The BullHearted Brand



Yet, these elements are critical to a restaurant brand’s success whether it’s a new concept about to launch, or a legacy concept looking to reclaim relevance. In this book, I unpack the nuances, details and theories that drive successful restaurant branding and marketing.

In The Bullhearted Brand,

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Middle Aged (35-54)


North American (General)


Note: Transcripts are generated using speech recognition software and may contain errors.
Chapter one, The seven branding truths bull's story, Bull in a china shop. The story, we've all heard the phrase like a bull in a china shop. The bull being large and without Grace finds himself in a place full of breakables, tragedy ensues. The phrase is used to describe someone who's reckless and clumsy, crashing through something with no regard for the destruction cost. The first known use of the phrase a bull in a china shop is in the novel Jacob faithful. Written by Frederick Marriott in 18 34 it's believed that the phrase originated from actual real life scenarios In the 17th century, cattle were often brought into the market area of London. Sometimes they would get loose and stray into shops that sold delicate goods like fine china, they would wreak havoc on the shop's wares, even though this once common phrase isn't used as much today, it's still perfectly embodies the idea of someone dealing with a delicate problem in an overly aggressive and possibly clumsy manner to this day. It's still considered a negative description. But we think there's another angle, the lesson, don't be afraid to break the rules being described as a bull in a china shop isn't something that would make one happy when taken at face value. A bull in a china shop is a bad thing. What we like to think of it in a different way. We think it's a positive and the root of remarkable ideas, like a lot of other industries. The restaurant space has a multitude of perceived immutable truths, showing a fork in a logo menus touting local and craft the need for a dining area in the restaurant space. These are supposed rules to live by, but why? Because they worked before. So they must work again because everyone else is doing it. So it must work whatever the answer may be, the majority of restaurant tours never question these rules and take them as the law of the land. The plates of china in this metaphor represent these so called rules and their barriers to innovation and new thinking for a restaurant to thrive and succeed, it must bring something to market that's new and remarkable, but that's impossible if you're following the rules, Those rules beget more of the same, which results in plateaus at best failures at worst. The only way to break the mold is to destroy the status quo by challenging those rules. So we say be a bull in a china shop and break those plates because if you spend all your time trying to fit in, you'll spend all your money trying to stand out and when you destroy that china shop, it's going to make some noise that people can't ignore truth be told Throughout my 17 plus years at the helm of Vigor. Time and again, I encounter thinking and practices that hold leaders back from crafting successful brand experiences. They either hinder progress significantly or prevent it entirely. I spent a lot of time coaching our clients out of that thinking and those practices to guide them into the right mindset for crafting their brands to charge ahead. In this section I list seven brand truths that you need to understand in order to create successful brand experiences under each truth, I've supplied the details and knowledge for you to absorb and understand so you can charge forward with the right thinking. Yes. The irony of starting this chapter of Truths or rules off with a bull story that challenges you to break the rules is not lost on me believe it or not. It's on purpose. The only way you can break the rules is if you fully understand them, just as the character, Howard Roark in Ayn rand's famous protagonist in the fountain had developed a deep understanding of construction before becoming a heroic architect. You must learn the fundamentals of strong brands before you can break the china branding truth one. Your definition of branding is wrong. Don't worry. The dictionary has it wrong too. And so do many companies who label themselves branding agencies. I'm not being nitpicky or splitting hairs just to display depth of knowledge or prey on a technicality. I pushed the issue because misunderstanding the true definition of branding creates a scenario of buyer's remorse at best and outright failure at worst. Either way you're left unhappy and with less money in the bank. I don't want that and I'm certain neither do you the proliferation of branding as an integral component to business success, simultaneously elevated the power of design for business and created a gap of misunderstanding and miscommunication between agencies and their clients, you must know exactly what you're buying before making the leap into hiring an agency partner and spending the necessary time successful branding requires a lot of agencies sell the buzzword of branding, but in reality they only offer graphic design services. I'm not saying the tactic is malicious or intentionally misleading, but that doesn't excuse the reality and it certainly doesn't absolve selling half baked services. Yes, graphic design is a part of the bigger branding picture, but it's only one of many facets that comprise a fully formed brand. The outputs from graphic design are the things people can see the pretty pictures as some call them. It's the logo, menus, website and other visual communications that represent the restaurant in the world. They're what grabs attention and attracts people to the restaurant. It's easy to see how those elements became mislabeled as branding there tanja bility and visual appeal make it seem they are branding and they are not the visual outputs. We all see from a restaurant cumulatively fall under the term brand identity. It's the perfect label. If you think about it, this is the visual identity of a brand, just like me wearing a black V neck T shirt and slim fit jeans creates a look to the world around me, logos and supporting graphic elements, create a restaurants look to their audience brand identity is a critical component of the branding discipline. If the visual communications don't properly communicate the various aspects of the restaurant that brand fails to attract and connect with people. But to ensure an identity communicates effectively, one must possess an understanding of what should be communicated and that's the core of what branding truly entails. Every business creates a brand simply by existing. A brand is an amalgamation of what a company does, how they do it and the most important element for today's audiences. Why the company exists, most businesses ace the first two components of what they do and how they do it rare is the brand that identifies why they exist and why it matters. Therefore, branding is the process of excavating a company's purpose, then aligning their products, services, people, personality and communications to bolster and build that purpose in the world. Purpose is one of the toughest components to identify and excavate. I think it's because most companies sole purpose is to make money and food with little else. While the potential of financial gain is an obvious goal for existence. That thinking myopically focuses everything on good food and good service and nothing more que the hero shots of sizzling steaks and the pension for following trends like blank and blank restaurant names more on that later today's restaurant landscape is fiercely competitive. That reality combined with a subjectivity and fickleness of flavor trends and service aren't enough to build a restaurant brand primed for growth at some point, someone will think you're food is garbage and the service won't always meet their needs at that moment. At that time in one fell swoop, good food and good service are erased and if nothing else exists to position your restaurant, your restaurant brand fails. When done successfully. Restaurant brands build something stronger and deeper than good food and good service branding. Truth to good food and good service is not unique. When the world was smaller. In a town center was the core of commerce. Competition wasn't a big worry. There existed one or two businesses to supply each need and maybe one or two competitors, you got your meat from the butcher, your bread from the baker and your other sundries from the general store. It was pretty simple at that time. An enterprising go getter simply had to paint a name on a sign and tack it to the facade of a building. More often than not, it was an existing business handed down through the family doors opened, customers came in and you had a successful enterprise that era is long gone and with it, the simplicity of only needing to tout basic features in today's world competition is more than a potential threat. It's a fierce reality and it's not one or two competitors that restaurants face. It's a heavy mix of new local concepts, long lasting staples and both regional and national chains. There's a pizza shop on every corner and Starbucks down the street. You can go down the list of food categories and put multiple ticks next to each one. **** consumers are technically competitors because they can cook for themselves at home and cut out the middleman. Even the most innovative, life changing inventions and companies quickly have competition nipping at their heels, put bluntly whatever it is you want to bring to the market. It's already been done numerous times. An idea based on food alone isn't unique. That's not to say there isn't room for innovation in the restaurant space. There is always room for something new and there are always areas to be improved. If you're keeping your eyes open and ears to the ground, what I am saying is that the world isn't begging for another pizza shop or chinese restaurant. Therefore your restaurant isn't filling a gap in product availability and it's not going to fill the need for stellar service, good product and good service, our expectations not selling points. I know what you're thinking, but joseph, you haven't tried my pizza, it's the best and you're going to love it. I'd respond the same way I do every time I'm confronted with this statement, I'm sure you think it is, I bet you think your kids aren't ugly either. A bit inflammatory, but that's on purpose. I'm sure your kids are beautiful. The reason for the jolting response is this for your pizza to be the best. The pizza I love and by all the time is not the best. In short, you're telling me I'm wrong. Do me a favor. Go tell your partner they are wrong and see how that goes now. Take that tactic and multiply it across a large group of people. This is the essence of how the majority of restaurant brands position and market themselves to the public. This is why most marketing efforts are fruitless and why a large percentage of restaurants fail. This approach is rooted in telling people they are wrong. What makes a brand unique is its reason for being the passion that it believes in and lives daily, honesty and trustworthiness are what attract consumers of today and it's what sets you apart from the competition. Your brand's purpose is what makes it unique, not the food, not the service branding truth. Three table stakes are not differentiators too often were confronted with a trend following vision for a new concept farm to table chef driven craft burgers. The list is seemingly never ending and always changing the thinking makes a lot of sense, capitalize on what's buzzing with consumers at that moment, build a concept quickly and scale it as fast as possible. However, trends come and go and with them. The concepts that didn't have the foundations behind exploiting the consumers. Fickle attention trans fluctuate, but consumer expectations are much less transient expectations are in constant growth, influenced by trends, culture and other factors. Yes, trends can and do affect consumer expectations, but they are soon absorbed into expectations and consumer expectations are not differentiators. They are table stakes in gambling. A table steak is the cost of being at the table. It's the bottom line requirement to play the game as trends take hold and proliferate, they morph from a unique feature that gets attention into an expectation a table steak. When a trend becomes an expectation concepts built upon that trend lose their luster and their market share. While there may be wild success in the immediate future, the long term is bleak. If the brand doesn't have anything deeper than the exploiting trend, you can take almost every trend and find the shortcomings of a brand that let it better burgers. Chef driven, fast casuals, frozen yogurt and farm to table concept all had a lot of momentum at one time. But each category is currently in the dana mall of its trend. What's left are the concepts that told a better, deeper story and the remnants of the ones that didn't in the last year alone, the United States has seen the rise of many trends. The larger ones make their way into expectations. The smaller ones simply fade out example frozen yogurt poke bowls. One of the larger trends in recent history was the craft food movement and the rise of chef driven cuisine at fast casual restaurants. These features are no longer unique as most concepts. Tout the very same things. even farm to table has been watered down and muddied with questionable practices that leave consumers questioning the validity of the claims in today's reality, simply making claims like these isn't enough, consumers need to know the details they need to know how. And most importantly why the brand has chosen to be chef driven or farm to table. How does it align with the restaurant's values? Why does it matter to the restaurant and why should it matter to the person through abuse and overuse? We, as an industry have neutered the believability and power of words like craft and farm to table brands that built their restaurant on those foundations alone now feel the pain of frustration as competitors nip at their heels or successfully strip market share away from them. And there's not much that can be done because trends aren't differentiators, there will always be an influx of trends and food categories and methodologies. What won't change is the consumers demand for honesty and a clear show of values from a brand restaurants that adapt this thinking and build their brands on honest values will continue to thrive. Brands are deeper than the product they sell and the manner in which they sell it branding truth for people make brands. Companies only guide them many branding conversations focus on the company from product through service. Little is spoken about the people that we try to attract with branding, branding and marketing go much deeper than trying to figure out what makes people tick and how to trick them into buying. By understanding what brands truly bring to people's lives. You can build one that does way more than satiate hunger. Today, people have a constant stream of information and messages pounding them every second concurrently. They have become curators of their own life stories, projecting the persona. They want people to see, think about instagram or facebook and the images, shared conversations had and connections made. The reality is that the life you see on these platforms is a highlight reel. It's a purposefully curated picture of a life devoid of any negatives or elements. The person doesn't wish for you to see, ask your eight hours people adopt the brands that align with their values as a means to portray another nuance to their personality and project itself. They seek out brands that will add traits or nuances to their persona. So the world sees them how they wish. This may seem far fetched or a bit of a stretch until you really think about the choices you make and the reasons behind those decisions. For instance why buy the BMW when a Kia is a perfectly fine automobile, they both get you from Point A to Point B with similar amenities and features, one buys a BMW because it says that they appreciate the finer things, design and engineering and have realized enough success to afford the luxury. Everyone makes choices based on what that brand will project to the world about who they want to think they are. Restaurant brands are no different when a restaurant brand is created with a purpose. It exudes personality traits and attitude. These traits are exactly what people look for when shifting towards advocacy. Think of Starbucks or Chipotle. The commonality between these two brands is the strength of the personalities they put into the world. It's not the quality of the product. Chipotle advocate enjoys the food, but also the story of sustainability which helps her feel like she's doing her part while displaying to the world. The notion of a concerned world citizen. Starbucks exudes the attitude of a go getter whose picky and demands customize ability. This reality should immediately shift your thinking of what we do when we craft a brand without a deep understanding of a core group of people you wish to attract. Branding is an exercise in art and art alone. While art is fantastic and we do love it. It's not a sound business strategy focusing on people they're projected selves and their perceptions of your brand will give unique insights on how to lasso them closer to the brand with messaging, marketing and every other part of the business, it's not the food you sell or the service you provide. It's very much the reason you do it in the first place and how you support that reason with actions, choices and business practices. It should also spark the question as to whether or not you need an intense deep branding process. Branding Truth Five. You may not need branding is engaging in a formal branding process necessary for your situation. The answer could very well be no, no, it's not. You may only need an identity design for your restaurant, the after mentioned painted name on a sign tacked to a wall. The right path for your restaurant involves an understanding of the purpose of branding as a whole. Branding is best suited for restaurants that are looking to grow. Whether that's multi unit or franchise, branding creates a strategic unified experience across a network of restaurant locations that's not meant to insinuate that each location is a mirror image or machine stamped replica of a design. The days where that is appealing are in the past. However, the brand experiences must be tied together in multiple ways to effect and grow the overarching brand, giving consumers a way to categorize it in their mind. For restaurant groups that have multiple concepts under an umbrella, branding still has vital benefits. The structure of this scenario is a bit different though each restaurant must be allowed to have its own brand experience while the umbrella company holds the threads that make said restaurant part of the family. In this situation, the restaurant group must be known for the types of experiences that produces and the type of service that delivers. This is still branding, even though each individual restaurant carries its own identity, a single unit restaurant is a different beast, realizing a return on the investment in this scenario is difficult based on volume and numbers alone, there is only so much business that can be done at one location that quickly causes a plateau restaurants like these are usually mom and pop concepts that are family run in these instances and identity design can do well. An identity or brand identity. Visual identity comprises a logo, color, palette, topography, and various other elements to comprise a visual look and feel. These can be designed without a brand strategy. Instead, a designer relies on the information passed from the client to create a creative brief or outline of the restaurants details from this foundation, the designer can create some great looks for the restaurant that elevated past other mom and Pops in the local market. A strong identity design and an understanding of good business practices can result in a sustainable restaurant business. The key word is sustainable, meaning it won't necessarily grow, but it shouldn't fail so long as it's maintained, chances are that sustenance isn't the goal. Most enterprising restaurant tours want much more than a single unit since you're reading this book, you more than likely want to create something that you can build and grow beyond that moment. If that sounds anything like what you're dreaming then engaging in a detailed branding process is an absolute requirement. Good thing, you're reading this book, branding. Truth Six. Humans love human brands. What we're really attempting to do when developing brands is strengthened connectivity to consumers. If you boil it down, that's what it's all about. Brands that connect with people are brands that succeed in growing strong. The best way to connect with a person is to be empathetic, interesting and align with similar values. But how can a company, a non human entity relate on these levels? If you stop to think about it, brands actually do display features similar to a human. They have a personality and a passion, looks, feelings, offerings and more. They perform actions, engage with the world around them and they age humans and brands seek out like minded people to befriend associate with and love. It only makes sense that a human serves as the best metaphor when discussing and creating brands. We as humans have values. We are drawn to others that have those values From the circumstantial like where one is born or lived to deeper level associations like politics and religion. We are a tribal species that require interaction with others to thrive In the latter part of the 20th century and into the 21st, humans have been attracted to brands for seemingly surface level reasons. When you dig deeper into the psychology of the matter, it becomes clear that it's actually the human traits of a brand that attract people and not their products and services using a human as a lens through which to guide branding, a restaurant gives a unique and powerful perspective. The metaphor adds the necessary weight and intricacies in creating a truly successful restaurant brand. It's an essential tool to focus your thinking and empower you to set a foundation for success throughout. Bull hearted brand will use human related terminology to develop the key platforms that comprise a multifaceted restaurant brand. If I'm being completely honest, we'll also use bovine related terminology to the bull serves as the brand mark for vigor and I can't resist a good pun. So please bear with me or ball with me branding. Truth seven branding influences everything if you haven't gathered already. There are numerous moments to miss the mark when it comes to developing a restaurant brand. Yet I've seen many amazing restaurant brands in my time. They are found across the world in cities, big and small, successful restaurant brands are the ones that use brand strategy to influence every part of the company and may very well be the most important nuance to remember when it comes to developing your own restaurant brand. Building a strong brand. Strategy takes time and honesty with oneself that you will soon learn. But as they say, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. No adage could be truer with regard to branding a restaurant, as I stated in earlier truths a brand is something that's molded by every element of the restaurants. Experience those elements create perceptions in the consumer's mind and drive the formation of stronger bonds through shared values in week or failed restaurant experience is the root of the weakness is usually found deeper within the experience. Example, poor operations boring product mix et cetera. How does the menu reflect the personality and purpose established in the strategy? How do the interiors create visual tactile and oral ties to the brand's identity and personality when a guest is created, how does that reflect the unique personality of the brand? These questions and many more need to be asked once the brand strategy is established yet more often than not they aren't and that is where most branding efforts Miss the mark, all partners involved in the restaurant should be aligned on the foundations of the brand. They must fire on the same cylinders instead of dividing off into their camps. This requires strong leadership that believes and buys into the brand and what it means to build a brand over time and across disciplines. When leaders understand that branding influences every part of the business, amazing concepts are realized, they grow quickly and they amassed loyal followers, divided concepts may hit a stride for a small amount of time, but they inevitably fall apart going through the branding process, then onboarding, every partner ensures a collective momentum towards success with a clear foundation and understanding of how the strategy affects every facet of the business restaurant companies can guide the present and future effectively. That has numerous measurable results from optimizing budget investment through building equity in the event of an acquisition. That's just the surface, an investment in brand strategy from the top down and bottom up is the key to success in any industry in the restaurant space, it separates the winners from the losers.