How Good Press Almost Turned a Rebranding Project on Its Ear
Imagine a world where positive, glowing press – on both a national and local stage – is not part of the plan… at least not yet.
That’s exactly what happened as we prepared to roll out the new brand for Athlete Eats, the growing café and prepared meal service founded by St. Louis Cardinals nutritionist Simon Lusky.
Simon came to us with big plans: he was going to expand his St. Louis Cherokee Street location. He was opening a second location. He was starting up a food truck. And he wanted to expand his performance-focused meal service beyond St. Louis.
His challenge to us: create a brand platform that would enable and support all of this growth. And that started with a question: should the name still be Athlete Eats?
Why Should Athletes Have All the Fun?
We asked ourselves. We asked their current customers. We asked non-customers. Did the name need to change? Sure, “Athlete Eats” is technically accurate. Simon’s healthy culinary creations are high in protein and low in carbohydrates to provide athletes with dense, long-lasting energy.
But the question kept coming up: what if you’re not an athlete? What if you just want to eat good food? You can eat there, but, with a name like that, would you? Especially since there are so many other options?
We needed an alternative.
On our seemingly never-ending quest for the perfect name, we followed a lot of dead-end paths. We thought about how popular names are structured. We thought about alternatives to “Eats” – like “Foods” or “Café.”
Early on, we gravitated toward “Honest Eats.” It felt, well, honest: Simon has built his business to be incredibly transparent about the ingredients he uses, how he sources them, and the benefits his food provides. It was a nod to the old and the new aspects of the brand.
Honest Eats felt so right…until it didn’t. As we thought about how the brand might grow (perhaps just calling some products “Honest”), we started doing some trademark searches and found a little company called Coca-Cola selling a line of tea called, you guessed it, Honest Teas. And they were looking to expand beyond teas, leaning on the “Honest” name to do the selling.
And while not a direct competitor, there’s also The Honest Company, helmed by Jessica Alba, which is also making family-oriented waves in the healthy, organic lifestyle space.
So it was back to the drawing board. Or, perhaps more accurately, the naming board. We spent days making lists on whiteboards, in notebooks and in our heads. At some point, every single person in the agency got involved to explore ideas, make bad jokes, and go down a lot of dead-end roads.
But that’s just part of the process. And to us, the most important part of that process is always asking questions. Even if they seem like stupid questions. Because one question leads to another. And eventually to an answer.
We asked ourselves: Who would eat at the café? Who would want to subscribe to a meal plan? Who might follow the food truck? And that led to… why? Why would someone want to eat healthy food?
Our answer: People eat because they want to feel good about what they eat. And whatever reason they have for “eating right”, this brand is there with them. This is a brand built to fuel and celebrate goals large and small.
And there was the revelation, so to speak. This is not about eating healthy. This is about celebrating real food. Food that makes you feel good.
We drew inspiration from modern lifestyle and athletic brands that use bright, bold colors and vibrant design.
As we explored this direction, we had actually written the word “revel” on our whiteboard more than once. It kept popping up in discussions as a favorite, but we were still unsure. We liked the word, and we liked the meaning behind it, but weren’t sure how to make it work.
It wasn’t until we started playing around with “Kitchen” as a qualifier that it started to stick. After all, Athlete Eats is more than a café, it’s also a food truck and prepared meal service, and we thought the idea of a place where a chef prepared fresh meals was a good fit.
Once we combined the two – revel and kitchen – we had our answer.
This is Revel Kitchen.
And this one really did feel right. We felt it had “legs” as they say in the biz. It spoke to Simon’s philosophy, and would give us ample opportunity to pay homage to the Athlete Eats brand, as we did in our positioning language:
We’re inspired by those who dream big, and the everyday choices people make to push themselves to some-thing greater. We celebrate their vision, with food planned and prepared the right way, fueling the small steps that lead to the big wins.
Full disclosure: Selling the Revel Kitchen name to Simon and his team wasn’t a slam dunk, to mix our sporting metaphors. There was some concern if people would know what it was. Would people understand this was a name change, and not an entirely new business? Would they “get” the new brand?
So we created a strategic, timed plan that encompassed emails to customers, signage about the change, press releases, social media and more. It was timed to launch at the same time as the Revel Kitchen food truck, which was to debut at the first Sauce Magazine Food Truck Friday of 2015.
You know what they say about the best laid plans, right?
As we took our first steps, Simon let us know about an upcoming feature article in The New York Times. Yeah. That New York Times. Local publications got in on the act, too, with both Sauce and Feast running in-depth features on the company.
Let’s make some stuff.
The deluge of positive press forced us to make an already-tight timeline (to get the food truck wrapped and ready) even tighter. It also changed the focus of our introductory campaign, from simple new name announcements to more nuanced explanation of the new brand on signage, in emails and on the Revel Kitchen website.
We’re proud to stay the buzz about the brand has continued to buzz – even from the already-high level – since the food truck and other elements of Revel Kitchen rolled out over a month ago.
And now, we’re continuing to build the brand. We’re redesigning the menus and signage in the newly expanded Cherokee Street café. We’re adding a splash of color to their website (and working on a whole new site that will launch in the fall).
This is just the beginning of the Revel Kitchen story, and we’re honored to have been a part of it so far. And we’re excited to see where it will lead next. While the journey might not always go exactly as planned, we’re confident it will be someplace worth celebrating.