A Brand Positioning Agency Changed How America Eats Burritos

For years, Taco Bell had something close to a monopoly on fast Tex-Mex food. The menu certainly wasn’t gourmet — or even particularly good for you — but the company was resoundingly successful.
And then Chipotle came along.

Though it began as a small operation in Denver in the 1990s, Chipotle expanded fast, thanks in part to its pioneering “fast casual” approach. That was merely the prelude for one of the most extraordinary growth stories in the archives of the food business — a success story that was driven by just one partnership.

A brand positioning agency.

How brilliant brand positioning helped “Burrito David” challenge “Taco Goliath”

In a little more than a decade, Chipotle grew from a modest local Colorado burrito shop to a billion-dollar enterprise with 500 locations. Not only was the company continuously listed among the fastest-growing businesses in the United States, but it was also applauded for the quality and flavor of its products.

The truth, however, is that Chipotle didn’t invent its famous overstuffed “mission-style” burrito, a delicacy Californians have enjoyed since the 1960s. They did, however, build one of the restaurant industry’s most effective brand campaigns around their fast-casual offerings.

Taco Bell, which owned virtually all of the national fast-food Tex-Mex market, didn’t focus its marketing on food quality, eating experience or health. Instead, Taco Bell ran a multi-year ad campaign detailing the madcap adventures of a taco-crazed Chihuahua.

While “Yo queiro Taco Bell” was certainly clever and cute, it also wasn’t in tune with the ever-evolving consumer attitudes and preferences. Cheap, fast food of dubious quality was out — and cleaner, healthier, better-tasting dishes served in brighter and sleeker settings was in.

Chipotle’s marketing capitalized on this trend by printing clever jokes on its cups and cultivating a hip environment in its restaurant locations. Their marketing campaigns ruthlessly highlighted the differences between Chipotle’s approach and that of Taco Bell. They made the case that not only was Chipotle higher quality it was also operating on a higher ethical plane.

One example: Chipotle commissioned a stop-motion short film that promoted organic, sustainable farming (and their own superior ingredients), set to a soundtrack of Willie Nelson covering Coldplay.

Later, in advance of Halloween, they released a Tim Burton-style short film that starred a scarecrow in moral conflict about the (very tangential) role he was playing in factory farming. The video, which was set to Fiona Apple covering a song from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” was also tied into a mobile gaming app with an anti-factory farming message.

These clever creative gambits helped position Chipotle as a fast-casual cuisine that you could feel good about eating. Not only was it elevated above the déclassé level of fast food, but it was also smart, ethical and in tune with changing tastes.

Though the company eventually had to deal with some turbulence caused by food-borne illnesses, sales are up, and Chipotle’s future is looking brighter than ever.

This is the kind of powerful brand positioning that can shake up an industry. In Chipotle’s case, it helped the company become a global juggernaut and the first serious rival to Taco Bell’s Tex-Mex hegemony.

What the right brand positioning agency can do for you

Even though the company has had some recent, queso-related missteps, Chipotle has always been a favorite at the BIGEYE offices, and it’s not just the bowls and burritos. We’ve loved their story, and you should too.

The right brand positioning agency can take a company to the next level — and we’d be happy to show you how. Reach out to our branding team today!

A Star is Rebranded: What Your Business Can Learn from Lady Gaga

Rebranding…it’s not just for businesses.
Look no further than the example of Stefani Germanotta, better known as “Lady Gaga.” Fans know that Gaga has reinvented herself numerous times in a musical context: She began as a neo-burlesque club act and New York cult sensation, before exploding onto the scene as a world-conquering, meat suit wearing, dance music pop star.

After pushing the conceptual art boundary as far as it could go, Gaga shapeshifted into a rootsier, rock-heavy persona that saw her minimize the glam and artifice in favor of a more personal approach to her craft and her presentation.

None of those transformations hold a candle to Gaga’s latest rebranding, however: Full-fledged, Oscar-caliber A-list actress.

Rebranding on the big screen

Gaga isn’t completely new to acting. Her credits, in fact, stretch back 15 years, all the way to a bit part in an early episode of “The Soprano’s.” She’s also taken a starring role in the popular “American Horror Story” TV series.

All told, she has 40 credits to her name on TV and film. However, there is a major caveat: Almost all of those appearances were tied into her musical persona, and none of them featured a performance quite like her leading role in “A Star is Born.”

Gaga has drawn rave reviews (and likely Oscar notices) for her role as Ally, a diamond-in-the-rough singing waitress who eventually climbs to the top of the record industry after being discovered by co-star Bradley Cooper’s famous yet troubled troubadour.

Though she’s drawn critical raves for a performance that marries powerful acting with showstopping singing, landing this role was only the first step in Gaga’s most recent — and most impressive — rebranding.  She isn’t content to merely arrive on the scene as an Oscar-contending actor.

As a recent New York Times Magazine profile makes clear, Gaga is playing a much bigger role — that of a screen siren from Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Marilyn-inspired look featuring platinum blond hair and stilettos? Check.

Arriving at the 2018 Venice Film Festival on a sailboat with one red rose in hand? Check.

Buying a mansion in the Hollywood Hills? Check.

Given that it’s grounded in a remarkably powerful performance, Gaga doesn’t so much play this role as inhabit it. It’s also fair to say that — even for a master of transformations and reinventions — this represents her boldest and most successful rebrand yet.

Taking a page from Lady Gaga’s branding story

Lady Gaga has a special genius for fusing styles, identities, and dexterously remixing the ideas and images of other famous artists (Madonna, David Bowie and David Byrne to name just a few).

Brands don’t have access to Gaga’s creative brilliance, but they can still learn important lessons about audience building, rebranding, and utilizing resources, such as a branding agency.

One example: Gaga’s connection with her fans is amazingly deep and powerful. In an era where fame is often fleeting and fickle, Gaga has built a global fan base numbering in the tens of millions. Her art isn’t solely responsible for this connection; Gaga is a master of using social media and other digital forms to interact and communicate with her fan base.

Gaga’s most ardent followers, whom she christened “Little Monsters,” are among the most passionate and devoted fans in the world. In every corner of the digital world, you’ll find them evangelizing on her behalf, defending her from critics and reveling in all things Gaga. In return, Lady Gaga showers them with affection, interacts with them personally across social platforms, and gives them exclusive access to songs and information.

Why is there such a fierce bond between this superstar and her fans? It’s the same reason why her rebranding efforts have been successful: Authenticity. Anyone (or any brand) can pivot on a dime; yet if this transformation isn’t grounded in something deep, real and true, fans (or consumers) aren’t going to respond.

Lady Gaga’s rebrand as Hollywood screen siren is rooted in her Oscar-worthy performance.  Her previous transformations and incarnations were all rooted in her deep understanding of the musical and artistic traditions she was mining for inspiration.

For brands seeking to replicate that success, it’s a smart idea to follow the same framework: Build a meaningful connection with your audience, and ensure your rebrand is rooted in something authentic.

Finding the right branding agency

At BIGEYE, we’re big fans of Lady Gaga — but we’re even more entranced by the idea of helping businesses develop their own genius for branding. With some assistance from the right branding agency, we believe almost any business can build the audience it deserves.

Contact our branding team today to build your own following of little monsters and advance your brand!

5 Secrets to Authentic Branding in an Era of Declining Trust

A generation ago, authenticity perhaps wasn’t a key strategic goal for your typical marketing firm or brand story agency. That’s not because it isn’t important; it’s simply because yesterday’s audience was less wary and more trusting.

Survey after survey shows that Millennials and Generation Z are more skeptical of ads than older demographics. This development is occurring against a backdrop of declining trust in business — the Edelman Trust Barometer reports that 48% of U.S. citizens report having trust in corporations. That’s a relatively steep decline of 10 points since 2017.

Not only are modern audiences more skeptical and less likely to automatically trust, but they are also more sophisticated and discerning. In an age where data is currency, people are beginning to take a closer look at how advertising and marketing work — and who truly benefits. 

The environment makes authenticity essential. Brands and any brand story agency that can connect in a meaningful way have a serious competitive advantage.

With that in mind, let’s review five ways you can authentically brand your company and improve your marketing strategy.

Fearless candor

Remember when Domino’s Pizza essentially admitted their product was awful? In the early 2000s, the pizza chain’s reputation was so toxic that taste testers liked their product less if they were told it came from Domino’s, rather than simply being unbranded.

Domino’s decided to make changes to their pizza and accompany the rollout with a marketing campaign that was basically an extended mea culpa for culinary crimes. This candid and authentic approach was a resounding success; Domino’s market share rose from nine to 16% in five years. The moral of the story? The honesty and candor resonated with consumers, and they ordered much more pizza as a result.

Fine tune your voice

Does your company speak with a unified and distinctive brand voice across all platforms and channels? If not, it’s time to start working with a brand story agency. Your brand voice should be an authentic representation of your brand personality and it should, ideally, be immediately recognizable to your audience.

What’s the best way to create an authentic brand voice? Fine-tune your language. All of your brand language should reflect your brand messaging, attributes etc. It should also be relatable, fresh and up to date.

What it shouldn’t do, however, is attempt to mimic popular slang phrases or idioms. That kind of thing needs to be executed perfectly, otherwise, you’ll fall into the all too familiar category “corporation tries to be hip and fails spectacularly.” That’s about as inauthentic as it gets in the eyes of modern audiences.

Reach for a higher purpose

Consumers may be wary about marketing, but they appreciate uplift and storytelling. Look no further than Nike’s advertising campaigns, which typically do a masterful job of highlighting the triumph of the human spirit over often-incredible odds.

When an audience watches Rohan Murphy (a wrestler who managed to compete at the highest collegiate level despite having no legs) in a Nike ad, some of the awe and goodwill they experience is transferred to the brand.  Being exposed to a narrative like this can create a deeply human and authentic connection, as the ad creates a powerful emotional response in the viewer.

Forge a two-way connection

Great storytelling doesn’t have to be a one-way street. In fact, by encouraging your audience to share their own stories with your brand, you can forge an even deeper and more authentic connection.

Social media is the ideal avenue for a two-way campaign. Invite your audience to share photos or stories on Instagram, and engage them in meaningful conversations about their content.

Don’t behave like a brand; Act like a person

Let’s face it: Brands are never going to fully transcend the inherent skepticism audience’s hold. So why act like a brand?

If you want to achieve authenticity, don’t be afraid to let the corporate mask drop. Show the occasional misstep or hiccup. Work with a brand story agency to create interesting, fresh and human stories to share. Drop the pose of corporate Olympian detachment, and let your audience know that your brand is really a collection of people: Imperfect, yes, but also human and deeply authentic.

Reach out to our human team and begin to authenticate your brand story.

Does Your Brand Talk About You? Use a Brand Story Agency

Human beings are natural storytellers. From our earliest days, we’ve shared stories, shaped myths and passed them down through each generation, using them to explain, entertain and educate. The most successful brands understand how important a great story is to public perception — which is one reason why working with a specialized brand story agency is often the best move.

By developing a compelling brand story, customers view businesses for what they truly are: A collection of real people working to deliver a product or service that improves the customer’s life, rather than another faceless and distant organization.

Neuroscience research has shown that narratives have a profoundly stimulating effect on the human mind; in fact, if one looks at scans of the brain, there is little difference between reading or hearing a story and experiencing the same thing — all the same neurological regions of the brain are activated. A brand story, like any other story, has immense potential for creating rich and meaningful connections with audiences.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at five tips for improving your existing brand story.

Identify your protagonist

There’s a reason why almost every story needs a hero; the archetypal “hero’s journey” is one of the oldest story patterns we have, and one that is found in virtually every human culture. It has endured this long for one reason: People respond to it on a deep, emotional level.

A brand protagonist doesn’t need to be a figure like Hercules and doesn’t even need to be overtly or classically heroic. It might be a founder (think about the iconic power of a Steve Jobs or Ray Kroc), a spokesperson or simply the company itself. Yet it should always help forge a connection with your audience. Remember, brand stories need to go deeper than conventional advertising; when executed correctly, they create emotional resonance.

Make it Relatable

“Put people in your photos” is the first thing any news photographer is taught. Why? Because people are drawn to each other, much more than we’re drawn to landscapes or buildings. The same holds true in storytelling.

Your brand story should focus on how your product or service improves the lives of everyday people. It should be authentic and compelling, feeling personal yet also universal.

Cut Through the Clutter

We’ve all started reading a boring story and stopped after a few uninspiring paragraphs, never to pick it up again. To maintain audience interest, it’s vitally important to seize their attention immediately.

When crafting a brand story, originality and creativity are paramount. It’s impossible to sell to an audience if you cannot hold their attention.

Focus on Simplicity

When telling a story, needless complexity distracts the audience and increases the risk of disengagement. This is especially true for brand stories (after all, we’re not creating War and Peace, here). In order to avoid this, it’s important to tell your brand story in a simple fashion.

To do this, keep your story focused on the problems you can solve for real people while still allowing your brand personality to shine through.

Make Sure You Answer Two Fundamental Questions

Every brand story should address two essential questions: Who are you and why are you in business?

Audiences want to know who they are patronizing and the values you stand for. They also want to know why you’re in business — and the answer has to be more than just “to make a profit.” Use your story to explain your values and the value you can add to your customers’ lives.

Working With a Brand Story Agency

Creating a compelling brand story is a real challenge — especially for small to mid-sized businesses. At BIGEYE, we have the storytelling expertise to help you create the kind of brand identity that moves the needle. 

If you’re in the market for a top Florida marketing firm or brand story agency, we urge you to find out what BIGEYE can do for you.

Success Is Written in the Stars and Creative Brand Consulting

Can a business guarantee its own failure before it even opens? Absolutely. Poor planning and strategic misjudgments can end any prospect of success before the doors open. Yet more aesthetic decisions — such as designing a logo — can also play a critical role in long-term success. That’s one reason why creative brand consulting is such a valuable service for many of today’s fledgling enterprises.

Why the right logo makes all the difference

Some new business owners view the creation of a logo as a second-level task. If they can devise a clever one, great, but if not, no big deal.

You’d never find this kind of indifference in the C suite of a Fortune 500 firm, however. The most successful companies understand that their logo is the core of their visual identity and a cornerstone part of the overall brand. Research has shown that logos can impact not only the public perception of a company but also its performance.

A logo is often the consumer’s first impression, for better or worse, and the first thing that comes to mind when a company is named. These perceptions are so powerful that even the mere shape of a logo can elicit powerful feelings about a brand in the eyes of consumers.

If you’re skeptical, just think about the cultural cachet carried by the golden arches, the Nike swoosh, or that famous apple with one bite removed. A logo, when executed properly, is everything great about a brand compressed into one brilliant signifying image.

All of which raises a key question: How do you create a logo that truly stands out?

Creating eye-catching logos

Great logos tend to have shared attributes, and these common features can serve as a road map of sorts for the creation of your own standout logo. Being a creative brand consulting agency, we have narrowed down some of the most important design principles in logo creations include:

  • Originality. In order to stand out a logo needs to separate itself from the routine visual imagery we process every day. 
  • Simplicity. An overly complex logo turns viewers off. The best logos are elegantly simple and instantly recognizable.
  • Connection. A logo doesn’t have to directly represent what’s being sold (Nike doesn’t sell swooshes, after all) but it should bear some connection with the company’s brand and story.
  • Colors. As we’ve written before, color is critical to marketing. Different colors evoke different emotional responses. Understanding this is key to developing a striking logo that elicits the response for which you’re aiming.
  •  Flexibility. Today, logos appear in a large number of contexts (social media, TV, print, billboards) and devices (phones, tablets, laptops). A great logo should work well across any context and on any device, regardless of size or background constraints.

How creative brand consulting can help create the perfect logo

Developing a logo that meets all the necessary design elements is no small task for most business owners. A top Florida advertising agency like BIGEYE, however, has the necessary expertise and experience to create visually arresting logos that immediately stand out to consumers.

 By applying our insights into design aesthetics and color theory, we can help you craft a logo that instantly conveys your brand story, forging an immediate connection with your desired audience. Connect with us today about refreshing a previously existing brand or developing a new logo!

Warm Messages, Cold Devices: Branding Authentic Digital Connections

It is not difficult to understand why consumers respond to a personal connection, as the evidence is overwhelming. Consider the persistent power of word-of-mouth advertising, for example. Today’s companies can create an extraordinarily sophisticated and insightful marketing campaign — support this campaign with bleeding-edge technological tools — and still lose a customer, simply because she was given a different word-of-mouth recommendation.
Marketing, at its core, attempts to facilitate these kinds of personal connections between brands and their audiences, whether intellectual or emotional. When this is done well, it creates brand intimacy, a close, personal and enduring bond between people and the companies they use and love.

Yet these all-important human connections must be forged in an era where people are becoming increasingly atomized and distant. Fifty years ago, people joined fraternal organizations, participated in civic life, went bowling together and lived in relatively close proximity.

Today, popular fraternal organizations such as the Lions Club or Rotary Club have withered, civic participation is at record lows, bowling leagues are considered retro entertainment, and suburban sprawl has created unprecedented physical distance between neighbors.

These developments have created a tear in the social fabric of society, as the public commons have grown ever smaller, and people fail to socialize and form connections. Mutual trust is also at record lows, as we continue to retreat into private spaces rather than the public sphere.

All of this raises a few important questions: Is technology to blame for societal atomization? Are our devices alienating us from each other?

If so, how should marketers respond?

Technology and its distancing effect on audiences

People have always looked to technology as a means of reducing distance. The telegraph and telephone brought unimaginable change to the 19th century; television and the Internet did the same for the 20th century.

Yet while technology may offer a soldier the opportunity to speak with his children from thousands of miles away — facilitating a profound human connection in the process — that same technology can also have an alienating effect.

Walk into any restaurant today, and you’ll inevitably witness two people sitting across from each other idly scanning their smartphones rather than speaking, or even looking at each other. This scenario is now so common as to be almost the default expectation. Research has shown that when mobile devices are present in a face-to-face interaction, both empathy levels, and attention wane.

Theoretically, smartphones and social platforms have given us much greater (near total, in some cases) visibility into each other’s lives, something that should facilitate greater connections. Yet social media is often full of artifice; a hyper-curated representation that bears little relationship to lived reality, and too often inspires feelings of anxiety, envy or sadness in others. For all of its communal pretensions, social media is often an alienating experience.

The truth is simple: People change at glacial pace and technology changes at breakneck speed. The changes we’ve experienced, particularly in the last 30 years, have been extraordinary, and we still have little notion as to the long-term effect.

Whether this is ultimately for good or ill is an open question. It does, however, present a specific challenge for brands seeking to create meaningful connections with audiences in this environment: How can we forge human connections through machines that are often alienating in their effect?

How brands create human connection across machines

The correlation of a warm human connection delivered via a cold collection of hardware and software is a striking one. Humans, at our core, have always had mixed feelings about technology — one look at dystopian science fiction makes this techno-anxiety palpable.

Brands, of course, are highly motivated to create these invaluable connections, and they understand how powerfully modern technology can facilitate them. This means that brands must strike a delicate balance: Use technology to deliver compelling and emotionally resonant marketing messages without tapping into broader human anxiety about that technology.

Marketing campaigns for Charter, one of the world’s largest telecommunications firms, provide a good example of how to thread this needle. Charter’s TV commercials have a notable tendency to depict large groups of people singing and dancing while surrounded by computers, screens, and other devices. In this representation, the technology is present, but it takes a definite backseat to humans interacting together within their natural social context.

Technology firms aren’t the only organizations attempting to take a more humanistic approach to advertising and marketing. Charter’s campaigns are following a larger trend toward brand personalization and human experience.

Aviation firm JetBlue created its clever “Air on the Side of Humanity” campaign to connect with air travelers who felt alienated by the impersonal process of taking commercial flights. A generation ago, boarding a plane did not require navigating strict security protocols, and the experience was far more relaxed. JetBlue’s campaign skillfully highlights the “chicken run meets DMV” aspect of modern flying and positions the company as a more humanistic alternative, simply by acknowledging how cold and impersonal commercial flight often feels.

The banking sector has also become rapidly depersonalized in recent years, as automation and other technologies have reduced the need for tellers. Thanks to ATMs and online banking, many people may go months or even years without speaking to someone at their bank. The primary tradeoff for this efficiency is, of course, the human touch.

In order to compensate, BMO, TD Bank and other financial services firms have created advertising campaigns that emphasize the “human” angle of their business. Meanwhile, global insurer Liberty Mutual dispensed with subtlety altogether, using “Human” — the Human League’s inescapable number one single from 1986 — as background music for a high-profile ad that ran during the 2012 London Olympics.

These efforts illustrate the value of an authentically human and personal approach to marketing messaging. Today, so many of our interactions with the companies we patronize are not only mediated through technology but wholly lacking any human connection. Consider how virtual receptionists attempt to route your calls and answer your questions without the need for a person. Or consider the proliferation of A.I.-powered chatbots; most of them are programmed to sound human, and nearly all of them utterly fail in the attempt.

These approaches may be more efficient, but they are often alienating, and make those on the other end feel unimportant. As A.I. and machine learning evolve and mature, our interactions with businesses will grow ever more distant. This means that marketing messages need to be more authentic, resonant and personalized than ever before.

By making an effort to close the alienating distance created by technology, brands can create the kind of deep and meaningful connections that inspire persistent loyalty among audiences.

The takeaway

Technology is a double-edged sword in terms of fostering connections. While it removes the impediment of physical distance, it often creates a different sort of distance, more emotional or psychological in nature.

Brands that prioritize authentic human connection in their messaging will be best positioned to mitigate the distancing and alienating effect of technology — ultimately creating the kind of deep personal bonds that create brand intimacy and earn long-term loyalty.

Looking to refocus your brand messaging and campaigns to provide more human-like connections with your audience? You’ve come to the right place. Contact our team today and we’ll get started!