Leon and London Union co-founder Henry Dimbleby has shared his secrets to marketing brands in the high street and in social media - big, bold signs.
He said the signage for Leon and Street Feast’s food markets were designed with the “squint test” in mind – meaning like McDonald’s it is clear enough to read in the high street while squinting.
Speaking at the CGA Peach Insight and Marketing conference, Dimbleby said big signs like Dinerama in Shoreditch were also appealing to press photographers and social media users, with a strong correlation between Street Feast customers and Instagrammers.
Discussing forthcoming seven-day Canary Wharf food market Giant Robot, which he said looked “like a cargo ship or a glamourous ‘50s ferry”, he said with strong branding and content, marketing takes care of itself.
He also said the Street Food model was more versatile and nimble than the traditional restaurant sector, as it could quickly refresh itself with a rotating line-up of food and drink operators, appealing to the notoriously brand promiscuous Millennial generation.
Dimbleby said: “All of our digital marketing comes back to what we do. We’re what is now, what is new what is next, we need to keep ahead of the scene. We design everything so that it’s shareable and looks great.
“We’ve got a wonderful thing, we as long as our stuff is good enough, we don’t have to do the marketing anymore. Marketing is about the stuff. If the stuff and experience is good enough, the marketing will look after itself.”
During the panel discussion on digital marketing, he described how his approach to signage inspired by his days at Leon.
He said: “The first thing we do which isn’t very digital is we have fucking big signs.
“At Leon we asked ourselves if the sign was clear enough and good enough. For menus and posters we developed the squint test. We realised if you walk down any high street in London, the one sign you can see is the McDonalds sign, because it’s not square, very clear yellow M. If you squint down the high street that’s all you can see.
“So we applied this to signs, and the great thing is that people take photographs of them. So without doing any work, you’re beginning to get people covering you.
“We’re lucky to have a demographic that likes doing this more than anyone else kind of thing. These guys are our marketeers, they take photos of stuff and post it for us. They do it so much that the Dinerama sign was the third most Instagrammed thing in London in the summer. It was the sixth most tagged location in London, and only open for 100 days a year.”
He expressed scepticism about the value of loyalty schemes, saying it was better focus on the product itself.
He added: “I do think you can get so lost in loyalty schemes, that things can get lost, and what really matters is, is the food great.
“It’s so easy with a chain to try and improve efficiency and costs and have a death by a thousand cuts; every time you change the recipe it gets worse.
“You can have all the loyalty you want, but if the food doesn’t taste great, it doesn’t matter.”