Transforming cult food brands for global audiences

category - millennials
sector - food & drink
type - opinion
It’s no longer enough for food brands to have great tasting products. Now, they must build a personality that connects with audiences – anywhere in the world

A recent report finds that over 50% of millennials – one of the largest demographics to consume from quick-service brands such as Leon, Pret-a-Manger or Five Guys – consider new experiences an important feature when choosing a place to eat.

For quick-service food and beverage brands to succeed and stand out in a competitive industry, they need to go beyond just buying into a design aesthetic or following popular trends. This is particularly important for those that are looking to expand into new markets and establish a global brand. But this can be a challenge if they have built their experience and branding around their local surroundings and cultural touchpoints.

How, then, can food and beverage brands with an existing loyal following establish themselves in newer and different markets, without losing its roots? When thinking about the cultural nuances between different markets, the two that are frequently compared to one another are the East and the West. For instance, Western consumers expect brands to be aware of and respond to cultural and societal issues. We’ve seen this recently in the food and beverage sector, where brands are starting to move away from culturally insensitive iconography, an example being Quaker dropping its ‘Aunt Jemima’ mascot due to racist connotations.

Eastern consumers, on the other hand, value communal experiences, which is reflected by brands in the East through a focus on family and community in their marketing, such as Asian fast-food giant Jollibee, which positions itself as a second home for consumers.

By having this hyper-local understanding, brands can create something that is own-able and has a considerable advantage over their competitors. And when it comes to developing food and beverage spaces, having this own-able brand narrative and identity is essential, especially when a brand wants to adapt to different markets and reach different audiences.

Published by:

12 November 2020

Author: Vivek Bhatia

Image: East London Liquor Co rebranding by Ragged Edge, UK


Jollibee rebranded by Ico Design

Returning to Jollibee, ico Design’s recent work rebranding the Filipino fried chicken brand for UK expansion is an example of this. We realised that Jollibee’s own-able territory lives beyond food – something we defined as ‘an upbeat Asian Twist’. This makes sense for the brand’s fusion of Western comfort foods with Southeast Asian flavours but it also impacts its brand expression across the board to appeal to British consumers without alienating its core Filipino audience. We developed a modern attitude – both visual and verbal – to celebrate the brand’s Asian heritage.

Indeed, with almost 80% of Millennials wanting to ‘see the story behind the scenes’ of the brands they purchase from, companies are now expected to show personality beyond just their branding. In food and beverage, it’s all about the brand experience – and design is integral to creating that experience, from the way food is photographed to the menu and the interior fit-out.

Familiar brands that have done this effectively include South African chain Nando’s, who’ve turned design into part of the experience and has gone on to win several awards for its interiors, not to mention a cult following in the UK and Ireland.

With different cultures increasingly influencing one another, it is important that quick-service food and drink brands build a narrative and identity that is adaptable and flexible to local mindsets and market changes. When looking to branch out to new or unfamiliar territories and audiences, ensure you understand the cultural trends and expectations, respond to these but also maintain what makes the brand its own.

Vivek Bhatia is partner and creative director at ico Design, a London based design studio that creates and builds memorable brands for businesses and organisations.

‘Quick-service food and drink brands must build a narrative and identity that is adaptable to local mindsets’
Vivek Bhatia, partner and creative director, ico Design

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