Illuminating: How Two Restaurants Manage Reputation and Brand
All of us are on information overload. On a daily basis, we’re bombarded with news, social feeds and other e-communications. Even finding the two to three minutes to read this blog presents a challenge. It’s grown increasingly difficult to keep up.
For us, rarely a day passes without an article by marketers about audience and stakeholder fragmentation and the difficulties in capturing eyeballs in the digital age.
Consequently, it is against this backdrop that two campaigns caught our attention and, interestingly enough, both were by small, local independent dining establishments: Nuts ‘n Berries Café and Dough Girl Pizza. The respective communications serve entirely different objectives yet both are highly effective in breaking through the “communications clutter” and grabbing our attention. In Nuts ‘n Berries’ case, the establishment felt the need to defend its reputation. Dough Girl has demonstrated its commitment to social responsibility at a truly grassroots level, based on the life experiences of its inspiring entrepreneurial founder.
In each situation, though, the efforts resonate. Let us drill down.
In this age of instantaneous communication over social channels and the potential for issues to go immediately viral, Nuts ‘n Berries connected with its stakeholders the old-fashioned way: via “snail mail.”
The popular, 13-year-old Encino, Calif. café found itself under siege from an anonymous letter-writer who was savaging the establishment’s reputation by mass mailing unfounded allegations about food quality, organic ingredients and sanitation, Nuts ‘n Berries fought back. In a letter headed with the café logo and the slogan “Always Fight 4 Love & Truth” sent via mailing house to customers in its trading areas, Nuts ‘n Berries refuted the anonymous letter, reiterating its commitment to organic and all-natural products. They also wrote about inviting and passing an all-encompassing inspection by the L.A. County Health Department, which re-affirmed their use of natural ingredients.
The “Always Fight 4 Love & Truth” boldly printed on the envelope caught our eye initially. But what impressed us here was the effective way its proprietor, Arash Majlessi, tore a page from crisis-communications text books to get its side of the story told. After all, as the adage goes, if you don’t tell your story someone else will.
In the case of a single-unit pizza joint in a saturated market like Los Angeles, how do you make the restaurant stand out (besides baking a great pie)? For Van Nuys, Calif.-based Dough Girl Pizza, the answer comes in the form of building a brand that resonates through the moving, deeply personal story of its owner. The best marketing always does. Mar Diego, Dough Girl’s chef-owner, is testament to inspiration and resilience. An ex-convict who grew up in a public-housing project, Mar turned her life around in jail and through a culinary-arts education at Le Cordon Bleu after being convicted for laundering money and selling weed. Mar leveraged her considerable entrepreneurial skills and talent honed in some of L.A.’s best restaurants into a thriving pizza place that draws crowds daily and has plans for growth.
A big part of this brand story is how Mar hires and mentors at-risk teens to keep them from making the mistakes she did. She’s creating a hyper-local, social-responsibility program that resonates for its genuineness and being reflective of Mar’s own life. That teenage girl kneading pizza dough or bussing a table may be getting the break she needs to stay on track and realize her full potential. It’s a story anyone can get excited about.
Both Nuts ‘n Berries and Dough Girl speak to the passion and energy of entrepreneurs who are deeply invested – emotionally as well as financially – in their businesses. And, above all else, it is indication that effective communications isn’t only the domain of global brands with million-dollar marketing and public-relations budgets.