- HUNGRY Feast
- 9 life-changing brand building lessons, I learnt from Rory Sutherland
9 life-changing brand building lessons, I learnt from Rory Sutherland
9 life-changing brand building lessons I learnt from Rory Sutherland ...you’ve probably never head these before
Average Read time: 4 mins 48 seconds
2020, I read Alchemy by Rory Sutherland.
Rory’s thinking changed my life. Influenced my work and he’s fucking hilarious.
2022, I emailed Rory asking him to come on my podcast.
2023, he came on the podcast.
He’s been on twice. Listen to our first conversation here.
Second one coming soon.
Here are 9 life-changing brand building lessons I learnt from Rory Sutherland ...you’ve never head these before
1. Flat Whites or Fuck Off - The opposite of a good idea is a good idea.
Everyone tries to “innovate” by being BETTER.
Better ingredient deck.
Better supply chain. Better tasting. Better probiotics in our kombucha. Better protein in our bar.
The easiest way to innovate?
Just, do the opposite.
The opposite of a good idea is a good idea.
On our first podcast, Rory taught me his idea for a coffee shop in Paddington train station named “Flat Whites or Fuck Off”.
Flat Whites or Fuck Off is the opposite of Starbucks.
Starbucks is long queues, a myriad of perplexing drinks that take ages to make. “Hi my name’s, Kieran, can I have moccha-choccoa-non-stopaa-ccino to go please”
The opposite of a good idea is a good idea.
Once you see this, you see it everywhere.
The opposite of Tinder and Hinge?
Dating app Thursday. Online one day a week. Throw singles parties.
The opposite of Evian water is Liquid Death.
The opposite of Fortnum & Mason mumsie cake brand is…. Get Baked.
Wanna innovate and stand out?
Just do the opposite, it’s easier.
2. The Sushi from Salford or Somalia Rule
Imagine for a mo, if sushi was from Salford or Somalia.
Would it REALLY taste as good?
Japan is a country known for precision, excellence, art and a protected culture.
Sushi tastes great. But it tastes better as it’s from Japan.
Simply adding provenance to your food and drink brand:
Improves story telling
Allows you to increase your price.
Chocolate sounds and tastes better when from St Vincent Chocolate.
Water sounds and tastes better when from Fiji
Butter sounds and tastes better when from Irish Pastures
Beans sounds and tastes better when from Barcelona
3. Hipsters Raise the Ceiling, Chains Raise the Floor
Hipsters admonish chains. But Hipsters need chains.
Hipsters raise the ceiling, Chains raise the floor - Rory Sutherland.
We need Hipsters to push new boundaries of quality and innovation. But need chains to be the bulwark of baseline quality.
Before Holiday Inn set the benchmark, Hotels were fucking awful.
Before Pizza Express, pizza was fucking awful.
Pizza Express raises the floor.
Crisp W6 raises the ceiling.
We need both.
christ almighty, look at her.
Holiday Inn raises the floor.
The Hoxton raises the ceiling.
We need both.
Weatherspoon’s raises the floor.
Draft House raises the ceiling.
We need both.
Starbucks raises the floor.
GRIND raises the ceiling.
We need both.
4. What is a brand? The easiest way to understand is in the NEGATIVE
“What is a brand?” “What is brand value?”“How do we add value to a brand?” “Is a brand great packaging or a mission or…?”
Fookin’ hard to answer, right?
Trust me Daddy was percolating around my noggin, too.
“A brand is a set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer's decision to choose one product or service over another.”
A la Rory: the easiest way to understand BRAND VALUE is in the NEGATIVE.
Imagine buying a gorgeous slap-up Armani suit that looks the D bollocks.
Oh, btw, mate, Jimmy Saville wore it. You’d run a mile.
Imagine buying a bar of chocolate. Oh btw mate, it’s made from children and slaves. You’d run a mile.
As food and drink founders, we must create a POSITIVE set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer's decision to choose one product or service over another.”
= Strong brand.
But, ironically, the easiest way to understand brand is in the negative.
5. The best MBA is a Kitchen Porter and Corner shop keeper
The best MBA is a kitchen porter or corner shop keeper.
You see a business as whole system NOT components and parts.
School and University force us to specialise.
Great to get a nice picture in a silly hat and cape with your Mum.
Fucking abhorrently pointless for building a challenger brand.
The issue with specialised Ops Manager or specialised Finance Manager or specialised Sales manager.
They see a business as components and parts. NOT the whole system.
As Rory says: “this is like giving 9 people 1 segment of sudoko puzzle and expecting them to solve the whole thing”.
A big reframe. Zoom out and see your business as a whole system interlinked system.
I used to see Hungry as individual components i.e. newsletter + agency + podcast + events as separate parts. Now I see them as a whole.
6. Creativity is REWRITING the question: At School You can’t Rewrite the Question, but in Business You Can
Most food and drink brands ask the same questions = same results = same brands = same same same same fucking same.
“How can we build an omni-channel business across wholesale, grocery and D2C to build a brand?”
Instead, just, rewrite the question.
“What ONE channel is absolutely NO one focusing on? That, if we relentlessly focus on, we’ll win? ”
Look at Piper Crisps. Every other crisp brand was needy-AF crawling to the Waitrose in Bracknell drooling over the laminated JBP. Please sir give me a gondola end?
Piper played where no one was playing. Piper focused in Speciality and Farm Shops.
Then, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s came knocking.
As a challenger brand constantly rewrite the question. Rewrite the answer.
7. Gratuitous perversity = scarcity + word of mouth = drives demand
Gratuitous = done without good reason.
Perversity = a deliberate desire to behave in an unreasonable or unacceptable way, contrariness.
Gratuitous perversity = scarcity = drives demand.
Gratuitous perversity = talking point = drives word of mouth (especially if product is good)
Gratuitous perversity = stand out in crowded categories.
Do things that are unexplainably quite annoying.
Pockets in Netil Market are a great example.
Pockets ONLY serve ONE product. They could serve more. They ONLY open for 3 hours. They could open for longer.
But they don’t.
The queues are fucking massive and demand is high.
Gratuitous perversity = scarcity + word of mouth = drives demand.
In the early 2000’s, wagamama was totally perverse.
Wagamama sit you the table with loads of strangers. Deliver you food whenever it’s ready. Offer your free miso soup.
Now it’s common place, but at the time it was weird.
Don’t be afraid to add constraint and weirdness that may slightly piss off your customers.
I purposefully cap our Supper clubs at 16 max.
Creates scarcity. Drives demand. Makes for a better evening. Drives word of mouth.
8. Why Brand partnerships are a TOTAL superpower
Agencies admonish brand partnerships. Probably because agencies know it’s a piece of piss and they can’t charge for it.
Rory says: “…saying brand partnerships dilutes brand is like saying friends dilute my personality”
I’ve mentioned the insane TRIP x CALM brand partnership before. INSANE.
Candy Kittens and SURREAL are a surreally great example too.
Small brand with a small budget. Brand partnerships are the passport to astronomical awareness and growth.
9. The peak end rule: How an experience ENDS> everything
There's a reason why Rolling Stones leave "Satisfaction" till last
And why Sir Paul McCartney plays "Hey Jude" last.
And why Artic Monkeys play "Bet you look on the dance floor" last.
The Peak End Rule.
Definition: The peak–end rule is a psychological heuristic in which people judge an experience largely based on how they felt at its peak and at its end, rather than based on the total sum or average of every moment of the experience.
So many brands, as did I for ages, focus on the beginning and middle but neglect the end.
End is unfair advantage. Focus there. Your competition aren't.
I went to a Michelin star restaurant. The food mind-blowingly banging.
But, the coffee at the end was pile of shit. It left a sour taste.
I went it another Michelin star restaurant. Paul Ainsworth at No. 6.
At the end they gave us a goodie bag with coffee and truffles and nuts and a little note.
SO memorable and remarkable. I loved it. And told all my friends.
Never forget The PEAK END rule.
As a challenger food and drink brand. ALWAYS think about the END.
How does the buyers meeting end? Maybe a goodie bag or an invite to their restaurant, maybe a hand written note.
How does your onboarding process end with new employees? Maybe they go for dinner with the founder or a write a letter for what they want out the role?
Thank you so so much for reading my rambles. Eternally grateful. I’d be SO SO grateful for a BIG favour please
Growing a newsletter is so fucking hard. Like crawling over glass in February in Hull.
Alas, I’ve just created a referral programme. And, YES there’s prizes!!!!!
Refer 5 people - get your brand shouted out on the podcast.
Refer 9 people - get a 1 hour zoom consultancy with yours truly (worth £350).
Refer 20 people - Hungry covers your next supper club, booze and food.
Have a lovely weekend,
- Ed Perry, COOK. James Averdieck, GU & Coconut Collaborative, Camilla Barnard, Rude Health, Spencer Matthews, Clean Co., Jamie Laing and Ed Williams, Candy Kittens, Stuart Forsyth, Minor Figures, Richard Goldsmith, MOJU, Viv & Howard Wong, Little Moons, Mark Palmer, Green & Blacks, Charlie Bigham, Charlie Bigham’s.