Using Design to Differentiate a Small Business

To a creative person, there is nothing like getting a new assignment: the possibilities, the potential and, of course, the deadline. While it is exciting, it is also finite. The deadline must be met and the message must be served. That’s why a creative brief is so crucial. I wanted to share with you a campaign I created and take you through the thought process.

The client is Sakura, a Japanese steak house located in Columbus, Ohio. For years they have been running ads featuring some sort of price and item special, just like everyone else in the category. When the sales rep came to me she explained she wanted to bring them something new, more of a branding campaign—a campaign that would separate Sakura from all the other Japanese steak houses, as well as other restaurants in their price point in the area.

I decided to use the challenging economic conditions of this time to our advantage. It was a subject that was timely and was on every consumer’s mind.

I needed to create a small-space newspaper campaign that would brand Sakura as the place to go if you wanted good Japanese food that was within your budget or, in other words, inexpensive. I chose to use the red circle from the Japanese flag on a white background for a pie chart to subliminally brand this as Japanese. This became a recurring image and the first consistent element to establish this as a campaign. I created a pie chart to illustrate how little most people were likely to spend on dining out. I then used an image of a person holding chopsticks to define the “dining out” portion of the pie while further enhancing the Japanese influence. This was a different way to show a pie chart and an opportunity to “violate” or break the traditional boundaries of an ad—something that I like to do to help an ad stand out.

To further support the idea of quality and raise appetite appeal, I wanted to show the actual food. We shot several dishes so we could show a range. In restaurant advertising, visual appeal and taste are closely related.

Print Ad Sample: Japanese Restaurant

I created three headlines for the ads. Apart from the one pictured, the other headlines were:

With less time and money

every meal should be special


A high-end Japanese steak house

for today’s budgets

All three headlines clearly support the new branding of Sakura, good Japanese food that’s within everyone’s budget. The exact branding that was agreed too.

Finally, I decided to center the logo just below the headline with the address and phone number directly below that across the bottom. This gave the layout balance. I chose the red font color for the address so I could use a smaller font while still having the information “pop”.

This is an example of a small space newspaper campaign with a layered and effective message. The best part? The sales rep and the client loved it.

About Jim McCabe
Creative Campaign Manager at Affinity Express, Jim is constantly creating and collaborating—meeting with sales, dreaming up concepts and directing production. He also enjoys interfacing with other designers to get feedback and inspiration. Jim loves to paint and hopes to have a gallery showing one day.

One Response to Using Design to Differentiate a Small Business

  1. Pingback: Happy World Graphic Design Day! « Affinity Express Blog

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