REBRANDING SUR LA TABLE: A BEHIND THE SCENES LOOK

In 1972 Shirley Collins, a foodie with a fondness for cooking and community, founded Sur la Table in the heart of Pike Place Market. In a building that had once been part-speakeasy, part-barbershop, Sur La Table was the first store of its kind in Seattle—attracting food lovers and culinary visionaries to find the best selection of kitchenware from across the globe. Its reputation grew rapidly as cooking icons such as Julia Childs (who befriended Shirley) held book signings in the original Pike Place location.

For over fifteen years, CRP has worked alongside the privately held cooking retailer as it has grown in size, reputation, and offerings. Today, Sur La Table boasts 119 locations nationwide, 2,300 employees, and hosts on-site integrated kitchens—offering in-store private cooking classes to the public.

NEW BEGINNINGS

With new leadership at the helm, Sur La Table saw an opportunity to improve its national brand awareness by sharpening its brand purpose, value proposition, executional consistency, and marketing strategy. Faced with an increasing number of shoppers migrating from brick-and-mortar to online shopping, CRP was challenged to craft an elevated omni-channel branding platform that would increase awareness, sales, and boost customer engagement.

 

SETTING THE TABLE
It was only natural that our first order of business would be handled with food, around a table. After immersing in the history, key consumer insights and research, CRP helped facilitate a positioning workshop with the leadership team and key employees representing the main functions of the organization. Participants included representatives from the CEO, to the senior resident chef, store operations, and IT. The purpose was to focus the brand’s positioning strategy and gain internal alignment to a new brand direction. After incorporating feedback, from the company and the field, we worked closely as a team to craft a new mission statement:
 


TO BRING PEOPLE CLOSER TOGETHER THROUGH COOKING. BECAUSE LIFE HAPPENS AROUND THE TABLE.

PASSING AROUND THE VISION

With our brand’s ethos clearly defined, CRP authored and delivered a brand book to be used internally to onboard the rest of the organization that captured the sentiments of the new brand direction. Contents included: a brief history on of the company, the brand character, pillars, attributes, consumer segmentation model and profiles, key emotional drivers, and the corporate mission statement. By providing a clear and succinct internal understanding of the brand’s value, mission, and reason for being, employees were empowered with a road map to execute the brand’s position with consistency across every touch-point.

 

SPREADING THE LOVE

To roll out the brand’s new vision to their customer, we worked hand-in-hand with Sur La Table’s SVP of marketing and VP of creative to craft a new brand system, complete with new guidelines and an updated positioning strategy. We needn’t look further than the Market—our home—as inspiration to build a perfect omni-channel experience. At its core, Pike Place Market is a magnetic hub, bringing people together from all across the globe with its diverse blend of products, craftsmen, florists, musicians, chefs, foodies and local farmers. The experience is unparalleled, and cannot be replicated behind the screen of a computer or on a phone. In Shirley’s words, “The Market is a real place in a phony time. It’s our history.”


FROM THE COLORS AND SCENTS OF THE FOOD, TO THE SOUNDS OF STREET PERFORMERS, TO SCRAPPY HANDWRITTEN POSTER BOARDS IN FOOD STANDS—THE MARKET IS AN IMMERSIVE SENSORIAL EXPERIENCE, DRAWING PEOPLE TOGETHER FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE.
 

PICKING THE INGREDIENTS
The focus of the new brand system was to accentuate and complement the character and roots of the brand through story-telling photography, illustration style, and typography. These three elements, coupled with the iconic hand brushed logo, play a significant role in the presentation of the brand.
 

OVERALL THE BRAND UTILIZES A COHESIVE GRID SYSTEM, ALLOWING ADEQUATE WHITE-SPACE FOR THE CUSTOMER TO EASILY AND CALMLY ENGAGE WHILE ADMIRING COMPELLING TYPOGRAPHIC LAYOUTS AND PHOTOGRAPHIC COMPOSITIONS.

 

In catalog, web, and content heavy touch-points we carefully considered how to be more intuitive to the customer. Inspired by the organic colors of food, we wanted the photography of the food itself to represent the brand’s color palette. Similar to Pike Market, the tension created with the photography, white space, illustration style and typography create a harmonious blend of seemingly unrelated elements. In attention-seeking marketing and advertisement, however, color plays a more significant role to communicate the colorful nature of our brand.

OUR HOST
To increase awareness and traffic we agreed that Sur La Table’s National Chef and T.V. personality, Joel Gamoran, should take front stage. His outgoing and approachable personality was the perfect channel to communicate the voice and persona for the brand.

 

AS A PARTICIPANT IN THE BRAND POSITIONING WORKSHOP, AND HAVING WORKED ACROSS THE COUNTRY WITH OTHER SUR LA TABLE RESIDENT CHEFS, HIS SCRAPPY AND OPTIMISTIC CHARACTER WAS PERFECT FOR UNITING THE FIELD AND PROMOTING THE IN-STORE COOKING CLASSES SUR LA TABLE IS KNOWN FOR.

 

THE WORD GOT OUT
The resulting brand positioning and system has resonated nationwide with the target audience and has increased brand awareness and engagement. Sur La Table continues to show increased traffic on their social media platforms and has successfully increased exposure through omni-channel marketing efforts.

 
EXTENDING THE INVITATION
In partnership with GreenPan, Joel appears alongside Katie Couric and John Molner in a digital cooking show, “Full Plate with Katie & John.” The co-branded digital first mini-series has driven traffic to Sur La Table’s website and Instagram account, increasing awareness nationally. Furthermore, inspired by one of Sur La Table’s brand attributes, “Scrappy,” Sur La Table launched a series called “Scraps” featuring Joel as the lead star, traveling cross-country in his VW bus, Pippy The Van, to take on America’s food waste crisis one bite at a time.

 

Joel can be seen showing everyday people how they can make exquisite food with the “scraps” they have in their kitchen. In addition to identifying Joel as the personality, Sur La Table looked to elevate its successful in-store cooking experience. With the purpose, to bring people together through cooking, a piloted program was launched in Seattle called “Sur La Table at Home.” This brings the in-store experience right into the homes of local Seattle foodies and entertainers. Sur La Table Chefs travel on-site to the location of the host, with kitchenware in tow. Resident chefs engage in every one of the entertaining steps.

 

The success of the local program spurred the roll-out nationwide. From a pre-dinner whiskey tasting to setting the table, passing out appetizers, cooking dinner, whipping up dessert, and doing the dishes—we couldn’t resist purchasing this offer ourselves. And yes, it certainly brought all our friends and family together, around the table.