Monday, May 6, 2013

Feel good food case study

By and large, we, here at Woodstock Organic Concepts, like to swoop in and come up with the BIG IDEA, thus saving the day and leaving everybody marveling at our creative genius. Once in a while, the client comes up with the big idea, executes it better than we ever could and our main task is to just keep outta the way of progress and figure out how we can take credit. This is one of those stories.

Mary Anne and Richard run Blue Mountain Bistro-to-go and Blue Mountain Catering. It's an upscale catering business and upscale retail store (mostly take-away business) on ever busy route 28 near Woodstock. They're both very creative people with good insights into their business and what it stands for. When we first started working on their branding, they had more good ideas than you could shake a stick at, all of them true to their brand.

But they didn't have a clear focus. There were too delicious canap├ęs to choose from and so they kept them all.


Turns out they didn't have a mission statement either. So I sent them a questionnaire full of thought-provoking stuff and each of the three of us filled it out for their business and before long, we had a swell mission statement that could be the foundation of creating a strong brand. (see our white paper on mission statements here.) Here's what we came up with:

Sweet, right? Each of them, independently, noted prominently that they wanted to help make the community and the world a better place. Beautiful.


So now, mission statement in hand, we proceeded to figure out a brand umbrella under which all of their Bistro to-go communications could exist. They already had advertising and signage and business cards and whatnot on a variety of ideas: "the life of the party", "every day's a celebration", "local ingredients", slow cooked fast food", "Mediterranean cooking style" and "feel good food." Well, it didn't take too much time to see that the biggest, broadest, funnest umbrella under which all of these thoughts could happily exist was "feel good food." All the other stuff seemed more like supporting points; there were so many of them, we put together a little flow chart to keep it straight (we're a company of visual thinkers, don'tcha know):

They had even previously connected the dots between what they do and the concept of "feel good food". From their website: 

FEEL GOOD FOOD – feels good when you BUY IT: because you know that you're buying something that's been hand selected by our chefs, been locally sourced, and handled with years of experience!

FEEL GOOD FOOD - feels good when you EAT IT: because we make everything from scratch, with the freshest herbs and spices, local farm produce when in season, and lots of love!
FEEL GOOD FOOD - feels good when you SHARE IT: because you know that your friends and family will love you for giving them food that really tastes good!

So a communications umbrella was born. (Okay, not really "born", more like picked out of the umbrella rack by the door).  The client loved the idea (it was theirs already anyway) of standing for "feel good food" and saw how it nicely encompassed all their other brand thoughts and they had a bunch of previously committed to magazine ad pages so we started executing immediately. 


Well, the idea on how to express "feel good food" for their take away business came to us right away: virtuosic, hand-made ads and signage drawing on the current craze for chalkboard art. Perfect. The chalk board is a classic fixture of bistros all over the world and it could be used in their store and in their ads and other materials. Beautifully executed chalk boards convey concepts such as "fun" and "home made", "locally crafted" and "friendly" - all of which nicely back up the idea of "feel good food." And when those three words are all over your store and in every communication you send out into the world, that doesn't hurt either. Chalk boards just like you see in so many places around the world, only better. Just like their food: nothing too unusual, just regular stuff done much better.

Our first ad was to promote the grand opening of their new bakery and it looked like this:

And for inside the new bakery, we did an actual chalkboard:

Now, we were feeling pretty fly about the whole thing when our client Mary Anne (who is an awesome artist, too) asked innocently if she could try one. "Sure", we said, well practiced at the art of humoring clients who want to try to do our job for us, "go ahead." And she did this:

Well, it's a funny feeling when you see your usefulness slip right out the door, but that's how we felt. Mary Anne knocked it out of the park. A beautifully masterful execution of our concept and, truth be told, better than we could do. 

Later, the local Jewish congregation was celebrating its Rabbi and she made this for the event:

Well, you know what they say: Give a client a fish, you've fed them for a day, teach a client to fish you've fed them for a lifetime. But if that client just happens to cook fish really really well and you're working on a barter arrangement, then it's not actually such a bad deal. 

Business cards, front and back:

Playing on the idea of the chalk board and writing and giving a nod to the fact that people write on business cards all the time, we used one of Mary Anne's pieces of art on the front of the business card and left space for people to "write something good" on the back. An execution built around a universal truth. Can't beat that.

Other ads and other ideas followed, all of them using the chalkboard to express the idea of feel good food, and we could go on and on about these interesting executional decisions, but the truth is, we're boring ourselves. So we'll save it for another day. Right now, we're gonna go get us some feel good food. Yum.


One of the other  interesting things we did for our wonderful client was to help them put their media ducks in a row. To do this, first we took a look at who their target currently is and who it should be.


Someone who lives a few towns away or across the river is simply not going to come get a panini from Bistro-to-go. So we winnowed it down and recommended to them that their target audience be defined as: people who pass by their store but don't stop in.  And if that's your target and you've got a big sign out front, then you already own the most perfect media for your message. We continue to recommend topical, on-message signage to delight their passers-by and draw them into the idea that Bistro-to-go serves feel good food. Which they do. Much to our delight.


They had been advertising their to-go business in regional publications and on a local, broad-reaching radio station. We moved around their advertising placement so that all of the broad-reaching media were advertising their catering business and so that their Bisto-to-go business was only being advertised in local media. Some of it, really, really local:

So, there's a short recap of our thinking for their to-go business; some day soon, we'll write about the branding and communications ideas we helped them make for their catering business -- separate but related.