May 2, 2016

Branding & Packaging Basics For Small Food Businesses (PODCAST)


Your brand name, your logo, and your packaging is the first impression of your company that customers see so it’s critical to do get it right.  Is your company and your products communicating what you want and need them to?






Jennifer: Today we have the first in a 4-part series where we are talking to Garden Haus. Garden Haus is a Brooklyn-based food packaging design firm that is brought to you by Ben Garthus, who’s a 15-year veteran of designing packaging for mega food brands, and Chitra Agrawal, a seasoned digital marketer and chef. In 2014, the pair launched Brooklyn Delhi and within a year their artisanal Indian condiments line was carried in 50 stores nationwide and featured in 30 publications, including the New York Times and SAVEUR. Realizing the impact great packaging can have on quality products, Ben and Chitra created Garden Haus to serve the design needs of growing food brands.


As I mentioned, this is the first in a 4-part series because we have a lot of information that we want to cover with them. They bring a lot of expertise to the table. To start with, though, first of all thank you, both of us, for taking the time to speak with us and to share your insight and your expertise with our listeners.


Ben: Thank you, our pleasure, for sure.


Chitra: Yeah. Thanks for having us.


Jennifer: I was really excited to talk to both of you because you really are a powerhouse team when it comes to marketing and branding, especially with and for food businesses. To start with the basics, though, can you explain exactly what this word brand actually means? I mean, what sort of things go into developing a strong brand?


Ben: Sure. A brand is basically a company’s personality. It’s both the physical expression, like the logo, packaging, signage, website, the digital representation, and it’s also the emotional and psychological aspects of the brand, the way that customers relate to your company.


Jennifer: That piece that you’re talking about about that emotional connection to consumers, why is a strong brand important? Why can’t you just say, “Hey, I have this phenomenal tasting product,” and that be enough to carry the product?


Ben: It’s just such a competitive marketing place. There’s so many different products out there and everybody’s vying for consumers’ attention. Ultimately I think the brands that really rise to the top are ones that people develop a relationship with.


Chitra: Also I think that nowadays there’s so many different ways that your brand can come to life. I think before it was you have a package, you have a logo, and nowadays with social media there’s a lot more transparency with what a brand means and how you can come across to customers. I think what all that means is that the more personable you can make your brand the better. I think that has to do with just having your brand almost take on almost the personality of a person.


Ben: Yeah.


Jennifer: In some sense. I think that’s where small food businesses have a leg up from the larger corporate brands is a lot of times there is a person behind that brand.


Ben: For sure. In Brooklyn Delhi’s case, Chitra is just as much a part of the brand as the product or the packaging. She’s a cookbook author and a food blogger and she’s been a part of this New York food scene and Brooklyn food scene for 10 years. People associate her with the brand. She’s out there selling it in markets and she makes it herself. In that sense, she’s very much a part of the brand. I think for a lot of small food businesses, especially in the beginning, the people that are starting it are just as important.


Jennifer: Yeah. I’ll agree with you guys 100%. I have found, and I often tell folks, that telling the story of your company that you need to show personality. Oftentimes, like you said, it’s going to be your personality because you’re the power behind it, but that is … Yeah. I completely agree. One question I have for you guys is … Okay, so we were talking about personality of the brand. One of the things that comes to mind is the name of the company. I know that people can’t necessarily see this as we’re talking about it online, or as we’re talking about it in the podcast, but there will be a link to this. Brooklyn Delhi, just so that everybody understands, is an Indian condiment company, but Delhi is spelled D-E-L-H-I. There’s definite fun play on words there.


I’d love to know a little bit about how you guys came up with the name for the company and what you were looking for as you were … because to me that name is fun. It invokes the Brooklyn artisan scene. It’s a smart play on words. What were you guys thinking about when you came up with the name for that business? I guess 2 fold is is naming your company something that you should just come up with a great, you know, “Suzy’s Cookies,” and just go with it or is it something that needs to be given a little bit more thought and a little bit … I guess not take it quite so lightly.


Ben: Right. Well, I’ll let Chitra answer the first part because she came up with the great name for the deli.


Chitra: Brooklyn Delhi was actually a name that I’d come up with for a café concept I was working on with a potential investor a few years back. I think that the name embodies the type of cooking that I’ve been preparing for the last 6 or 7 years, which is basically a mix of locally grown ingredients and traditional Indian cooking techniques. Like you said, there’s definitely a play on words, kind of a sense of humor to it. For anyone that knows me, I have a pretty silly side to my personality at times. I also wanted it to portray a little bit of edge from living in a city and having that perspective. I guess on face value, I have been living and working in Brooklyn for the past 10 years and a lot of the style of cooking, which is mainly home style cooking I learned from my family, and my father is from Delhi, so …


Jennifer: The name works on many levels.


Ben: Yeah.


Chitra: Yeah, definitely.


Ben: I think, from my perspective, to show the power of the name, it really helped to guide the design of the packaging for me. The packaging just delivers on that name. It encompasses that idea. Then you have the type style that looks Indian for Delhi and more like a Brooklyn-esque style for Brooklyn. It got me thinking a lot about Indian street graphics and truck sign painting that’s really popular and prominent in India. It’s this hybrid of those 2 things. If the name wasn’t so good, we would have never come to that.


Jennifer: Do you think then, Ben, that a strong name, after an entrepreneur comes up with their name, that a strong name, when it’s handed over to the designer, that it can really help drive the creativity of the designer?


Ben: For sure. In the same sense, a bad name can hinder it. Even just on a very practical level, if you have a name that’s super long, it’s really hard to work with. It’s going to be a sentence long. It’s difficult to fit on a package.


Chitra: Also, I think that when coming up with a name you should also think about possible future growth. For us, Brooklyn Delhi is a name that right now we’re producing product for, but it could also stand on the face of a brick and mortar café or deli. It can expand into other product lines. Especially starting out, you have to look at your business as something that may pivot, may change over a time. You shouldn’t limit yourself also by the name that you come up with.


Jennifer: That’s a really great reminder. Thank you. I think oftentimes we, as entrepreneurs, can get too myopically focused on the next year to 2 years and forget that we need to be looking 10 plus years out if we really want a business that’s going to be successful long term.


Chitra: Definitely.


Ben: There’s also some real practical concerns, like making sure that your name isn’t trademarked and that kind of thing.


Chitra: Yeah, it’s not taken already.


Ben: Making sure that the web address is available.


Jennifer: Yeah, social media handles.


Ben: For sure.


Jennifer: Backing up for a little bit, or just for second, if you’ve gone through the step process of helping or to figure out what the name for your company should be, the next step is oftentimes the logo. I’d love to hear from you guys a little bit about why having a strong logo is important. Then I seem to be asking 2-part questions all the time. What are some of the components that go intro creating a logo that’s going to work for your business? We were just talking about both today and 5, 10 years from now just like the name will.


Ben: Right. The logo is really the first impression of your brand. It’s the thing that people see and they take with them and it’s the thing that’s going to keep reinforcing your brand each time they interact with your product or see your visual communication. The logo has the ability to really communicate a lot of complicated ideas in a very efficient, short way. For instance, I was thinking about one of my favorite logos, and FedEx, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the little trick in that logo.


Jennifer: Oh, is that the one with the arrow.


Ben: With the arrow, right.


Jennifer: Yes, yup.


Ben: Yeah, it was the arrow in between the E and the X. I love that logo. I mean, partially the reason why I love it is because I didn’t really see that for the first few years that the logo was around. Then all of a sudden one day it just kind of hit me and it was like, “Wow, that’s really great.” It’s bold and then you get that added little piece where it’s communicating that idea of fast, moving forward, efficient, but I …


Jennifer: It’s interesting how some of the graphics … I don’t think we, as consumers, and I’m not a graphic designer by any stretch of the imagination, but I sometimes think that we underestimate the power that graphics and colors and everything else can have both of us and on consumers, even if they may not consciously be aware of it. Some of the subconscious stuff that goes on for food producers ultimately might help somebody choose one product over another.


Ben: For sure.


Jennifer: There’s a lot of work that goes into that from a graphics standpoint.


Ben: Totally. It’s almost subliminal in a way. I think when a logo is done well and when packaging is done well, everything coalesces and it becomes this seamless expression of your product and it almost takes on a personality or it becomes this sort of … I don’t know what the right way is to put it.


Chitra: I mean, automatically someone that looks at it I think feels that too.


Ben: Right.


Chitra: You can tell when a package doesn’t come together correctly.


Ben: There’s different things going …


Chitra: Disjointed.


Ben: Yeah, disjointed. The logo might be done in one way, the rest of the packages done in another way. There’s a bunch of different fonts going on. You know what I mean?


Jennifer: Yup.


Ben: When everything is really considered and it’s all working together, it’s like you don’t even think about it. You just experience it. You know what I mean?


Jennifer: Yeah. Actually, that got me thinking about both from the standpoint … We’re talking about the packaging and how it’s viewed by consumers, but just to remind folks, if you’re trying to sell wholesale, that’s the reaction that you need to have from buyers and distributors and brokers. They’re your first gatekeeper to the consumer if you’re trying to sell through retailers.


Ben: For sure.


Chitra: One thing that was interesting, I had gone to a panel. I think it was before we even launched Brooklyn Delhi. It was several buyers from stores and one of the buyers had said that what they see a lot of times from companies is they will put their brand name huge and then the actual product that they’re selling quite small. At that point, your brand name is not that well known. When people see … It’s just about prioritization on the label.


Ben: Right.


Jennifer: Yeah, that’s a great making.


Ben: Making sure that it’s shoppable, making sure that people know what they’re buying and end up buying.


Jennifer: What it is.


Chitra: It definitely took down into consideration for our brand. If you look at our logo or our package, Brooklyn Delhi is not the largest message on our label. It’s the actual product. It’s the actual flavor.


Jennifer: Yup. Let me ask you guys this. One thing that I hear a lot from food entrepreneurs, and it’s understandable because a lot of folks and bootstrapping their endeavors is that they will either create the logo themselves, and I’m talking about folks like me who don’t have graphic design knowledge so they’re doing it themselves or they’re handing it off to Aunt Mary to do because she likes to draw a couple things now and again. You hear a lot of folks say, “Okay, well I’m going to go with this logo for the first 3 years. Then when I have money I’m going to switch.” Doesn’t that create a disjointed experience for the consumer? Again, I’ll add in there the buyers and everybody else. Don’t they have to relearn who you are again at that point?


Ben: For sure, definitely. I mean, that’s not to say that if you started with something and you want to change it now that you can’t. You can totally evolve those things and you can get it up to speed or up to the place that you want to get it, but I think it’s definitely better to start with that at first. I mean, we have friends that have started brands. They have great products. Then all of a sudden you get these copycat brands that come out, these people that copy a product. They come out and they have way better packaging and branding and even an inferior product, but they take away market share and they totally ambush them in a way. It’s …


Chitra: It’s tough to watch, to see that.


Ben: It’s kind of infuriating.


Jennifer: Yeah, and thank you for reminding me about this because you’re right. I’ve seen this happen time and time again.


Ben: It’s a little bit, not to be over dramatic, but it’s a little bit like war or a battle or something. It’s such a competitive market that you just want to make sure that you have the best possible packaging and branding right upfront just to really capitalize on all your efforts and make sure that people don’t take it away from you.


Chitra: I think that that’s a reason why even have the adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” because I think that is human nature to do that, to think, “Okay, well if it looks like that on the outside, that’s going to be an indication of what I’m getting on the inside.” Right? I mean, unfortunately.


Jennifer: Both from the standpoint of the copy cats or from the standpoint of a not-as-well-designed product that actually is a fantastic product on the inside.


Ben: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Exactly.


Jennifer: I have 1 more question for you guys for today’s podcast. I’m curious to hear your explanation of the difference between logo, which is what we’ve been talking about, but then brand identity because you hear that word used a lot. Sometimes you hear that word used interchangeably. What does a food entrepreneur need to know when it comes to brand identity versus logo?


Ben: Well, a logo is basically a piece of your brand identity. Your brand identity encompasses that, but your brand identity is the total sum of all of your designed pieces. It’s your packaging, your logo, your website, business cards, the boxes that you’re packages are shipped out in, invoices, everything. It’s all a part of your brand identity.


Jennifer: I lied a little bit. I have 1 followup question then. We were talking about how name can help, not create the logo itself, but the name can help inspire the logo. Can then the logo help then inspire the brand identity or does the brand identity need to come first?


Ben: For sure you should have your marketing strategy and all that stuff before you develop your logo and brand identity. I guess the logo would come first and then the rest of your marketing materials. Usually the logo appears on everything, so … Yeah.


Jennifer: Okay. No, that definitely makes sense.


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