Branding Good

Spoiler alert first: we did not rebrand Patagonia (yet). Our experience was limited to a more modest project, one that we believe showcases most of the challenges these ‘Good’ brands face when defining their story. Some of the things we discovered in our journey were very intuitive, others the result of speaking to those directly involved in the projects behind the business. Combined, they make for a short lesson in branding ‘Good’.

The brief: A farm-to-table brand

Before we get started, a short recap of how we got here. When Wests Ashfield Leagues club and interior design firm X+O reached out to Sonnet to develop a concept for a new in-club restaurant we didn’t make much of it. Our award-winning work with Bang has put Sonnet on the radar of many hospitality businesses but this one turned out to be no average project.

From our very first meeting with the management team it was clear the ambition was to reinvent the club dining experience, not only in Wests Ashfield Leagues but around Australia. The scale of the project (a 300-seater venue) was a good indicator but the true difference came with the choice of restaurant concept: a farm-to-table dining destination with an emphasis on provenance and eating seasonably. The result of 6 months of work is The Garden, a celebration of the simple things in life and the people we share them with. Simply put: Good food from good places.

Here’s five things we learned along the way:

1. Keep it authentic

It’s almost natural: the more brands grow, the more likely they are to leave their original story behind. With brands that try to champion a cause, failure often happens because the visual brand (the design elements, tagline, the campaigns, etc) takes control, allowing format to trump substance. In order to keep The Garden authentic, we traveled to places like Coolah, Mugee and Batlow, meeting the same farmers that would form the networks of growers the restaurant relies on. Their names, their stories and their produce are featured across every touchpoint, from the website to the menu. In many ways, every layer of the story begins at farms all across Australia.

Linga Longa Farm

2. Keep it balanced

A brand like The Garden can only perform its social function if it remains viable as a business. Sustaining the business/cause balance is all about setting communication priorities and defining which message belongs where. At The Garden, for instance, the menu features a sourcing section with information about farms and suppliers. The website shows all the in-house process that goes into every pizza, from milling flour to curing meat.

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3. Keep it open

Let’s be honest: not everyone cares about the cause your brand supports. For The Garden, some people simply want a great burger, a fun place to have a drink with friends or an affordable cafe to take the kids. To avoid any holier-than-thou preaching, every touchpoint is designed to allow flexible engagement. For those truly invested, there’s plenty of information on how the kitchen sources and cooks food. For the rest, The Garden offers a simple story and delicious flavours.

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4. Keep it consistent

When describing The Garden’s approach to sourcing and cooking food, we kept a tight narrative to encourage recall and advocacy. Simple, sharp copy was crafter to draw the audience’s attention to those layers of the story we saw as more unique. Terms like ‘Good food from good places’, ‘Real good food’ or ‘Fresh, simple cooking’ feature prominently on digital, print and outdoor.

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5. Keep it going

Another common pitfall is building up extraordinary momentum only to see it die shortly after the brand is launched and fewer people are looking. For The Garden, we involved Wests community outreach team to develop awareness initiatives like cooking classes and workshops with schools, sports clubs and other local stakeholders. We also designed and edited Harvest magazine to celebrate the flavours of every season and share some of the best stories from the farms and the kitchen.

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The Garden has been one of the most demanding and rewarding projects in Sonnet’s relatively short run, the sort of work that gets the best out of us and the type of challenge we seek.

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