Brand Rescue?

Brand Rescue?

Feature artwork provided by Tim Higgins.

Many may be familiar with the television show “Bar Rescue” currently in its 3rd season on Spike. If you are anything like my fiancé, you find yourself sucked into the difficulties these business owners find themselves in before host Jon Taffer kicks in the doors and begins making changes. In any given episode, Jon does some research by sending “secret shoppers” to get information on the bar. Based upon these initial observations, Taffer then meets with the owner(s) and staff to discuss his findings, and to describe the specific changes that he insists must be made (e.g., management, customer service, work ethic, cleanliness) for it to become a surviving and thriving business. He also examines the bar’s financial records to find possible cost savings. *Some Information taken from Wikipedia

Take a look at a brief glimpse of what the show is about:

Alright, cool show dude, now what the heck does this have to do with branding? Good question. This show covers many topics from money management, food service, general hospitality, alcohol, certifications, location and beer… BUT there is one thing consistently happening that only someone as crazy as a graphic designer or a marketing mind would notice: every one of these bars goes through a rebrand.

This “new concept” is typically unveiled near the end of the show. These bars have bad reputations, horrible staff, unfriendly appearances, confusing menus, disgusting drinks, and can even be unsanitary! I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say we’ve all had a glimpse into at least one of these topics. These types of experiences drive customers away. A terrible experience leaves a bad taste in our mouths (and it’s not just the cheap beer or dirty glass)!

But there’s hope! In each episode, these establishments go through a structured process that provides a much greater foundation for potential success. And these steps can be applied to any business in any industry, as they are simply good business practice.  They are:

  1. Re-evaluating their business & employees
  2. Fixing the problem(s)
  3. Taking into consideration what their target market wants/needs
  4. Updating their “concept” (brand/look)

Lets dive a bit into these topics.

#1 – Re-evalutaion


Why has this bar gotten this way? This can sometimes be due to ownership or employees. A toxic environment will typically spill out to customers. It’s seen in every server or bartender that has a bad attitude on the show. Other times it’s the food, health violations, or poor money management.

It’s impossible to fix the problem if you’re not going after the symptoms.  Changing your logo in hopes of attracting new customers won’t go very far if the root of the problem (bad service/management/environment) is not remedied first and foremost.

#2 Call Jon “Mr. Fix-it”

The “plan the work” and then “work the plan” mentality is at play in almost every episode. If it’s not up to code, it’s cleaned. If it’s an unruly employee, they are typically canned (which I do take some twisted pleasure in, because some of these individuals are real pieces of work!). The staff that makes the cut get trained on making fancy new drinks or better food. Whatever the pain-point may be, the changes are made to help improve the business.

#3 Target Market

A key portion of the show is how the experts figure out their target market. They use Geographical Information in order to map out the demographic in the surrounding area. Our sister division 4CGeoWorks provides this very type of service, and it’s awesome to see stuff like this working as a real-time example of how GIS services can help! Mr. Taffer rolls out a map (provided by our friends at Esri) that has many data points on it from age, average income, sex, competition and more, in order to give his assessment of the best way to correct the poor images of these establishments.  GIS can provide valuable insight into the demographic a business is serving, and expert consultation can help turn those data points into savvy business advice.

#4 Branding

When the big reveal is done near the end of the show the owners are happy because the entire place gets a face-lift. A remodeled interior, revamped or stream-lined menus, new product (or drinks in this case), new signage, and frequently a new name, combine to shape the “new concept” or brand of the bar. The bars featured on this show are prime examples of how almost any business can benefit from a new image. Once these owners and staff concentrate on the listed items above, they wash those dirty beer glasses for new, nice and shiny ones and change perception as a result. And they do it through hard work and better, smarter branding with a new image!

From the analogy made from this popular television show, I hope you can draw some correlation to business. Whether it’s selling foods and brews, professional services, displays, hardware, or even a product, companies can actually learn a lot and steal tips from this show. Cheers!

Joshua Schmitt

Joshua is an award winning graphic designer, who has been working in the field for the past 14+ years. As a part of 4CDesignWorks, he operates as the Senior Graphic Designer and has experience in web, print, user interface (UI) design, layout, illustration (digital and traditional), corporate identity, as well as branding areas of design. In his free time he hangs out with his family (wife, daughter, son, and dog), wears flannels, avoids hair-cuts and reads comic books.

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