Archives for category: Marketing

I love Pinterest.

It is such a great way to log ideas, build a briefing note and remember great things you have seen online. And what I like best is that such a visual representation can at one click take you to the website that you originally saw it, keeping track of everything in one funky mood board.

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My first foray was when I was trying to find some wallpaper for a cafe I was working on at Silverstone and whilst I didn’t think the examples I picked were very useful to many other people, I still see these images re-pinned all the time. Funny really how quirky orange papers with whisks on or red icons of pots & pans could be desired for anything other than a race track cafe, but there you go! Still, the board I created was sent to my team at Silverstone and my vision was then dutifully executed.

An easy table centrepiece

An easy table centrepiece

After that, I created boards to demonstrate other things that I was progressing. One for the Queen’s jubilee so I could keep track of what I had seen for a report I was compiling, and another for an event I was arranging, trying to DIY on a shoestring so contemplating good, cheap, easy to make table centrepieces. The event was rained off in the end, but the board of ideas remains if and when I ever need to resurrect it.

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After that, came the design of a new ice cream offer for a stately home and an ongoing project over a couple of years designing my own new house. There is so much online to disseminate when doing that from scratch and just keeping track of what you have seen where would be a nightmare were it not for this technology. Instead, I crafted mood boards for each thing, whether lighting, or fireplaces, gardens or kitchens. And by picking bits from different pictures and piecing it all together I could create something that was never done before. An idea from outside became an internal wall of herbs, a fireplace concept became a feature wall….and so on.

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Then came the biggest work project of all, designing a brand new restaurant/cafe and retail concept for Laverstoke Park Farm. And as ever with me, I didn’t want it to be like anything else that existed, rather a place that others would visit to see the next big thing in the food arena. My head was full of ideas. My pinterest board was loaded with snippets. From clever ways to display wines, to unique storage for bread, counter designs to flooring, menus to meat this board was packed full of great ideas which I was formulating into a new concept of my own. Sadly, what seems so clear in my mind was almost lunacy to others, who didn’t have the vision to see that I was thinking laterally not literally. It made me realise that my way of thinking was not the same as others and that people really struggle to get past what is in front of them and to open up their imaginations. But nevertheless, my vision would have been fab!

In the end the project didn’t go ahead, but my ideas remain for another day.

Nowadays, my focus has moved onto innovative packaging and some of that was used to create the picnic concept I mentioned last week. Again, my mind moved towards adapting what I saw into something new. And despite our trials and tribulations, these picnics are thankfully getting good support from customers since their launch. We also use shared boards to log recipes or product ideas and that allows the team to all post different perspectives into one place that can be referred to at any one time.

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In August, I am heading off to Denmark and believe it or not, Pinterest is great for planning holiday trips too. I can see all the great food places to go, link to some good sites with ideas on what to do and piece together the places that I want to see. I always like an element of research when travelling as I worry that I am going to miss something and what has been great is that once the Denmark board was created, I was getting new ideas via pins sent back to me from other people who have pinned the same things as me. This push back is a clever tool in the same vein as the Amazon: people who bought that also bought…. but without the hard sell.

And the latest news is that Pinterest, along with other sites such as Google, Twitter and Instagram, are developing the ‘buy button’ so that now it will be easier than ever to shop online. This Harvard Business School article is an interesting read on the subject and I will watch this space on that one.

Meanwhile, my holiday plans progress and any new project ideas will be brought to life on my profile. If you are interested in keeping an eye, then I am here.

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It’s been a busy few weeks what with one thing and another. Work is crazy, as ever but there have been a couple of extra curricular activities also occupying me.

Our stand with campfire to toast

Our stand with campfire to toast

Over the bank holiday I helped a friend with her stand in the British producers tent of CarFest South. We met when an old boss of mine refused to see her on the basis that she had too corporate a background. It’s interesting to me that corporate always implies staid to people when in fact it is often a great grounding from which aspiring entrepreneurs can bounce off into the stratosphere. I know I have a corporate bent which gives structure, global vision and commerciality. It allows me a framework from which I can apply creative thinking to much better effect. My friend is the same. A week after that rejected meeting, she went it alone (with hubby’s support) and started her own marshmallow business. A year on, Eat Toast Dunk Me is a thriving brand which sells online, in shops including Selfridges and was incredibly popular at the show. We toasted, tasted and talked through all her fabulous flavours and I was so pleased to be able to help out someone who had taken such initiative and made it work.

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Then last week I was at the Speciality Fine Food Fair at Olympia with work and was reminded once again just how much the food world is thriving. The small producers section was bigger than ever with over 100 new small producer stands hosted by slightly mad, overworked exhausted people selling their self produced wares. I think it is a necessity in the food world to have a bit of madness within – otherwise I honestly don’t think you would get off the ground and true to form I was normally the person they made a beeline for! But as far as the producers were concerned, there was an amazing mix with futuristic cocktail jellies, three star salted caramel pots, more marshmallows, teas, biltong, baked beans, dips, oils, nut butters, drinks, jams from discarded food and much more.

3 star jars of salted caramel from Ireland

Sam and her 3 star jars of salted caramel from Ireland

I was also impressed with how many women were leading the way here. We spoke to quite a few on the stand who were not only at the supplier end but also the retailer side too. Some had taken over family businesses in far flung places like the Orkney Islands or Guernsey and others just started up on their kitchen table, with many more in between. It is quite humbling to see such ambition and drive as well as hard work. Obviously I am a big supporter, so if anyone needs a helping hand next year at CarFest – you know where I am.

It seems that the vending revolution continues apace. I wrote about the Sprinkles cupcake ATM way back in March 2012 and observed the progression a year later. So it seems about time to ponder the same topic again just as there is news of even more interesting products entering the vending arena.

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I was reading about the Canadians at the Winter Olympics in Sochi who seem to have got around the whole issue of limited alcohol imposed at the event. Set up in the Canadian Olympic House is a beer machine from Molson Canadian. This bright red vending machine is a great marketing stunt which only serves beer to those holding a Canadian passport. You simply swipe your passport and the fridge door opens up. Many are hailing it as the greatest thing at this year’s Winter Olympics, which is a bit of a stretch for me, but certainly it is a fun stunt.

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The last drinks fridge that caught press attention that I remember was the raw milk dispenser set up by Hook & Son at Selfridges. Sadly with all the rules and regulations surrounding the sale of raw milk, this was stopped by the FSA shortly after its installation and thankfully the prosecution of both parties has now been dropped. Nevertheless, it was interesting to see a natural healthy product handled so well by such a great retailer as Selfridges. What a shame it wasn’t able to carry on for longer.

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The demand for healthier options is growing and thus it is where the market is progressing, especially through innovative vending companies like HUMAN (Help Unite Mankind And Nutrition) healthy vending. Last year, they were listed as the 7th fastest growing company in Los Angeles by the LA Business Journal. Their machines use a conveyer belt dispenser, as opposed to the more traditional coil, which allows them to serve a wider variety of product and they focus on healthier choices such as protein bars, shakes, trail mix, teas and milk with many organic products amongst the mix. Many of their machines are equipped with LCD screens which are used to promote the health benefits or for advertising and they are all more efficient ensuring up to 50% energy savings. There are currently about 2000 machines in circulation across the USA with a huge expansion plan on the way across all sorts of sectors but the really interesting thing is how they have appealed to schools and will hopefully transform the way that our kids eat. Oh, and by the way, the company donates 10% of their profits to a charitable arm that supports the fight against the causes of obesity and malnutrition. No wonder both the CEO, Sean Kelly, and the company are receiving praise and getting recognised by Forbes and Entrepreneur Magazine amongst others.

I hope the franchise comes to the UK soon. It is a great way of developing the vending concept to improve the food offer in many, many places.

The Meatball Shop

Meatballs exist in many cuisines in one guise or another. In the UK, we have the faggot which can bring fear and dread to the unknowing. And yet our meatball fetish was rekindled by Ikea introducing us to the Swedish version. Then there’s the kofta – an old stalwart of most Middle Eastern and Indian menus. But probably most well known is the Italian polpette which are easily recognisable as a comforting and traditional favourite of every household.

The Italians always know how to bring a smile through food. It didn’t matter if it was added to a bowl of pasta or stuffed in a roll of sorts, the meatball was certainly a core staple for all Mediterranean families. I guess that’s also why it became such a recognised dish in the US as the Italians spread  the love through neighbourhoods and everyone realised what a wonderful dish it was.

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So simple, and so tasty. The beauty is the fact that it can be made from cheaper meat cuts with minced meat of all kinds being filled out with other ingredients to provide a hearty meal for even the largest of families. Then came The Meatball Shop in NYC and suddenly this family fave became a trend to look out for. It was a simple and winning formula with a choice of balls, a choice of sauces and a choice of sides. You even have a basic, wipeable tick list menu, plus a vege option as well as a sweet alternative with balls of ice cream packed between sweet American cookies for a classic US dessert. Now in five outlets across New York, along with a very successful cookbook, this Meatball Shop concept is much watched and copied.

And why not? The fashion for good quality reasonable comfort food is going from strength to strength. The burger trend doesn’t seem to be abating. The roast chicken continues to be rotisseried to an inch of it’s life and the pulled pork is progressing nicely. We love the fact that this food is tasty, relateable and very good value. Clearly the mighty meatball has to be made with expertly sourced quality meat, the sauces should be home-made recipes which can be bottled and sold in the shops and it seems there is an obligatory tongue in cheek sense of humour to be thrown in as well with lots of childish takes on the product name at the core of the marketing. Given all of that as read, the meatball seems to be the obvious choice for future foodie success.

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New York is sorted. Australia have followed suit with The Meatball & Wine Bar in Melbourne which is unapologetic in it’s nod to the NYC original. And now there is a new 40 seater outlet in Paris called… Balls. They are sticking to the Meatball Shop formula too with their menu and their marketing, adding t-shirts with innuendo to buy from the outlet. I am sure the recipe book will follow.

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Sadly the creatively named Meatballs in Farringdon in London didn’t make it and I wonder why London hasn’t been able to hold onto the fashion in the same way. Perhaps Farringdon wasn’t the best area to open. They sell over 25,000 polpette a year in Russell Norman’s Polpo empire so maybe Soho would have been a better choice of venue. Or perhaps we just need the boys from The Bowler to spread the word in their astroturfed van for a little bit longer, a la Pitt Cue before they progress from street food to the high street permanent location of their choice. They’ve published the cookbook so surely it’s just a matter of time.

Whatever happens, there is no denying that the meatball is here to stay on the best menus in town. Whether chicken, pork, beef, lamb or vegetarian these globes of tastiness are simple, homely and perfect for these frugal times.