Sizzle AND Steak
Good brands have personality, and frankly, The Kansas City Steak Company lacked one. That was the harsh assessment from John McKinven, president of The K.C. Steak Co.’s direct-to-consumer business, during a keynote presentation at the NEMOA directXchange Fall Conference in Schaumburg, Ill. last week. The purveyor of high-quality meats was suffering from a lack of swagger and brand identity — people in Kansas City didn’t even know the company, McKinven said.
To help it acquire that missing swagger, The K.C. Steak Co. recently underwent a brand refresh with the help of J.Schmid, a design and marketing agency that specializes in direct marketing. What The K.C. Steak Co. did have was a great product — thousands of customer testimonials spoke to that, McKinven noted. It just needed to communicate that message better to consumers. Lackluster product photography and poor copy were rampant in the company’s catalogs and on its website.
“Our challenge was to tell the Kansas City Steak Co. story, gain market share, and retain our existing customers,” McKinven said.
Swagger at the Core of Brand Refresh
Swagger can mean different things to different people. To The K.C. Steak Co., it meant giving customers three things: clarity, entertainment, and anticipation.
- Clarity: Consumers want to know what they’re getting from a brand, McKinven said. The K.C. Steak Co. focused on adding clarity to its messaging. It wanted to convey that The K.C. Steak Co. is THE steak company; that its steaks are delicious and of the highest quality; and that Kansas City is the epicenter for great steaks. How did it accomplish that goal? Kansas City Steak Co. added “The” to its company name; it updated its logo; became the official product of the Kansas City sports teams (Royals, Chiefs, Sporting Kansas City); updated its product packaging; and redesigned its catalog and website with darker, richer colors and bolder fonts. "We didn’t want our catalog to look like a Sunday newspaper insert," McKinven said.
- Entertainment: We wanted to make the brand and customers’ experiences with it more fun, said McKinven. Identifying a brand voice was part of that process. The K.C. Steak Co. went “cowboy” with its voice, opting for a more masculine, rugged tone that harkens back to the persona of John Wayne. In addition to the voice, the words The K.C. Steak Co. has chosen to use in its marketing messaging have been carefully considered. For example, the retailer has rolled out a new tagline: Taste. It Matters. “Taste is a word with dual meaning for The Kansas City Steak Company,” McKinven said. Furthermore, The K.C. Steak Co. makes frequent use of puns and other playful language to entertain its customers.
- Anticipation: While mystery isn’t typically a characteristic associated with a food brand, it is an element that The K.C. Steak Co. has incorporated into its rebranding. McKinven cited The K.C. Steak Co.’s catalog covers as an example of how the brand is incorporating mystery into its marketing. “We want the cover image to get people to want to know more, to want to taste our products,” McKinven said. The brand also likes to keep a sense a mystery inside its book, as there’s 20 percent product turnover for each catalog cycle, McKinven added.
Rebranding Paying Off
McKinven closed his presentation by offering some insight into how the rebranding has impacted The K.C. Steak Co.’s business in the year-plus since it took place. Here are some numbers:
- sales have increased 30 percent;
- prospecting circulation for the catalog is up 100 percent;
- the company’s active buyer file has grown by 30 percent; and
- the average order value has increased 5 percent.
“It’s been the renovation of an old-line company from soup to nuts,” McKinven said. Or maybe better said, from steaks to more steaks.
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