With experience at Celestial Seasonings tea company, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Stonyfield Farm’s yogurt, Dave Barash knows a thing or two about branding. Five years ago, when Barash set out to capture the flavor of Vermont in a pie, he knew how to brand it. Retail bakeries can take a cue from the Ben & Jerry’s of the world because core branding concepts apply to any size company.
“Do what you say, and say what you do,” Barash says of brand development. Branding the Vermont Mystic Pie Co. began with a clear mission. “We set out to make the best-tasting product we could with no artificial ingredients, sourcing fruit from small farmers in Vermont following environmentally sound growing criteria,” he says.
| Vermont Mystic Pie Co.’s colorful packaging stands out on store shelves and portrays the company’s natural brand image. |
Vermont artist and children’s book illustrator Stephen Huneck inspired both the name and packaging for Vermont Mystic Pie Co. After learning about Barash’s pies, Huneck drew a slice of apple pie with rays coming off the crust. “Mystical,” someone called it, and the name stuck, according to the company’s Web site. Barash also invests in the brand by giving consumers a taste. Last year, company representatives offered pie samples in 300 stores and 20 states, telling the company’s story.
“From a statistical basis, I know [our branding] is paying off because I look at the numbers,” Barash says. “We have buyers at major chains saying our product re-invigorated the frozen dessert section, telling us, ‘You’ve brought us something new and interesting.’”
Barash is striking all the right chords. The pies are on trend with consumers’ desire for food with authenticity and interesting origins. And, the packaging is eye-catching. Barash says he’s seen a young child in the supermarket recognize the black Labrador from Huneck’s children’s books on the pie box, pick up the box and hug it.
“Your packaging should be exciting,” says Linda Cahan, a retail merchandising consultant in Portland, Ore., author of Feng Shui for Retailers and speaker at the recent American Retail Bakery Expo in Las Vegas. “Your bags and boxes should be exciting; the other things that make it exciting are the quality, taste and freshness.”
Branding is key for any size bakery. “It doesn’t matter if you’re 200 square feet and one store or 200,000 square feet and 2,000 stores,” Cahan says. A strong brand is an engine of the business, earning much more revenue than an unbranded product or service.
“You want people to know you, talk about you and refer other people to you. You can say what your brand is, but all that matters is what your customers in the community say about you. What they say about you is your true brand,” Cahan says.
Your logo sets the tone. It should be clear, represent the business and be visible at street level for foot traffic and higher for drivers. Repeat it everywhere possible, she says.
Before ordering coffee cups bearing the Bennison’s Bakeries logo, co-owner Jory Downer experimented with font sizes. He wanted to make sure commuters would see the bakery’s logo on someone’s coffee cup from across the train platform at the two stations near his bakery in Evanston, Ill.
“[Commuters] are a huge part of our business in the morning,” Downer says. “And, then we do 18 to 19 percent of our sales between 5 and 7 p.m. when those people are coming off the train at night.”
Bennison’s invests in its brand by printing its logo not only on every coffee cup, bag and box, but on the cake knives and chocolate coins given away with its cakes, the t-shirts for its staff, sides of its delivery trucks and the banners it hangs at its stall in three local farmers’ markets.
“Everything that goes out has our name on it, even our donut bag,” Downer says.
Smart branding goes well beyond the logo and packaging. Since the logo of a successful brand triggers a positive thought or feeling, it encompasses everything about the consumer’s experience, says Piper Davis, bakery cuisine manager and co-owner of Grand Central Baking Co. in Portland, Ore. and Seattle.
“You can’t pull a brand and an identity out of thin air,” Davis says. “Madison Avenue can do that. I think we’ve done it in the opposite way. We’ve slowly engaged in [brand creation] by focusing on quality, by making things delicious.”
Grand Central operates six retail bakery cafes in Portland, two in Seattle and sells its bread wholesale at grocery stores throughout both cities. “That retail experience becomes part of your brand also,” Davis says. “The people you have working for you, the way you answer the phone, the way people dress behind the counter all relates to how people feel about your brand.”
With its menu and in-store signage, Grand Central highlights its use of seasonal ingredients purchased directly from local farmers. From May to November, the company buys about 70 to 90 percent of the produce used in its baked products and sandwiches from local farmers, and galette fillings change with the seasons. One recent test of the Grand Central brand power was the company’s opening of a new location that quickly drew people without much advertising about who they were.
To attach meaning to your brand, think about what differentiates your bakery business from the pack, advises Cahan. A personal touch? Local ingredients? Traditional techniques? Ethnic specialties? Your specialty should guide your branding and marketing.
Getting personal can be very effective in branding. “A lot of Tank Goodness is us. We’re the brand,” says Dennis Tank, who owns and operates Tank Goodness Cookies, Minneapolis, with his wife. The Tanks bake and deliver oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and cinnamon rolls “warm from the oven” to offices and homes.
The Tanks–who have become known as the “cookie people” because they bring cookies to neighbors or fellow bus-riders on Dennis’ daily commute–wove that personal touch into their business, logo, Web site and packaging.
The Tank’s brand is about scratch baking and using local ingredients when possible, so every part of the Tank Goodness image displays this homey feel. Their story, pictures of Sam and Jake, their sons and taste-testers and the MINI Cooper they use for deliveries are all prominent on their Web site.
Their package, a trademarked gift box with a beveled edge and air chamber to keep the cookies warm, won an American Institute of Graphic Art package design award in 2003 and also tells their story. The background on their Web site and delivery box is reminiscent of wallpaper found in a 1950s kitchen. A sticker on the box with the time the cookies left the oven seals the deal.
Customers pay $20 per dozen for cookies and $40 a dozen for cinnamon rolls. The couple bakes and delivers about 40 dozen cookies a day, servicing 4,200 corporate accounts earned primarily by word of mouth alone.
Keep image fresh
| Bringing your brand to life |
Linda Cahan, author of Feng Shui for Retailers, suggests five key strategies for developing your bakery’s brand.
Branding a new bakery is one thing, but how can you ensure a fresh brand if your bakery has been around for generations? Carrieann Schubert, V.P. and co-owner of the Beaverton Bakery in Beaverton, Ore., faced that problem a decade ago when she realized the red-inked line drawing of an old house her father had used as a logo since he purchased the bakery in 1965 needed updating.
Schubert began using the tagline, “Quality ingredients and timeless technique,” in the same red ink. The tagline over time replaced the house on everything but the bakery’s “classic” product line, which includes a buttermilk and malt coffeecake. “Somehow you have to maintain that old feeling,” Schubert says, “but you have to be able to compete with what’s against you in the marketplace today, too.” Sometimes, the tagline and house appear together. Most new products bear only the new logo.
The strategy has been successful, she says. About a year ago, the bakery opened a third location, in the Oregon Marketplace at Portland International Airport. Once your brand is working, Cahan says, reinforcing it always helps. Find a reason to throw a special event, offer product samples and create a festive atmosphere that reflects the bakery’s point of differentiation, she says.
“Doing something like this once a month or every other month keeps generating buzz,” Cahan says. “Yes, it takes time. But if the product is good, then the time is well worth it because people will come back for more.”