Are Dark Kitchens Actually Dark?
Five Branding Pillars That Will Make Or Break Your Business
We all know the value of the first impression. But to what metric exactly? Let’s talk seconds. Seven seconds to be precise – that’s all the time your Dark Kitchen is given to make that all important first impression.
Opportunities can be won and lost in this initial introductory period – in technical terms, this is known as the Primary Effect. The PE is the human tendency in recall retention to unconsciously prioritise the memory of the earliest items in a sequence.
We’re taught not to judge a book by the cover, but this directly contradicts the very basis of human nature – we are hard-wired to subconsciously process snap judgments on all external stimuli presented to us in life – why should marketing disregard this very basic principle?
Dark Kitchen Visualisation
Visual branding transcends the superficial realm of aesthetic appeal and embeds itself in the art of identity creation – effectively converting your brand personality from two-dimensional into three-dimensional.
As stated above, the primary purpose is to convey brand personality and individuality against the backdrop of capitalist business culture which dictates the inevitable existence of competition. The key to assessing your success in this particular area is in your ability to emotionally resonate with the consumer.
The secondary purpose is to educate your potential audience – as simple as this sounds prima facie, to perform effectively can be somewhat of an art form. The predominant issue that arises during this process is the ease of which your marketing tone or general approach to the consumer education edges itself into either patronising, or unengaging content.
Last, but certainly not least is the thread of which intricately ties the entirety of your marketing activity, physical material and online presence together in a proverbial neat little bow. This is thematic adherence – visually unifying your brand messaging, albeit through varying channels to multiple audiences, all under the umbrella of your visual, identifiable persona.
It’s What’s Outside That Counts
Now, I’m going to posit a slightly controversial opinion, at least, an opinion converse to most of the available research I have examined and collated throughout the process of writing this article. To ignore, or place sedentary value in the external branding of your Dark Kitchen business is a major misstep in the pursuit of a cohesive marketing brand story – a recognisable theme – for the consumer to absorb and mentally codify your business.
The opposing argument readily available and currently a popular topic of discourse is that externally branding your Dark Kitchen is redundant at best and oxymoronic at worst, due almost solely to the reasoning that by its very nature, will not be seen by the vast majority of potential customers in situ.
Whatever position you happen to currently find yourself supporting, hear me out and let’s see if I can change your mind.
What’s in a logo? Branding on a purely typographical level communicates with the consumer in an intrinsic, connotative language – both appealing and relating to them on a varying degree, on a spectrum.
You see the Colonel, you think chicken – fried in the name of a particular southern American state. You see the golden arches, and quite frankly, you’re lovin’ it! These logos, and many more successful examples of effective marketing budgets polymerised with design brilliance exemplify what a truly effective brand signifier is, should be, and should do.
Effective branding will see your name and logo in a marriage of sorts, and as with any marriage, it either ‘works’ or it doesn’t. When working in harmony, complimenting each other visually and thematically you’ve got yourself a recipe for success – Conversely, the minute your ‘couple’ express mixed messaging and fail to communicate in unison – indifference will form and fester – indifference being the ultimate nemesis to effective branding.
In essence, establishing an identity is at the very core of typographical branding. From there a foundation can be formed for marketing activities, company exposure, public relations and the like to build a ‘personality’ around your business – building a rapport with your consumer base. It all stems from these initial stages, watering the proverbial seeds, in anticipation for the future growth.
Take Delivery Kitchens, for instance, our unique brand signifier is our colour-coded location symbol – a symbol ubiquitous in today’s technological age where mobile app functionality is in-built to all smart phones, but most notably a symbol most associated with food delivery apps. This connection intentionally utilises consumer familiarity with an existing symbol in principle, adapting said symbol to the brand palette and allowing your logo compliment and exclaim your brand name. The location signifier is also key in communicating our ability to deliver our units anywhere, on a global scale. This, in conjunction with our graphical ‘delivery lines’ representing the speed in which we can provide said units to site and up to an operational standard and the typographical font choice for our brand name, and distinctive colour palette choice is a very deliberate ‘marriage’ of complimentary, strategic messaging.
Depending on what source you read or derivation you follow, a picture is said to be worth anywhere between 1,000 to 10,000 words. Needless to say, the specific word count is a tertiary consideration at best – the real message being that a picture can tell a story where words simply fail.
Photographs in particular are an invaluable branding and marketing resource, that when deployed in alignment with your agreed upon messaging and persona, can provide that aesthetic-language codification with your desired audience – creating an established ‘look and feel’ to your messaging that is unique to you and your customer-base.
Another important facet to consider is how the public have evolved other time to being predominantly visual learners – with up to 85% of people claiming to be a visual learner. But we are not uniquely privy to this information – this has become a widely established fact that your competitors are absolutely also pondering when establishing their key visual messaging. This is where resources spent achieving the perfect images, though potentially a time sink, will stand you in significantly better standing than those rinsing the overwhelmingly overrun stock photo scene.
Evoke, educate, and tell your brand story.
Long gone are the days where the utilisation of social media as a business tool was sneered at, looked down upon and frankly underestimated. We are currently still very much in the social media revolution, in which infinite derivations of audiences are consuming content, creating content, and communicating with their favourite brands. To not have a social presence is start-up Harakiri, to use it effectively is another thing entirely.
Apportioning time and finances to establishing a loyal, social consumer-base – engaging your audience into more of a fan-faction than a following. But this is by no means a one-size-fits-all scenario – the curation of a following is secondary only to the in-depth research required in identifying the channels which are best suited to your brand.
Dark Kitchen brands in particular are best positioned to be a personality centred, visually driven, ‘fun’ engagement-focussed presence on social media. Image media needs to be at the forefront of your communication strategy, taking into consideration that content presented with images get 94% more engagement and up to 40% more shares, and social video generating 1200% more shares than text and image content combined.
The key takeaway here, pun intended, is to invest intelligently into digital marketing as a direct ‘consumer recruitment’ tool. Once established, the avenues only widen – with special mention to a currently successful phenomenon that is social media influencer marketing to drive brand awareness.
A Darker Front Of House
If I were to tell you that your Dark Kitchen does in fact have a front-of-house that needs your TLC – would you assume temporary insanity? Hear me out…
What is the purpose of a traditional front-of-house? You could say primarily it is to be a welcoming experience for your customer, assist in establishing your brand story with the décor and vibe, not to mention the product offering being clearly available. Now, picture a successful ecommerce or delivery-focussed website – What really is the difference, aside from presence being virtual over physical?
In today’s digital age, I would argue that your website, and application persona are both the modern evolution of the traditional storefront. This is why functionality and aesthetic appeal to your consumer need to be prioritised when establishing and curating both your web and app presence.
Utilise images, video and a bold yet consistent colour palette that is still relevant to the visual story of your brand. You want food-porn and audience specific content to truly flourish in this arena.
Prioritise The Package
For any start-up, branded packaging can conceivably be an afterthought when it comes to the budgeting process – due largely to the two-dimensional thought process that equates your product packaging to rubbish. The biggest issue with this line of thinking is in the oversight of the journey your packaging will take before it finds itself on the inside of a bin-bag – both physically and mentally.
By 2023 the food-delivery market is expected to have grown exponentially to around $154 billion – with an expected $1 trillion by 2030 – highlighting the meteoric expected development of the industry. However, with such substantial growth, comes an equally congested landscape for competition – requiring more than just good food to set yourself apart from the rest. With 40% of online shoppers claiming that branded packaging increases the chance they will recommend the business to a friend, coupled with 60% stating packaging changes customer perception of the brand – the importance of marketing through packaging is clearly an avenue that would be foolish not to explore.
Think laterally – ‘package marketing’ should extend far beyond the paper bag that the Deliveroo driver hands-off to your customer. Consider the inclusion of a fancily branded menu/flyer as well as anything personalised or handwritten as an addition to your ‘package marketing’ strategy. You have a unique opportunity here that traditional restaurants simply do not; you are able to infiltrate the home of your consumer, which, with good enough service and aesthetic, could graduate your media to being magnetised to their fridge. Seemingly a trivial example, but the value of establishing a presence and connection with your customer is a commodity you should seldom take for granted.
Best practise for an emerging delivery-only concept would be to budget for unique, eye-catching packaging, menu and flyer offerings – with the ultimate goal of connecting with your consumer on a level a Dark Kitchen does not have the capability of doing in a physical sense. This would entail research into not only what is on your packaging, but also what your packaging is comprised of. The importance of green alternatives, particularly when it comes to packaging is an emerging consideration, projected to continue growing in perceived value amongst consumers from almost all demographics.
Be sure to include clear calls to action throughout your packaging strategy – ‘snap and share your dish to get featured on our Insta!’ – the value of this form of promotion cannot be understated. It’s one thing to commission a photographer to shoot some pictures of your dishes in a mock-up of a delivery – it’s another thing entirely when your customers are doing this for you, effectively advertising your business to networks far beyond your initial reach. It’s a no brainer!
That’s A Wrap!
Wendy’s recent announcement of a proposed 700 US, Canada, and significantly, UK Dark Kitchens to be opened and operational is a clear statement of intent from the takeaway giants that the delivery-only concept is more than just a COVID-driven blip.
What’s more, although admittedly already a sizable and well-established business, the focus on external marketing was not taken for granted during the design phase of the unit construction. With the fantastic design expertise of PKL Delivery Kitchens working in conjunction with the specific requirements provided by Wendy’s – a striking, visual branding masterpiece was achieved.
Whether you’re a start-up enterprise looking to establish yourself in an ever-burgeoning market or you’re an already recognised bricks-and-mortar operation looking to be part of the delivery-only revolution – the significance of an adequately funded, socially on-point branding strategy should be top of your priority list.
If I could summarise this in-depth branding guide in one pithy, grand brand Dark Kitchen plan, I’d urge all of my readers to remember: make it bitchen’, wrap your kitchen!