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…And Now for Something Completely Different

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Let’s face it, the economic recession has been a challenge to all of us. But rather than focusing on the negative, we thought we’d highlight one way in which the recession has been an opportunity, rather than an obstacle. To quote Benjamin Franklin: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” So we tried something else. We began seeking out opportunities in industries that we always wished to explore, but never had a chance because our work for real estate and legal professionals kept us busy…and comfortable. One of these industries was hospitality, specifically restaurants. Working for the restaurateur was particularly appealing to us because of their respect for good design and consistent branding. And then we were in the right place at the right time with the right people.

We were approached to develop the branding and marketing materials for Feastival, an event co-hosted by Stephen Starr, Michael Solomonov and Audrey Claire Taichman and benefiting the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival & Philly Fringe. The inaugural event was a “star-studded success” according to NBC10, and Splat Productions was kept on-board for the second annual Feastival. From Feastival came Twenty Manning, owned in part by Audrey Claire Taichman, also the eponymous proprietor of the neighboring BYOB spot Audrey Claire. Taichman was looking to give Twenty Manning a makeover, as she felt that its Asian fusion fare was a passing fad and that in order to stay in the game over time, she would have to create something more timeless.

Twenty Manning, with the marketing and design assistance of Splat Productions, as well as the interior design services of Fury Design, became Twenty Manning Grill, a fresh neighborhood spot that seems like it’s always been there. Rather than taking cues from what’s hip, the design team honed in on what makes a classic. And with this experience, Splat learned a lot, particularly about the intricacies of working for the restaurateur. Among the lessons:

1. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. With Twenty Manning, there was an existing brand awareness and a loyal clientele. At first we were skeptical of attaching “Grill” to the existing brand, worried that it would minimize the impact of a re-opening. As work began, however, we became convinced that capitalizing upon, rather than abandoning, the existing brand was the way to go. After all, Philadelphia is flooded with new restaurants (and closings), so to try to make a name from scratch was too risky.

2. Social media is not as technical as it may seem. Taichman took our advice and embraced social media to spread word about the new Twenty Manning Grill, recruiting key staff members to Tweet away and expand their presence on Facebook. In addition, TMG approached Philadelphia’s strong community of foodie bloggers, recognizing their status and authority in the eyes of the reader who is in search of their next meal. And it worked: blog entries were published, sneak peak menus were circulating, photos of the soon-to-be opened TMG were Tweeted, and the buzz began. So while approaching traditional media may be intimidating and out of your control, social media attention may be gained as easily as via a single Tweet.

3. Cleaning up your own backyard is only half of the battle. With restaurants, a large percentage of internet traffic comes from third-party websites, rather than from search engines. Examples of these sites include Yelp, CitySearch, Zagat, and Philly.com. Designing TMG’s site was only half the battle. The other half was in getting as many referral sites as possible to update THEIR sites to reflect the new brand. This is an important but often overlooked part of online strategy for rebranding. There are tracking methods that you can take advantage of in order to determine where your online traffic is coming from, and consideration should be applied to how those sites should reflect, and possibly highlight, your rebranding.

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