The Recipe of Branding

The-Recipe-of-Branding

Parla come mangi or “speak like you eat” is an Italian saying which is a common way to say “keep it simple”, as much an art form as it is science.

Any aspiring chef knows that to create the perfect dish, not only do you need the understanding of how to build a recipe, but you need to find balance in the purity of the ingredients while catering to your taste buds. The same is true in the branding process, no matter the region, location, or cuisine.

The understanding of the recipe is the equivalent of understanding your brand’s direction and foundation. You go into making a recipe knowing what you want the end result to be and the hopeful reaction your guests will have. It’s no different with the branding process as understanding the vision and hopeful reaction or promise you are making to your audience is essential.

The ingredients to a recipe will change from region to region, state to state, country to country, as does the process of branding. What becomes a constant, like in cooking, is that you must have a strategy to layer the ingredients in a way that brings out the best qualities and matchups of flavor profiles.

Listen to that pot simmer. It smells amazing and is on it’s way to becoming a full-sensory brand experience.

But how does it taste? A good chef not only cooks for themselves but they cook for their patrons and guests. I love entertaining and often when having gatherings (pre-COVID), as the chef, I’m the last one to eat. I’m more concerned with everyone’s experience. Like a brand, it’s about the customer experience and exceeding expectations at every opportunity.

As an instructor of branding at the university level, there’s a unique perspective being able to teach both in the United States as well as in Italy. I get the privilege to impact students from all over the world, but I also get the opportunity to learn from them. I get to see the impact these brands have on them in a borderless way. I get to see firsthand the disruption technology is bringing to consumerism and the way we navigate those waters.

My yearly masterclass at IED Milano MasterBrand program is a prime example as there are roughly 30 students not just from Italy, but from all over Europe, Africa, South America, and the Middle East. A myriad collection of ideas and thoughts on how brands should act, what they should say, and how their individual cultures impact business (and food for that matter)

Here are some of the highlights.

Keep it simple

Brands that over-complicate their business model, messaging, and offering are the ones that are going to under-dominate their market. No matter where in the world, human to human communication is predicated on being simple and clear. Like a great recipe, it often doesn’t need countless ingredients or steps, just a few meaningful ones that turn to magic.

Remember the iPod advertising when all they had to say was “1000 songs in your pocket.” Strive for that. Simplicity in the most basic form.

Be swift

As evidenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, brands need to be swift, yet decisive in their actions. In a global world, where global pandemics are unfortunately now the norm, brands should at all times base their decision making, no matter how quickly, on striving to always be authoritative (your customers are looking to you to guide and reassure them) and empathetic (customers need to feel understood and accounted for).

Don’t just be a bulldog of a brand, or an egotistical chef, plowing through everything and everyone without the awareness of the specific impact you’re having. That is the quickest way to be out of business.

Always have the user experience in mind

No matter the product or service, your end-user’s interaction should be a key driver in decision making. The usability from location to location could change, and should it, are you adapting your business or offering accordingly?  Great brands understand that while their business may be global, localization and personalization are priorities to not only acquire new customers but retain them for a longer time.

Create a tribe

Retaining a tribe takes creating a tribe. Ask any chef who has a following, and you’ll likely hear that their success is attributed to equal amounts of vision and execution. Brands are no different, just take a look at Apple. Steve Jobs was able to mix in perfect harmony, equal parts disruption, and trust, which allowed the Apple brand to become the global icon it is today.

Chefs like Emeril, Martha Stewart, Giada, and even Bobby Flay have all been able to do the same. Put their take on a timeless activity like cooking and create an empire that crosses borders and cultures. They do so based on brands, solving a pain point, and making it look so damn easy (and tasty).

With brands crossing borders and marketing to multiple audiences, take the time to understand your brand foundation and strategy so that no matter what ingredients get thrown your way, or pandemics are around the corner, you can be prepared to act accordingly and win.

[This post originally appeared in issue #18 of Branders Magazine August 2020]

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