July 10, 2019

Masking tape: the unsung hero of authentic branding.

First, a warning:  this post might make you hungry.  I confess to involuntary drooling just while writing it.

Now, let’s talk about authentic branding.  And biscuits.  And masking tape.  And grandmothers.

Recently, as part of a winter tourism strategy and business development consulting assignment for Nova Scotia’s South Shore Tourism Cooperative, I had the pleasure of doing some business coaching for the Anchors Away Family Restaurant & Dairy Bar in Clyde River, NS.  Within this coaching relationship, we studied their business patterns, identified trends, assessed operational needs, uncovered opportunities, crafted marketing ideas, and surveyed market potential.  We also evaluated the visuals and the vibe – internal and external signage, interior design, menus, service – with a branding eye:  how strongly can customers connect to this restaurant and what does it mean to them?

All great stuff, and super helpful to charting their growth path.  But it wasn’t until the menu tasting that the magical branding lesson happened.

I sat there and tasted a bonanza of lovingly homemade goodies, including:  gravy so tasty I wanted to do shots of it, frozen cheesecake that literally melted in my mouth from extreme creaminess, and then…oh, those glorious biscuits.  Flaky.  Buttery.  Addictive.  The perfect balance between light and substantial.  One bite in, I felt like I had died and gone to biscuit heaven.

Me:  “Sweet lord. You could make a fortune selling these.  You make these here?”

Owner:  “We do.  My mother makes them.”

Me:  “YOUR MOTHER MAKES THEM?  Do you sell them by the pack for takeaway?”

Owner:  “We do.” <goes and gets a six-pack of biscuits to show me>  “We just started recently, and I know we need to get more professional-looking labels than masking tape if we’re going to keep selling them.”

Anchors Away Biscuits

Cue magical branding lesson.  Actually, a handwritten label with masking tape is PRECISELY the right label for a pack of drool-worthy biscuits that were lovingly baked in the back kitchen of a family diner by (essentially) someone’s grandmother.  It screams “homemade,” “just baked,” “no preservatives,” “small batch,” and “made with love.”  JUST LOOK AT THE FORK MARKS. I COULD HUG THE BAKER JUST FOR THOSE ALONE. So, the masking tape vibe fits perfectly into the authentic positioning – and unique selling proposition – of the restaurant. 

What’s the lesson?  “Branding” sounds like a fancy and formal concept, and to achieve it, many businesses think they need to standardize, formalize, and professionalize their touchpoints.  Slick, glossy brochures.  Traditionally staged photos.  Professionally printed collateral.  But branding – correction…successful branding – is really just the appropriate visual and emotional expression of an entity’s personality.  Branding means being who you are, not trying to be something that you’re not.  And effective branding makes a connection with the guests you most want to court… whether that means self-serve iPad menus or biscuit packs with masking tape labels.

So… nope nope nope:  Anchors Away, you absolutely do NOT need to get more professional-looking labels for your biscuits. If you did, it wouldn’t feel like “you,” and all the magic would be lost. You should go ahead and lean right the heck into the image fostered by ragged strips of tape and a trusty Sharpie fine point.  I honestly believe it even makes the biscuits taste better.  Draw a heart on the tape and I might even swoon.

And then – bonus – you don’t even have to spend money buying fancy labels. 

PS.  Anchors Away…please start a weekly Biscuit Delivery Service to the US.  You can have all my money.  Just please do it.