Marketing Philosophy

Constructing Identity Through Social Media Engagement

Nourish Your Reader's Identity - Get a New Customer

Cultural studies’ criticism of social media – and all media forms – is based on the assumption that what we read, watch and listen to has a profound influence on our understanding of the world and ourselves as individuals. Of particular importance for marketers – in the restaurant sector or otherwise – is the fact that Britain is a capitalist society in which spending money and consuming are among the more significant ways we unconsciously seek to develop our own identities.

Consequently, the role of the restaurant marketer is clear – to provide one’s audience with the content through which individuals can identify, affirm and evolve their identities and, eventually, book a table.

Coffee Lovers adore Kipferl

As straightforward as the marketer’s brief has become, using social media to create meaningful, identity-influencing engagement is far less simple.

A mainstream view maintained by cultural theorists is that meaning is created in the text, or in our case, the social media content. On face value this is an extremely reasonable assumption, given that any decent content will have a message and, provided it is written in a language understood by the reader, this message would likely be understood.

This textualist approach says that we are socialised through the media and are therefore passive – but conscious – victims to its message.

Consuming Identity Changing Media

To put this in perspective, if a formidable food critic like Jay Rayner were to tweet a positive review for a new restaurant, a texualist would argue that any conscious engagement with this content would result in the reader viewing the restaurant in question as an attractive place to dine. This reader may even book a table and begin a word-of-mouth campaign that continues Rayner’s praise.

While I do not have the readership figures, it is clear that someone like Rayner wields a lot of power over his audience and that when he – or another restaurant critics – speaks (or tweets), a portion of readers will listen and oblige in one form or another. If this were not at least partially true, traditional restaurant PR would have very little to offer.

And yet, it is clear that many of us can read Rayner’s tweets and have no problem reading them critically – either disagreeing (even if we have no business doing so!) or simply by resisting a message’s logical conclusion of visiting the restaurant for a meal. Therefore, it is not wholly plausible that we are passive, non-critical victims to any media message with which we engage.

Evolving Identities

The other side of cultural theory suggests that content is not where meaning is created – instead, it is in the recipient of that content – the reader.

This ethnographic approach argues that the words that combine to make one of Rayner’s tweets would offer their reader little – if any – identity-influencing meaning. Instead, it is the reader who superimposes a meaning onto the text, or social media content.

Semiotics and Marketing

Based on this theory, the reader produces meaning with the text by being the kind of person who pursues interest in restaurant reviews on Twitter. The reader may even identify with Rayner’s no-nonsense, quirky approach to restaurant criticism, or even aspire to become like the man himself.

Perhaps controversially, the ethnographic approach would argue that the reader does not have to ever do anything but intend to engage with Rayner’s criticism for impactful meaning to be produced. That’s right, the reason the tweets cannot produce meaning is because either the reader never actually reads Rayner’s social media content and/or because any reading is done in such a disinterested fashion that the content’s meaning cannot be properly absorbed.

The conclusion of this general theory is that merely by identifying as the kind of person who likes and listens to Jay Rayner allows one to project an idealised identity as a foodie and savant of the London restaurant scene.

How to construct an "Outdoors-y" identity. Show the world you getting back to Nature with your iPhone.

How to construct an "Outdoors-y" identity. Show the world you getting back to Nature with your iPhone.

This is a compelling theory that definitely helps to explain how we use social media content to consolidate our own identities, and yet, it has a serious flaw – this approach completely fails to account for our subconscious minds or deep-seated ideological configurations that the media – including a Rayner tweet – can tap into to impact the identity of consumers.

To understand properly how to create quality social media marketing content that helps one’s audience establish and develop individual identities, we require a prism that accepts that the text does transmit meaning to its reader, though perhaps not always consciously and not always the intended message. Equally, we need to account for what is it about content that allows us to make a bold statement about our identity without engaging with it critically or even at all.

Idealised identities on social media

The theory that we will use to make sense of this – which informs much of the work we do at Epicure Digital Marketing – is called semiotics. Through semiotics, we will see how social media marketing makes use of a range of cultural objects that act as words in a greater language. Not only do we speak this language fluently, we can make a great deal of sense from it without even thinking.

Epicure Digital Marketing’s analysis of semiotics, identity and social media marketing… Coming soon!

What is SEO and Why Do You Need it?

Epicure Digital Marketing Breaks SEO Down

If you run your own business, chances are you are approached on a daily basis by people who have a tool, product, or service that you “desperately” need. One of these is probably SEO. There can be a certain anxiety for business owners when it comes to services like this – you are proud of your business and you want it to succeed, but you are no website expert, and you are not even sure you know what SEO is. Do you really need it? Or is someone simply trying to sell you something?

To help, this week we are demystifying SEO.

Epicure explains SEO

What is SEO?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation and, very basically, means ensuring that your website is high up on a search. Any search engine – let’s say Google – will look through all websites and work out which fit specific search terms. The more relevant a website is to a search, the higher up on the list it will be. Search engines tend to be clever and know how to examine a website’s copy, images, location etc. to determine how relevant it truly is to the search. This is why a Google search for “adorable baby kittens” will turn up pictures of adorable baby kittens, and not a second hand tyre shop trying to attract more visitors.

Epicure's SEO Kittens

Optimising your website for search engines will mean your website is more likely to be seen - this will attract more visitors, and these visitors can be turned into customers.

SEO – Then and Now

In the past, the way to show that your business was, for example, an Italian restaurant in East London, was to fill your website with the keywords that would be used by the people looking for businesses like yours. This could mean repeating the words “Italian”, “Restaurant” and “London” several times on each page. This also applied to the structure of your page, so instead of labelling your menu page “Menu”, you might label it “Italian Restaurant Menu”.

SEO Improves Restaurant Marketing

Thankfully things have moved on since those days – and the Google bots have gotten smarter than ever – so smart, indeed, that they can essentially mimic human reading patterns. This means that instead of looking for 18 instances of the word “Italian”, they will instead be scanning for content which genuinely relates to Italian food.

They will also be looking for content which is updated and changed regularly, to make sure that your website is still live. Every time new content is added, Google’s bots have to come back and “crawl” your page again, giving additional weight to your website.

SEO Improves Restaurant Marketing

Do I really need SEO?

The short answer is yes. Google is the world’s largest marketplace, and to miss out on an opportunity to rank well would be a mistake. However, this does not mean you should jump on board with the first SEO “specialist” who gets in touch – optimal SEO work can be both simpler and wider-reaching than that. Dan Zarrella, the author of The Science of Marketing began his career as an SEO specialist and is keen to point out that SEO is constantly shifting and changing. In actual fact, “you probably don’t need more SEO help. Most businesses would benefit much more from increasing content quantity and quality.”  

Search Engine Optimisation with Epicure Digital Marketing

How to improve your SEO in 5 easy steps

1. Optimise your copy

This does not mean throwing in keywords left, right, and centre - but it will never hurt to use them. Do you cook authentic Italian food? Then mention it! But back up this assertion with pictures of said food and further elaborations, and always make sure your copy is well-written and clear. If it hard for a human to read (too small, flashing, white writing on light background, full of misspellings and incorrect grammar) then it will be hard for Google to read.

2.  Fool-proof your architecture

This is where an SEO specialist comes in. Find out what keywords apply to you (they may not always be exactly as you would expect) and use them not only in your copy, but in each webpage’s meta data, such as title tags, headers, and meta descriptions.

3. Crosslink

Essentially this means including links to other pages on your website. For example, having a link to your Menu page in the main body of your homepage. The more links you have directing people to important pages, the better their visibility.

4. Get Blogging.

Remember we mentioned updating content? Having a blog on your website is the best and easiest way to have relevant, well-written, frequently-changing content on your site, without having to re-write your copy every couple of months.

5. Backlink 

A blog will also provide quality content to share with people over social media. This is where back-linking comes in. The more inbound links to your website, from whatever source, the higher it will rank. Simple!

Google

SEO algorithms are consistently changing – in 2010 alone, Google made over 500 changes to their algorithm - that’s over one a day! Because of this, SEO can seem like a risky investment, intangible and uncertain, but if you commit to filling your website with relevant, interesting, well-written content – with just the right amount of guidance – it will make all the difference.

 

Still have some unanswered SEO questions? Get in touch and we would be happy to answer them!

Savour Simplicity - Making Your Restaurant Great.

Some of the Best, If Simplest, Restaurants in London

“Nothing is more simple than greatness; indeed, to be simple is to be great.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

In our last post we talked about what it takes to write great copy, and the same rules apply to having a great restaurant – define your brand, make it simple and appealing, and convey that brand identity without sacrificing substance in the interest of style. We have found that restaurants with a clear message and a simple brand can often be the most successful. Take Tortellini Cup, for example, consistently in Trip Advisor’s top 10, it serves only six dishes – two types of pasta, two types of bread, a salad, and a dessert – all of which are authentic to the brand’s home town of Modena. Another good example might be MeatLiquor in Soho – which went from street food van to a chain of restaurants people queue to get into – all because of its famously first-rate burgers.

  Le Relais de Venise, L’Entrecôte

 Le Relais de Venise, L’Entrecôte

People like choice, it’s true, but with over 16 thousand restaurants in London it can all be a little overwhelming - even TimeOut can’t limit its Best Restaurants list to fewer than 100! Keeping it simple will help you stand out and helps customers know exactly what to expect. Fewer items on your menu also means you have time to perfect those dishes and achieve that ideal balance of substance and style. This week I’ve chosen three of my favourite places to eat in London who hit this nail on the head.

Zeret Kitchen - £ - Casual dining

This little restaurant in a – frankly – slightly dodgy-looking part of Camberwell has become a firm favourite with London-dwellers, and not just those from south of the river. Serving delicious, authentic food, as well as having some of the friendliest customer service I have experienced, Zeret Kitchen’s offering is simple – traditional Ethiopian food and a warm welcome. The menu is a good length (enough choice but not overwhelming) and caters for both vegetarians and meat-eaters, there are some excellent beer choices, and you can enjoy the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony, complete with frankincense and popcorn, at the end of your meal.

Zeret Kitchen -  Vegetarian Selection

Zeret Kitchen - Vegetarian Selection

Le Relais de Venise, L’Entrecôte - ££ - Smart dining

A restaurant which only serves one dish is pretty much the definition of simplicity. And, I have to say, for me it pays off. One of the London branches of this French favourite, Le Relais de Venise serves only steak and chips and both are delicious. The steak is served with the restaurant’s secret sauce and you also get a starter salad with mustard vinaigrette. There is a good, short wine list and a nice selection of French desserts and that’s it! The décor is nothing to write home about but there is still a queue out of the door most nights – why? Because they focus on making the perfect steak frites. Simplicity at its best.

  Le Relais de Venise, L’Entrecôte -  Steak frites.

 Le Relais de Venise, L’Entrecôte - Steak frites.

Indigo at One Aldwych - £££ - Fine dining

On the surface, Indigo at One Aldwych looks like your standard, fine-dining joint. You know the sort, simple but elegant, shines a light on ‘seasonal British produce’, yadda yadda… but there’s a catch – everything is entirely gluten- and dairy-free. Not that you can tell – banish ideas of grainy sauces and cardboard cake, the main selling point for Indigo was that it went totally gluten- and dairy-free and – at least according to the Evening Standard – “no one noticed”. It also caters for both vegetarians and meat eaters. From a marketing perspective, this is excellent. Fancy a fancy meal but you’re coeliac or lactose-intolerant? One quick Google (say “dairy free fine dining restaurant London”) and Indigo pops up. It has a strong, simple USP and hasn’t sacrificed the quality for it.

Indigo at One Aldwych -  Pan-fried pigeon with celeriac pur é e, parsnip crisps, and a Madeira jus.

Indigo at One Aldwych - Pan-fried pigeon with celeriac purée, parsnip crisps, and a Madeira jus.

Indigo at One Aldwych -  Dairy-free chocolate mousse, with honeycomb crumb and c rème fraîche ice cream.

Indigo at One Aldwych - Dairy-free chocolate mousse, with honeycomb crumb and crème fraîche ice cream.

Keeping it simple doesn’t have to mean only serving one dish or one cuisine – it means finding something that makes your restaurant unique, investing in that wholeheartedly, and making sure that it’s the best it can be. Not sure where to start? We know some people who could help you out…

The Clear and Simple Truth of Good Copywriting

Copywriting Tips Straight From The Epicure Desk

‘If people cannot write well, they cannot think well…’  - George Orwell

Putting a pen to paper can bring out the worst in us. Sometimes when we write it is almost as if we have woken up in the midst of a fancy tea party for aristocrats where we feel an impulse to sound more intelligent than we are, speak more florally than we normally would or use big words when smaller ones are more appropriate.

Writing can be a space in which we attempt to flex our vocabularies and flaunt our smooth and sophisticated styles whilst throwing everything else – including meaning – to the wind.

The secret to good writing is communicating meaning. Yet for many the myth of good copy writing; i.e. style over substance, is the more appealing, intuitive option.

The Elements of Style with Epicure Digital Marketing

From what we can discern from Orwell’s quote above, writing well requires thinking well. It turns out that thinking well is probably a lot easier than you would have thought.

Thinking well does not mean – necessarily – solving an impossible math equation or offering an illuminating interpretation of a poem or painting. It can merely be stating the obvious; for instance, that you prefer coffee to tea, or that you enjoy beach holidays.

Expressing something simple cogently and clearly is thinking well and it is this basic skill that is your greatest asset in all your writing endeavors, including restaurant copywriting.

Restaurant copywriting shares the same scope as journalism. When writing a news story, the writer is advised to pretend s/he is speaking to her/his friend at the pub – simple, almost colloquial language. For instance: ‘You are never going to believe who I just saw whilst walking past Exeter College, Oxford… Thom Yorke!’ Granted the structure of this is not necessarily appropriate for publication, but the ingredients are all there.

Yesterday Thom Yorke was seen walking by Exeter College, Oxford, reports Chris O’Leary at Epicure Digital Marketing. That’s better. Not the most lyrical line ever written but its meaning is as clear as day.

In this same vein, when you approach copywriting either for your restaurant or a client’s, begin with the most basic, fundamental parts of what makes the restaurant special or worth visiting for a meal.

Imagine, for instance, that you are dealing with a client that specialises in authentic Neapolitan pizza. The message that you must communicate is: This restaurant serves delicious authentic pizza from the Mecca of pizza, Naples.

Let’s consider a relevant headline: Pizza from Napoli. Don’t be fooled – there is nothing wrong or unfashionable about telling your reader exactly what it is you are offering, particularly given that this three word headline would be reinforced by a high-resolution image of a mouth-watering authentic pizza, and hopefully supported by fantastic design and branding.

Where possible, it never hurts to add a bit of flair to one’s copywriting. Just don’t force it. If you would like to add another layer of meaning or intrigue to your headline – without sacrificing its original impactfulness – why not try something like From Napoli, with Love? This example, when added to a marketing framework that unequivocally shows that we are dealing with a pizza restaurant in London, clearly expresses that the pizza is authentically Neapolitan and is made with love. This headline also benefits by being placed within a popular and fashionable British cultural framework; i.e. James Bond and its range of British, sexy and on-trend significations.

Great writing takes style

 

An example of a really good, but concise and basic headline is on the New York City burger chain Five Napkin Burger’s website. Their homepage leads with MEET THE BURGERS in clear, large font laid on top of a high-resolution image of a big, juicy and delicious burger. The language is simple – three words – and the message even clearer  – this place does a damn good burger.

Let’s consider another NYC restaurant (which shall remain unnamed) that is arguably better than Five Napkin Burger – a stylish wine bar that serves great wine and flatbread pizzas. Instead of just telling us about the quality food and drink they offer, they write: Savor The Sensations. Our extensive wine list includes exquisite bottles from around the globe. Our sommelier has traveled the world collecting only the finest wines… It continues in this style for a good deal longer.

Let’s play spot the difference – one example offers us three words that combine to not only give us pure, unadulterated meaning, but also one heck of a reason to pay them a visit (that is, if you like burgers).

The other example hides from us the truly excellent reasons why we should drop by for wine and flatbreads through nearly 70 meaningless and self-consciously-styled words. This not only gives the reader a nearly meaningless message, it renders its digital marketing impotent.

The clear and simple truth of quality copywriting is that all you need to do is pretend you are telling your friend over a drink at the pub what your restaurant is about and why it is worthwhile.  Do this, and you will be well on your way to the evocative and captivating copy your restaurant’s marketing craves.

Passionified Roses - Are You Full or Empty this Valentine’s Day?

What is the key to being fully booked this Valentine’s Day?

Better yet, how can a restaurant fully leverage this holiday all February? It’s all about the roses, but perhaps not in the way you are thinking.

I’m not suggesting that you put all other plans on hold and ring a super-quality florist to make sure that each couple is given only the most luscious of roses upon arrival –though that certainly would not hurt! What I am actually referring to is the example of ‘passionified roses’ given to us by 20th-Century French philosopher Roland Barthes.

Valentine's Day Roses

Independent of its associations with love and Valentine’s Day, roses have another, more basic meaning. They are just flowers – thorny, crimson, and generally considered to be beautiful. They have existed since the dinosaurs and therefore concepts passion and love have zero inherent associations with them.

In Western culture we choose to signify our passion (the signified) to our lover with roses (the signifier). When roses are combined with passion – that is the signifier and signified respectively, they produce what we know as Valentine’s Day roses, which are an undisputed sign of one’s passion and love for another.

What is demonstrated above is that the term rose can exist with two rather different meanings. Rose the signifier, or a rose that is a flower of a certain genus that has nothing inherent about it to do with Valentine’s Day. And rose the sign that so utterly means love, passion and Valentine’s Day that it is almost a cliché to give a dozen of them as a gift to one’s partner on special occasions.

Valentine's Day Roses

Restaurateur, if you are serious about filling up your restaurant with customers this Valentine’s Day consider how this is deeply relevant to you and your marketing.

Objects and words can be entirely empty of meaning (the signifier) or can be entirely full (the sign).  Your job – or your marketer’s – is to communicate why people should choose your restaurant over the other ten thousand plus ones that exist in London… To have any hope of doing so effectively, your Valentine’s Day marketing message must be full to the brim!

For a successful and lucrative Valentine’s Day, it will take more than a half-hearted email marketing template that makes use of the colour pink, hearts and – of course – roses. It will take more than a rushed Valentine’s Day menu that is treated as an afterthought that may or may not include a glass of cheap ‘bubbly’. By doing this you will be falling in the trap of proposing a random collage of empty signifiers to your customers.

Valentine's Day Roses

Empty signifiers – though technically meaningless – in the context of Valentine’s Day marketing are actually rather meaningful. They broadly flag to your customers that your restaurant is proposing an incoherent and therefore unappealing message and that your restaurant simply cannot be bothered to produce a worthwhile Valentine’s Day experience. Empty signifiers will mean that your marketing message will be passed up in favour of a restaurant’s whose Valentine’s Day marketing message is full.

Valentine’s Day customers are not looking for a deal or discount. They want the full force of the meaning of Valentine’s Day oozing out of your marketing – email and social media, content, website and menu. Beyond this, what they really want to see is how your restaurant’s version of Valentine’s Day is particularly worthwhile and unique.

So think about it… What does Valentine’s Day mean to you and/or your restaurant? Are you a fancy French restaurant and is Champagne your romantic beverage of choice? Make a Champagne tasting menu and allow your marketing to fully convey the reasons why for your restaurant Champagne and passion are inextricably linked…

Are you a simple but authentic Italian restaurant whose customers are not willing to spend upwards of £25 per person? No problem – full meaning does not have to be expensive! Why not dedicate your Valentine’s Day experience to the romantic city Roma with a menu centred on its famous pasta dishes (if you are spending more than £2 for the ingredients for a portion of cacio e pepe, you are making it incorrectly!)? The charms of Rome are an endless source inspiration for the most impactful and meaningful of marketing content, provided your message conveys why you love Rome without falling back on empty clichés.

Above everything else, it is crucial that you weigh the particular Valentine’s Day experience at your restaurant with your own passion to make each meal a veritable sign that your restaurant loves its customers and cares deeply about their satisfaction!