Focus on Design, Part I: Crafting a Compelling Brand


Here at MSC Retail, we believe that branding can be just as crucial as location and operations when it comes to the success of our clients. We’ve learned a number of key lessons both from designing and maintaining our own brand as well as from keeping our finger on the pulse of current trends in the retail and hospitality industries. This is the first post in a three part blog series that we’ve put together to share our favorite design and branding insights and ‘aha’ moments. If you’re looking for tips to help take your retail or restaurant concept to the next level, you’ve come to the right place.

Crafting a Compelling Brand: 5 Tips to Remember

“Brands are psychology and science brought together as a promise mark as opposed to trademark. […] Brands outlive products. Brands convey a uniform quality, credibility and experience. Brands are valuable. Many companies put the value of their brand on their balance sheet.” (Source)

Today’s consumer depends on more than just their trusty taste buds to guide them to the perfect lunch spot. When seeking a bite to eat in a dense urban core where choice paradox abounds, hungry diners feel the pull of the brand. Good branding has the power to draw in customers, enrich the dining experience, and inspire loyalty. Widely popular cool kid brand (and MSC client!), Shake Shack, is a prime example of this: “Paula Scher’s Shake Shack identity proved that investing in a well-considered identity is more than a matter of style, it’s a smart business move; her work is widely acknowledged to have played a hand in Shake Shack’s recent $1.6b IPO.” (Source: AIGA Eye on Design blog, 2015) So what should entrepreneurs venturing into the industry consider when crafting a QSR or fast casual concept? Our branding gurus have compiled a list of 5 tips to remember.

#1  Your brand makes the initial impression, not your food — make sure it’s a positive one.

What’s the first thing you experience when you walk into a restaurant? Is it the smells, the signage, the music, the menu or the service? One thing is for sure: the first bite of food comes much later once your customers have absorbed everything else at your restaurant. Sweat the details and pay attention to visuals like identity, decor and ambiance — consider everything that goes into making your space and your brand. Don’t just rely on your food to make a good impression.  

Every inch of Dizen Goff’s space is infused with their unique, Israeli-inspired brand. 


#2  Your brand sets expectations for your product.

Top notch branding signifies a top notch product. Design has become so ubiquitous in our culture that even the untrained eye has become accustomed to using it as a benchmark of quality. Make sure your brand conveys the quality of your product and nothing less.

The folks at honeygrow know what we’re talking about — everything from their packaging to their website and social media imagery signifies fresh, quality ingredients. 


#3  Know your secret sauce.

Dolly Parton once said, “Figure out who you are and do it on purpose.” At MSC Retail, we think the perfect approach to branding amounts to one simple idea: you do you. No one else’s brand should look, feel, and sound like yours. Knowing what makes your brand unique and doing it with intention will always set you apart from the competition.

Little Baby’s isn’t afraid to be themselves — their quirky approach to design echoes their eclectic ice cream flavors. 


#4  Your brand is your ambassador, giving your product life beyond the walls of your restaurant.

Using unmarked bags and containers to carry out your food? You might want to rethink that. Your packaging design is a key piece of your brand. It travels outside of your space and has the power to communicate to consumers on the street. Even a simple ink stamp on a take-out box can increase brand recognition and make a lasting impression.

Chances are you’re familiar with Shake Shack’s branding and packaging design. We can’t get enough. 


And speaking of lasting impressions… #5  Your brand keeps the good vibes going.

Getting customers in the door is only half the battle — the key is to keep them coming back for more. Why not let your brand do some of the legwork? Extend the positive feelings associated with eating at your restaurant by interacting with customers on social media. Take a few cues from brands like Taco Bell, Denny’s or Seamless and use your best human voice.

Denny’s has found the way to our heart and it’s not just through our stomach.  


Any tips we missed? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Reach out to us on Twitter or via email and introduce yourself! Be sure to check back next week for part two in our Focus on Design series, The Latest Branding Trends: To Follow or Not To Follow?