With a new year underway, I thought it would be a good idea to start things off with a few reminders about effective brand building techniques. It seems that, no matter the brand, manufacturer, audience, or market, these key strategic practices are frequently overlooked, marginalized or dismissed altogether in favor of a quick fix. The problem is that, while you may be saving a few bucks, or getting the work done faster, your competition is relentless, doing everything it can to put you out of business.

1. Do your homework.   Research is the most commonly overlooked component of an effective marketing plan. As the saying goes, "You don't need a map if you don't care where you'll end up." So make the investment and have a good understanding about your competitors, their value proposition, marketshare and degree of penetration. At the same time, you'll want to know who your buyers are, what motivates them to purchase and how they feel about your offer.

2. Be distinctive.   In a crowded sales environment, your brand, your product and your offer need to stand apart from, and be perceived as greater value to all others. In food categories, and before any other promotional tactic is considered, this is achieved with emotionally appealing brand imagery and packaging that cuts through the clutter and resonates favorably with key buyers. It remains true that packaging is the #1 sales influencer. To pursue shortcuts and cost savings that can easily compromise brand impact at the most vital point of contact is simply foolish.

3. Make 'em drool.   Effective brands generate positive emotional responses. When you consider that food is a very sensual category, finding ways to make buyers feel good about your brand and your products is essential. This means that every encounter should be delightful, stimulating and enjoyable. It's like Pavlov's dog. When buyers interact with your brand, including packaging, website, tradeshow booth, advertising, social media, sales literature, etc., their immediate response should be one of excitement, enthusiasm and unbridled desire.

4. Demonstrate empathy.   Take the time to understand the lifestyle preferences and motivating emotional forces that influence your key buyers. When you demonstrate a clear understanding of their background, knowing what gets them excited, acknowledging what has them frustrated, and recognizing their most pressing needs, you will be better positioned to establish rapport, gain trust (albeit limited - earning trust takes a long time) and influence sales.

5. Act responsibly.   Building great brands boils down to issues of integrity and reputation. While quality and reliability of your product is essential, how you act can make or break your business. Providing responsive customer service, building mutually beneficial vendor relationships, creating supportive working environments and making ongoing contributions to the community are all worthwhile pursuits.

So there you have it. Just a few tips that should keep your brand in excellent form for the foreseeable future. Happy New Year!

To see how Studio Spear can help you build and maintain delightful, desirable and respected brands, click here. If the time has come to overhaul, update and re-invigorate your brand image, please call 866 787 8761 - ask for Jeff Spear. You can also contact Jeff via email: jeff@studiospear.com

At Studio Spear, we enjoy wandering the aisles of supermarkets, are fascinated by the gadgets at cooking supply stores and make a point to enrich our culinary experiences as often as possible. Here are just a few recent encounters that we feel are worth sharing:

[Spinning Plates]This documentary film compares and contrasts the lives of three very different restaurateurs, the places they operate and the meals they prepare. While engaging and amazing at some times, this film is also poignant and heartbreaking at others.

[Mrs. Beeton]While first published in Victorian Britain in 1865, this remarkable book offers suggestions and recommendations, including over 1500 recipes, to women struggling with life in and around the house. There's also an enjoyable film - The Secret Life of Mrs. Beeton - that depicts the life and times of the author and how this classic kitchen handbook came into existence.

[Laurenzos Market]We stumbled across this delightful Italian market and restaurant on our last visit to Miami. In this part of Florida, and if you're shopping for Italian foods, it doesn't get any better than this. Although all we intended was to look around, and due to some very well informed staff, we ended up loading the car with fresh baked sfrappole, wonderful pappardelle, and some wonderfully spicy soppresatta.

[Ferry Building]If you haven't been, this is one of the must-visit places in San Francisco. The historic Ferry Building, open 7 days a week, houses some of the best culinary brands and food producers in the region. The Farmer's Market, operating on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, is renowned throughout the country for the amazing variety and quality of foods on display.

[TOAST Headers]
Many of you have commented about the colorful, and somewhat whimsical, graphics that we create as mastheads for TOAST. Wanting to keep things fresh, and as you can see on this issue, we are implementing a new graphic scheme for 2015. That being said, we thought you'd like to see all four illustrations from 2014 appearing together.  

While Studio Spear provides world-class marketing support to a variety of industry sectors, our first love is food. Whether it's a new food brand, packaging design, website or cookbook, if we can eat it, we want to work with it.

So, if you've found value from TOAST, and know of anyone launching a new culinary brand, we're interested and would appreciate the introduction. Simply send an email to jeff@studiospear.com and we'll discuss further. It never hurts to ask. Thanks! 

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About Studio Spear
Studio Spear is a leading global marketing consultancy specializing in consumer packaged goods and lifestyle-oriented brands. The company relies upon thorough research, strategic planning and emotionally charged creative solutions to produce significant and statistically proven growth for its clients. "It's our goal to enhance your product's reputation, generate higher levels of sales and see your brand outperform its competition,? says Spear.

If you'd like to learn more about what Studio Spear can do for you, call, write or email Jeff Spear at:

Studio Spear
PO Box 51291
Jacksonville Beach, FL 32240
Phone: 904 685 2135
Toll Free: 866 787 8761
Fax: 410 486 9492


Sugar Cookies
These were a big hit over the holidays. Sweet, chewy and delicious.
Makes about 24 cookies

1/2 C butter, softened
1/2 C sugar
1/4 C brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 1/2 C flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 C Turbinado* sugar

Preheat oven to 375F degrees F.

Line 2 large sheet pans with parchment paper.

Beat the butter and sugars together until fully incorporated. Add the vanilla and egg, followed by the flour, salt and baking soda.

Place the Turbinado sugar in a shallow dish.

Scoop out small balls of dough, form into balls and gently roll in the sugar. Place each of the balls on the parchment, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between each. You'll probably fit a dozen balls on each baking sheet.

Bake for 8 - 10 minutes. While the cookies will not have much color, they will be nice and chewy.

Remove from the oven and transfer the cookies to a cooling rack. Store the cooled cookies in an airtight container.

* Turbinado is the technical name for raw sugar. It is light brown in color and the granules are larger than table sugar. For a more decorative presentation, try one or more colors of sparkling sugar (available in most grocery stores in the baking aisle).

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