If you’re running a venue, you’re uniquely positioned for all sorts of branding opportunities. Danielle Veldre investigates ways in which you can get your name on the map.
Taking your sandwich away from your local lunch place in your plain paper bag, consider for a minute the golden arches that would appear on a bag from a very large burger joint.
That curved yellow line has a lot of information wrapped up in it—we instantly know what it means. And think about the ubiquity of that packaging and how every item you come into contact with in that burger joint has some kind of manifestation of the logo, or message of what the brand stands for.
Now consider how successful that company is as a business. That’s no coincidence.
McDonald’s is judged in the marketing business as the master class in branding. And while you may not consider your restaurant or cafe to be anything like the (admittedly, sometimes reviled) fast food giant, there are still many lessons you can take away, even if you choose not to do the same with their food.
Packaging is a workhorse of most restaurants and cafes, used to carry food or drink from one place to another. It’s a necessary expense, and sometimes it even carries the brand of the outlet on it. But it’s worth thinking about where else the humble paper bag might take your business.
The core of what a brand
is, according to branding expert Richard Henderson, is the experience.
“A brand doesn’t exist without an experience,” he says.
And he would know, having worked on some of the biggest brands in the world, including the Olympic Games.
Henderson, who is the principal of branding consultancy R-Co, says because of the nature of a dining outlet, it is uniquely positioned to take advantage of building a strong brand through the experience a customer has.
“What a brand loves is a captive audience and, in a restaurant, you have a captive audience scenario. There is a period of time there where the restaurant has the customer’s attention and there is an ability for the restaurant to engage fully with a customer.”
But if you’re a single destination restaurant, as opposed to a massive global chain, it can be hard to justify the cost of four-colour, foil-stamped and embossed packaging. But in reality, you probably don’t need it anyway.
“When a business first starts up, it’s very much a cost-driven decision, the packaging decision, so it’s almost all about how much cost can we get out of the process,” says Detpak marketing manager, Angela Porcaro.
“While it may cost 10-20 per cent more, [you need to look] at it as an investment,” Porcaro says.
“If you take that step and you go for the investment, and invest in your brand, you will reap the benefits later on.”
She draws the analogy of the measurement of any advertising activity, which is gauged through reach and frequency. The more frequently you get your brand in front of the customer, the more successful you will be in building the brand.
“By going with a customised printing solution, a restaurant can bring their branding right through the dining experience. It can start with something as simple as a napkin or a coffee cup or a noodle pail, or the bag customers take the product out with.”
And don’t underestimate the power of someone walking around the street clutching one of your branded packages and essentially doing your advertising for you.
There is also something very personal about taking a brand into the home, as one does with take-away. Henderson talks about the now virtually extinct fashion of hotels and restaurants making books of matches that people could souvenir and collect.
“There’s a very good opportunity for restaurateurs to extend the experience someone has in their environment through printed products and promotional items, just like you take a souvenir to remind yourself of an event—it’s exactly the same with a restaurant. It has the capacity to do that,” Henderson says.
The executive director of branding and design firm Blue Marlin, Dominic Walsh, agrees that using packaging as a marketing tool needn’t be a big outlay for a business.
“In a lot of cases, a cafe, for example, will be doing printed cups with a brand name on it at any rate,” he says.
But having the brand name alone is really a waste of real estate, when you could be using the packaging to build a stronger brand and engaging customers at a deeper level.
Walsh cites UK chain Piccolo, whose take away cups have phrases on them such as ‘cup ’a tea’, reflecting the London accent, as a way to create a ‘dialogue’ with customers that says something about the brand and the experience.
“Rather than doing the obvious—it’s still the same cost—actually think about taking it that step further and building that sense of dialogue. It doesn’t necessarily have to cost more, it just has to take it that step further in terms of bringing the brand to life in a less obvious way.”
Walsh also uses Melbourne restaurant Giuseppe Arnaldo and Sons as an example of the way the brand is carried right through the experience.
“Giuseppe Arnaldo and Sons has done a brilliant job of bringing the whole modern Italian theme to life, so when you order prosciutto, it’s actually served on greaseproof paper,” Walsh says.
“It’s just those little details with how you package it up, but also in that same case you get a whole experience in how you eat at the restaurant. There’s that branded badge you receive in the Italian colours when you turn up at the restaurant; and then you have different [food] stations around the room. There’s this whole theatre about how the experience works.”
Apart from creating an opportunity for repeat custom, building a brand also gives you an umbrella under which you can consider new revenue streams.
For example, a captive dining dining audience attached to another kind of enterprise can form a potent combination—such as book store Borders, which often has a cafe attached to it.
“Those guys understand that when you’re being nurtured, you’re much more susceptible to the brand messages and it is a much better way of connecting with each other,” says Henderson.
The obvious brand extensions for a cafe or restaurant are recipe books and food products, but it could just as easily be a small newsletter for the local community, or doing charity work. Walsh uses Jamie Oliver’s brand as an example, which stands as much for authentic, wholesome food as it does charity, through his Fifteen initiative.
“Even for smaller businesses, being able to look at how they can extend and build on that brand and what areas they can branch into; whether it’s their own branded products in-store, there are those opportunities for brand stretch.”
So really, the packaging and other products you might extend from your business are much more than utilitarian pieces of equipment—they’re also media in their own right you can use to carry your message, connect with your customers and, ultimately, drive growth where it matters—on the bottom line. ≤