Example of a Great Branding Program: Frank – Proud Purveyors of Artisan Sausage

Frank (http://hotdogscoldbeer.com/) is a two-location restaurant in Texas; they have a location in Austin and one in Nacogdoches (don’t ask, never been there!) Because I find the food and restaurant business fascinating and I also enjoy good design from both an aesthetic point of view as well as what I believe good design can do for a business, I noticed that Communication Arts, an industry publication devoted to the design of retail and other spaces, package design, font design, and other marketing and promotional materials, had recognized this restaurant as having one of the best Integrated Branding Programs in 2010.

An Integrated Branding Program is usually something a company commissions a design firm to manage and shepherd, in this case Christian Helms, designer and creative director and his team at The Decoder Ring Design Concern based in Austin Texas. What these firms do is to delve into understanding the heart and soul of a business, its products or services, its culture, employees and customers in order to capture the essence of the hard and soft elements of the organization in logos, colors, and an entire philosophy of design that usually guides all decisions around labels, printed materials, packaging design, uniforms, signage, advertising, business cards, letterheads, websites, t-shirts, coffee mugs, pens, signage on the sides of delivery trucks etc. When done right it provides an amazing sense of identity not only for the customers but also for employees who, if they are proud of what the company does, become huge advocates for the brand and the company.

I love what the design firm said about Frank:

Frank is an Austin, Texas mecca for bacon-lovers, beer-guzzlers and encased meat enthusiasts. Working collaboratively with the ownership team, we built a ‘third place’ accessible to a diverse range of patrons, from tattooed hipsters to senators, local celebs and blue-collar workers. Sausage is not a modest food, and the brand collateral reflects its pride and majesty. Not only did we create a celebration of food, we also built a culture and community.

I think the design firm did a great job in taking what is normally a ho-hum product like sausage or hot dogs and cranked up the excitement and sense of pride in “encased meats” by using words like “enthusiasts” and “majesty.” It also helps, by the way, that Franks makes great food, especially their various versions of hotdogs. For example there is their Notorious P.I.G. (house-made pork, bacon, jalapeno & sage sausage with macaroni & cheese, Texas BBQ sauce) or how about the Carolina Pork It (100% Vienna beef, stuffed with cheese, wrapped in bacon and deep-fried; Grilled coleslaw, house made green chile pimento cheese).

I think a lot of businesses create their own problems by describing their product, such as food, in cold, antiseptic marketing/biz-speak terms such as a “convenience item”, a “high-volume and low-cost sku”, something that has “positive contribution margin,” a product for a “snacking occasion” or some other dreary, uninspiring descriptor, when excitement and a sense of fun can go along way for many products in building customer and employee advocacy, loyalty, and bonding. You can see where the sense of fun for the Frank project originates when you explore Decoder’s website (http://thedecoderring.com/). I particularly like their answer to the FAQ:

Q: Complete this sentence: Everything is better with ____.

A: The answer is clearly bacon. Or monkeys. Or beer. All three at once is practically unimaginable.

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