brave. Hold steady.
12/07/17 Branding & Marketing Strategy # , , , , , , , , , , ,

Key components of successful branding: Be brave. Hold steady.

One of the biggest causes of brands missing the mark on innovation is loss of bravery from one or all parties involved. What usually starts as bold conviction early in a project wanes to a point of “different enough” by the time implementation rolls around. The fear of creating something that’s not going to work with a market. But where do these emotions derive?

There is an underlying need for certainty when crafting a new brand – be it a startup branding initiative or a rebranding effort. People want assurances that the new positioning, identity, and other elements will resonate, take hold, and grow successfully. Having this desire for a benchmark for what’s “right” results in emulating existing brands. It’s easy to say, “Hey, it’s working for Craft Brewery X, so we should do the same.”

Unfortunately this thinking is exemplary of fearful thinking and it results in “me too” brands, their products, identities, and all other facets. The world doesn’t need another Stone Brewing, and you’re not going to outdo a brand at its own game. No one can be a better Stone, than Stone themselves. It’s okay to respect and even admire the leaders in an industry, but finding your own stride and your own unique brand takes courage and bravery.

When you’re truly innovative, you won’t have the assurances of previous case studies or examples. The forest is dark, and scary. The only tools you have are sound strategies based on trend analysis, market insights, and foresight. You have to have a mix of gut and trust of knowledge. You have to build the case, believe in it, then eventually take a leap in the abyss knowing that you may be wrong. But if you’ve done the legwork, crafted the strategy, and built the brand’s components to bolster and build around that strategy, the leap shouldn’t be that scary.

Be brave, hold steady. That’s how brands like Stone Brewing, Chipotle, and other innovators rose about the crowd. They trusted their instincts and knowledge, while crowd was following the leader.

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Restaurant Design & Development Magazine Article: 5 ways to bridge the branding & interior design divide
01/06/17 Branding & Marketing Strategy , In the press # , , , , , , , , ,

Restaurant Design & Development Magazine Article: 5 ways to bridge the branding & interior design divide

Originally published in Restaurant Design & Development magazine

We’re all familiar with restaurant interiors. We’re all also familiar with restaurant brands. But over the years, I’ve noticed something: More often than not, the brand identity does not align with the experience created by the interior design. Individually, both may be brilliant — each with their own moments of glory — but together, they fall short, and the gap created by various designers is visually obvious. I’m calling for a collective effort to end this disservice for the sake of our clients — and for our crafts.

When someone visits a restaurant for the first time, it’s a moment of truth. Will perceptions be solidified? From the service to the food to the ambience, there are numerous opportunities to dent — even ruin — the brand as a whole. Despite the particular event’s weight, one mustn’t forget that the impression a guest leaves with doesn’t happen haphazardly.

Trying out a new restaurant (and subsequent visits) often happens only after countless touches with the brand. The prospective guest must hear about the restaurant first. Friends might have praised their experience. The prospective guest might read a review in a magazine or online. Maybe he or she saw an advertisement. Before entering the restaurant, many people visit the website to learn more about it. They may have even followed the restaurant on social media before visiting. Only
after these impressions does a consumer move from unaware and uninterested to an engaged customer.

Advertising, word of mouth, digital outlets, reviews and more all culminate to build expectations, guide perceptions and usher a person through the front doors for the first time. Once at the threshold of the restaurant itself, the space via architecture and interior continues the storytelling. Do the architecture and interior design continue the experience seamlessly or do they convey a different story about the brand?

Often, the brand experience before a first visit is vastly different than the on-site experience. The reason for this is quite clear: There was a blatant lack of collaboration and communication between the interior designers and the branding team. Generally, no single entity is at fault for the divide. In some cases, the architecture is well underway before a branding professional is brought on board, or vice versa. No matter the scenario, it’s rare that these two crucial partners communicate and collaborate the way they should.

Most restaurant startup projects see a mix of creatives working in tandem. Each partner focuses on his or her own discipline and on the process of ushering the client through discovery, design and implementation. In this typical scenario, a restaurant opens with a beautiful space and a beautiful brand. However, these two crucial parts of the overall brand experience compete more than they complement. They are often visually disjointed. It’s not always a glaring difference, and sometimes it’s not even consciously noticeable. However, there exists a visual and emotional rift where a holistic and symbiotic relationship should exist.

There are five key steps to ensure the branding team and the interiors team work to create a seamless experience for guests.

Read the suggestions and ideas on RDDMag.com 

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QSR, NRN & Campaign all publish new articles penned by Joseph
01/02/17 Branding & Marketing Strategy , In the press # , , , , , , , , , , ,

QSR, NRN & Campaign all publish new articles penned by Joseph

2017 has started off with a bang. Our work has been recognized by industry leading publications, GD USA and Print, and over the last couple weeks restaurant and advertising industry publications have shared our thinking. We’re constantly pushing the envelope here at Vigor, and part of doing that is having a finger on the pulse of people’s behaviors and how it affects the restaurant and beverage industries. Both industries are constantly fighting in a sea of sameness; vying for just a modicum of attention from key markets. Whether startup, or growing brands, understanding how your brand fits into their world is paramount for success. The three articles recently published cover some key issues facing restaurant and beverage brands, today. Have a read, and please share if you enjoy.

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Why Are Beer Brands Still Ignoring Women?

Campaign Magazine

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4 Ways Restaurants Can Win Over Generation Z

Nation’s Restaurant News & Restaurant Hospitality

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The New Rules for Naming Your Restaurant

QSR Magazine

 

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GD USA recognizes our work for Smoke & Duck Sauce
27/01/17 Agency News , In the press # , , , , , ,

GD USA recognizes our work for Smoke & Duck Sauce

When we set out to help our friends over at Smoke & Duck Sauce get into the world, we had one focus: Get people to pay attention to things they thought they knew. For us the opportunity came in Americanizing common Asian food items like the zodiac placemat and takeout menus. Our big thinking led to a redesign of the zodiac mats bringing it up to today’s world. The takeout menus serve as the perfect shape for folding 1 of 1000 origami cranes.

GD USA recently recognized this work via their website. “We’re honored to have the work recognized by such a renowned publication. As readers of GD, we have found the content shared to be of the highest quality and greatest value for the design community. Now, we have a little piece of our hearts and minds contributing to that level of design,” chirped Joseph Szala, Principal and Brand Strategist of Vigor.

From all of us at Vigor, to the GD USA team, thanks a million, friends!

View the full case study for Smoke & Duck Sauce here.

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Featured Article in QSR Magazine: The New Rules for Restaurant Naming
07/01/17 In the press # , , , , , , , , ,

Featured Article in QSR Magazine: The New Rules for Restaurant Naming

Our principal and creative director, Joseph Szala, authored an article focused on successfully naming a restaurant. It starts with the passion driving the restaurant forward. Passion deeper than “good food, good service” table stakes. QSR Magazine picked up the article as an Outside Insights feature. Read it here.

Although published in QSR Magazine, the foundations for name remain relevant for other restaurant formats including Full Service (FSR), Fast Casuals, Casual Dining, and others. Furthermore, the beverage industry from craft beer to spirits and wine can glean the basics of good brand strategy and naming from the article.

Here are some quick quotes to spark your interest:

 

…you’re probably sitting in a room with a committee throwing the proverbial spaghetti on the wall and hoping that something sticks. Design by committee usually ends in a frustratingly boring result. When you have to appease multiple personalities with varying opinions the common result is vanilla.

The strongest brand names are bolstered by detailed, visceral meaning beyond product and service. In today’s world, “good product, good service,” are tablestakes and bottom line expectations. They’re not differentiators by any stretch.

 

Read the full article by Joseph on QSR Magazine’s website »

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Erasing the Line: Why linear thinking is a fast-track to failing
29/04/16 Branding & Marketing Strategy # , , , , , , , ,

Erasing the Line: Why linear thinking is a fast-track to failing

When speaking with marketing professionals and restaurateurs conversations inevitably turn to new medias, or discussion of which medias are more successful than others. It’s easy to fall into these chats because the landscape of marketing tactics is an ever-changing world. Focusing on new medias or traditional tactics with new features isn’t wrong, but it does play into a large problem commonly found in the world of marketing restaurants and beverage brands: Linear thinking.

Often times marketing strategies take a media-first approach. Brands hear the latest and greatest thing, or a sales person sells them on a “magical silver bullet” media. They take the bait and run with implementing creative specific to said media and anxious await the results. The results rarely show up, and when they do they are almost never up to expectation or promise. Immediately, it’s the fault of the media because “it doesn’t work” and “not worth the money.”

The problem isn’t with media, it’s in the thinking. See, successful marketing isn’t a linear process. Each consumer has a different journey he or she takes to land with food on a fork or drink in hand. We’re a dynamic people who are affected differently by different things and influenced at different moments of our lives. With this kind of ebb and flow, it makes sense that no singular media outlet or tactic can claim to be the end-all, be-all. Nor can you expect it to delivery on such lofty promises.

Instead of attempting to draw a line between a media and the end result of butts in seats, heads in beds, and/or drinks in hands, you need to retrain your brain to think of marketing as weaving a net. Successful marketing is an interwoven, interlocking team of many touch points that work in unison to create many opportunities for conversion. Collectively it is powerful and successful, but only as powerful as what’s locking them all together: The idea.

It’s the idea, the passion, and the “why” that matters most for a brand. That idea must be communicated concisely and with passionate fervor across every single interlocking moment. The idea should dictate the media that delivers it and the results can vary. It’s not always leading directly to a conversion of sale. Sometimes it’s building awareness, or boosting word of mouth. Sometimes the idea is meant to alter understanding or clear misconceptions. Even these semi-intangible results have undeniable benefits to the brand’s bottomline. It’s just extremely difficult to measure because the customer is on a journey that’s far from a straight point A to point B line. Instead, it’s a multiple destination experience. And, yes, it should end in sales. The “end” is just farther away than you think most times.

My advice is to destroy the idea of a straight line, and start thinking about each destination as opportunities to bolster brand love while ushering them towards the ultimate, but not final, destination of conversion.

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Vigor takes Silver in Graphis Design Annual
08/09/15 Agency News # , , , , ,

Vigor takes Silver in Graphis Design Annual

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of winning. Especially when the competition is fierce. We are honored to announce that Graphis, a renowned design publication, has saw fit to award Vigor silver in their 2016 Design Annual. The design and branding work for the Burger Radio food truck has officially been recognized as best in class.

We knew from the first call with David Levine, owner and visionary behind Burger Radio, that this project would be something special. There was immediate chemistry and alignment on the vision and idea from the beginning which led to an amazing working relationship. The results are a thriving burger business that’s looking to move to a brick and mortar location while receiving many accolades over the past couple of years. For us, we get recognized for a job well done.

Special thanks to David for letting us be just as crazy and he, and to giving us the opportunity to do excellent, now “award-winning,” work.

View the work »

View the annual »

Pre-order the annual in hardback or digital versions »

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Consumer connections are the key to impactful restaurant marketing
17/03/15 Uncategorized # , , ,

Consumer connections are the key to impactful restaurant marketing

Originally published in Restaurant Hospitality Magazine, read the article here.

The other night a new commercial for a restaurant chain caught my attention. It wasn’t the content nor was it the offer that snatched my curiosity, but rather the utter monotony and lack of anything new. The moment sparked a dive into my mental catalog of restaurant advertising and marketing, and one glaringly blatant commonality sprang out: Something vital is missing.

Restaurants are pretty good at following the “rules” of advertising and marketing. Show your product to create enticement. Offer a deal to woo a new trial or lukewarm previous customer. Create excitement and put it on for a limited time to “act now before it’s too late.” For decades this playbook was successful, but the game has evolved. It’s no longer enough, and the reason is both simple and complex. It’s devoid of any emotional tie or offering beyond the restaurant’s core offering: food.

Things have changed in consumer perceptions of brands. In general, they don’t trust advertising. Scandals in ethics, poor quality of food and the proliferation of the effects of processed products have corroded the legitimacy of restaurant brands. Traditional advertising has become akin to listening to a politician on his podium. It invokes skepticism and, as a result, gets tossed aside as mostly false or a downright lie in some extreme cases. One thing is left floating in the consumer’s mind: “So what? Prove it.”

Furthermore, product-focused advertising is all about the brand and not about consumers and their lifestyle. It’s an entirely selfish, “me-me-me” mentality, which makes it easy to ignore. Think about it. When is the last time you ever engaged with a person who told you how amazing they were? “Hi, I’m Joseph. I’m the coolest guy you’ll ever meet.” I’m surprised you got through that sentence without wanting to walk away. Restaurants must shift their focus to the consumer’s lifestyle and attitude, and what their product does to enhance them. Brands that do this successfully—such as Chipotle, Starbucks and Apple—have created a connection that’s hard to break, thereby fostering loyalty and brand evangelism.

Something bigger must be present beyond the latest ad campaign to not just attract, but also connect with consumers. Having a passion for something beyond the core product helps brands rise above competitors that focus on price and product alone. In the extremely aggressive and saturated restaurant industry this passionate purpose elevates a brand above the din.

A passionate purpose creates an emotional connection engrained in the company’s culture from the top down, inside to the outside. It permeates through every part of the business. In order to follow suit, a brand has to stop squawking flimsy promises and start walking the walk. That’s a tall order for any company, but one that is vital for gaining market share or halting a decline in some severe cases.

So, where does a brand start? Here are three tips to start the shift from product-centric marketing to emotional communications that are driven by a passionate purpose.

1. Toss the food focus and dig deeper to focus on people.

Although a good product is important, and showing your delicious glory shots of food shouldn’t stop, people are attracted to brands that reflect core values and beliefs that align with their own. They buy from brands that bolster and communicate their lifestyle and attitude. When someone buys a Starbucks coffee, it represents his or her busy lifestyle and concurrent need for catering to his or her specific demands. Think of the person who orders a double grande latte, skinny, heated to 130°. That is someone with demands and little time. The Starbucks brand represents a status that consumers wish to convey to the world, and that statement is what attracts and retains their loyal patrons.

2. Pinpoint a passionate purpose that connects with consumers.

Finding and pinpointing a passionate purpose may be something that comes easily to some brands, but can be much harder for others. It’s not as simple as brainstorming ideas in a room. It has to make sense and connect with people, while being legitimate and authentic. That only comes from in-depth consumer insights, brand strategy development and a dedication to threading the passionate purpose throughout the organization. Missing the mark won’t necessarily hurt a brand much, but sticking the landing will make all the difference.

3. Inject that purpose throughout every part of the business.

Chipotle’s renowned dedication to sustainable products, sourcing and the fair treatment of livestock connects with consumer interests because they live that passionate purpose. Chipotle has done little on-air advertising, instead relying on their actions to spark word of mouth. Actions do speak louder than words, especially in a situation where credibility is in question. Chipotle’s actions across the board add weight and credibility to their passionate purpose.

Considerations for purchase have increased in complexity. They have less to do with a restaurant’s product or deal, and more to do with what buying the brand communicates to world on behalf of the consumer. While good food and service are important, they have reached parity, leaving people looking for a larger reason to patronize one brand versus another. Brands like Starbucks and Chipotle convey a status that connects with consumers beyond utilitarian food offering. They tap into emotions that are bolstered throughout their respective companies, and it’s that emotion that needs to be injected into restaurant brand marketing. That’s the missing ingredient.

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Consumer connections are the key to impactful marketing
17/03/15 Branding & Marketing Strategy # , , , ,

Consumer connections are the key to impactful marketing

Originally published in Restaurant Hospitality Magazine, read the article here.

The other night a new commercial for a restaurant chain caught my attention. It wasn’t the content nor was it the offer that snatched my curiosity, but rather the utter monotony and lack of anything new. The moment sparked a dive into my mental catalog of restaurant advertising and marketing, and one glaringly blatant commonality sprang out: Something vital is missing.

Restaurants are pretty good at following the “rules” of advertising and marketing. Show your product to create enticement. Offer a deal to woo a new trial or lukewarm previous customer. Create excitement and put it on for a limited time to “act now before it’s too late.” For decades this playbook was successful, but the game has evolved. It’s no longer enough, and the reason is both simple and complex. It’s devoid of any emotional tie or offering beyond the restaurant’s core offering: food.

Things have changed in consumer perceptions of brands. In general, they don’t trust advertising. Scandals in ethics, poor quality of food and the proliferation of the effects of processed products have corroded the legitimacy of restaurant brands. Traditional advertising has become akin to listening to a politician on his podium. It invokes skepticism and, as a result, gets tossed aside as mostly false or a downright lie in some extreme cases. One thing is left floating in the consumer’s mind: “So what? Prove it.”

Furthermore, product-focused advertising is all about the brand and not about consumers and their lifestyle. It’s an entirely selfish, “me-me-me” mentality, which makes it easy to ignore. Think about it. When is the last time you ever engaged with a person who told you how amazing they were? “Hi, I’m Joseph. I’m the coolest guy you’ll ever meet.” I’m surprised you got through that sentence without wanting to walk away. Restaurants must shift their focus to the consumer’s lifestyle and attitude, and what their product does to enhance them. Brands that do this successfully—such as Chipotle, Starbucks and Apple—have created a connection that’s hard to break, thereby fostering loyalty and brand evangelism.

Something bigger must be present beyond the latest ad campaign to not just attract, but also connect with consumers. Having a passion for something beyond the core product helps brands rise above competitors that focus on price and product alone. In the extremely aggressive and saturated restaurant industry this passionate purpose elevates a brand above the din.

A passionate purpose creates an emotional connection engrained in the company’s culture from the top down, inside to the outside. It permeates through every part of the business. In order to follow suit, a brand has to stop squawking flimsy promises and start walking the walk. That’s a tall order for any company, but one that is vital for gaining market share or halting a decline in some severe cases.

So, where does a brand start? Here are three tips to start the shift from product-centric marketing to emotional communications that are driven by a passionate purpose.

1. Toss the food focus and dig deeper to focus on people.

Although a good product is important, and showing your delicious glory shots of food shouldn’t stop, people are attracted to brands that reflect core values and beliefs that align with their own. They buy from brands that bolster and communicate their lifestyle and attitude. When someone buys a Starbucks coffee, it represents his or her busy lifestyle and concurrent need for catering to his or her specific demands. Think of the person who orders a double grande latte, skinny, heated to 130°. That is someone with demands and little time. The Starbucks brand represents a status that consumers wish to convey to the world, and that statement is what attracts and retains their loyal patrons.

2. Pinpoint a passionate purpose that connects with consumers.

Finding and pinpointing a passionate purpose may be something that comes easily to some brands, but can be much harder for others. It’s not as simple as brainstorming ideas in a room. It has to make sense and connect with people, while being legitimate and authentic. That only comes from in-depth consumer insights, brand strategy development and a dedication to threading the passionate purpose throughout the organization. Missing the mark won’t necessarily hurt a brand much, but sticking the landing will make all the difference.

3. Inject that purpose throughout every part of the business.

Chipotle’s renowned dedication to sustainable products, sourcing and the fair treatment of livestock connects with consumer interests because they live that passionate purpose. Chipotle has done little on-air advertising, instead relying on their actions to spark word of mouth. Actions do speak louder than words, especially in a situation where credibility is in question. Chipotle’s actions across the board add weight and credibility to their passionate purpose.

Considerations for purchase have increased in complexity. They have less to do with a restaurant’s product or deal, and more to do with what buying the brand communicates to world on behalf of the consumer. While good food and service are important, they have reached parity, leaving people looking for a larger reason to patronize one brand versus another. Brands like Starbucks and Chipotle convey a status that connects with consumers beyond utilitarian food offering. They tap into emotions that are bolstered throughout their respective companies, and it’s that emotion that needs to be injected into restaurant brand marketing. That’s the missing ingredient.

no responses