Branding 14: Taste

branding through tastes

We have already talked a lot about visual branding and sound branding and now we move onto taste.

Now for the vast majority of businesses imagining what their company tastes like is probably not that relevant. For many the only times their customers will ever actually eat anything from you might be mints in your receptions or perhaps a sandwich spread at a conference. People may not have a regular interaction with your brand and taste (although as a side note there is nothing more disappointing than a bad breakfast spread at a networking event.) The main industries where taste and branding come into play are of course food and hospitality.

Tastes Like You

Any restaurant chain has a very similar branding problem to what we have talked about before in that they want to have a menu that is diverse enough to appeal to a range of different appetites and audiences whist remaining recognisably from the same source. The most recognisable and infamous examples of this would of course be McDonalds. Whether you are in Los Angeles or Bradford you can pick up a McDonalds and the quality control is such that they will be the same, but more over you could go to India, order something completely different and it would still be recognisably McDonalds food. The use of sauces, cooking methods, packaging and even portion sizes all make it feel the same even if you are ordering something much different.


KFC vs Nandos, two restaurants with very similar offerings and yet I would associate them very differently. I associate Nandos with spicy foods and quite specifically Peri Peri sauce, I think of it as a venue for dinner dates and work outings. In contrast I see kFC as more an an indulgence venue, a Friday evening treat with a bigger portion but simpler offering. There is a pretty logical throughline when you think of these chains and the food they are serving. Talking in broad terms the simpler and faster the food, the cheaper we associate it with and the more casual a destination it becomes. I would bet dimes against dollars that even though McDonalds do have a premium offering that is advertises heavily, this still doesn’t sell anywhere near as often as their set and saver menus.


Switching from recipes for a moment to the world of consumer food, we see an industry where taste in many ways means nothing. It is common place these days that beside every genuine Coca-Cola will sit an own brand supermarket version of the same product and although they may not be able to outright steal the recipe, you may struggle to tell the difference when consuming it. No doubt you’ll notice the difference in price. Consumer food is fast paced and cut throat and this is why big names in the industry have to spend so much money on marketing just to keep their names in front of people. One interesting tactic we have seen occur in the past has been when a well known brand such as Coke’s sales have started to flounder. Quite often what we see is a ‘new and improved recipe’ launched on the market. This is determined to be inferior by the paying public and so a ‘classic’ model is put back on shelves. You might think this would be an expensive mistake and unusual mis-step by these companies but that’s not the case. They have managed to get you to buy their product twice and reminded you how much you enjoyed it in the first place.

Free From

The current trend in big name consumer goods is to offer new recipes involving low sugar or perhaps gluten free or somehow more healthy whilst still being a chocolate flavoured cereal etc. I suspect what will happen is that the sales of these healthier alternatives will probably be lower and so its more likely we will get two version of the same product in much the same way as we get pepsi and pepsi max. I doubt the people buying chocolate covered cereals or high sugar soft drinks genuinely want a healthy version though, after all they could just buy Muesli and mineral water.