Branding lessons from VegasI just got back from Sin City. I addressed the International Pizza Expo, an annual event dedicated to the passion and profits around pizza. The 4-day event was produced by Pizza Today the leading pizza industry magazine.

I always have a great time in Las Vegas, as it is a playground for marketers and a place to meet some interesting new people. In the picture to the left you will see some of my new friends from Mask US a brand costume mascot company.

There’s so much to experience here and to stimulate every sense from entertainment, to dining on amazing food, to drinking great wine and vegging out at the spa. I worked hard.  I spoke to hundreds of pizzapreneurs on the power of branding and I played hard, too.

The Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Authority launched that infamous tagline in 2003, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” with great success, but this week to help you grow your brand and business I’ll share what I saw in Vegas.

Here are 10 memories from Vegas
Some are cool branding ideas and other insights you can learn from.

1) Best convention garb to get attention.
Meet the Cheese Guys. This specialty artisan cheese company was strolling around the Las Vegas convention hall in stand-out cow pants and cheesy-puffed bow ties.  They not only grabbed my attention, but they were also a blast to meet. Their website is worth checking out, too. It’s thoughtful, memorable and on-brand big time. Nice job!

Cheese guys - great branding

2) Best small detail that resonates with women.
Rarely do women go anywhere without their purses. After all, this functional and fashionable accessory reflects one’s identity and carries the essential things in life. Any restaurant that addresses the precious purse will earn points. I dined at Wing Lei. This elegant place is just one of many great restaurants at the Wynn Hotel, and the only one that earned the Michelin star-award for a Chinese restaurant in North America. The food was awesome, the service was perfect and the purse stand a really nice touch. A purse stand is a little bench they provide customers, so their purse does not have to site on the floor.

Purse stools

3) Friendliest nametags.
While walking the exhibit hall at the Pizza Expo I saw lots of companies with interesting products to help market and brand your restaurant. I liked these simple slate tags because they were understated and the name was added in a handwritten script making it feel casual and personal. The company that sells them is The Cawley Co.

Branding with names tags

4) Coolest restaurant brand name and identity.
Naming a restaurant is always a tough task. If you get too creative, customers can’t spell it or even pronounce it.  Common and literal names often don’t stand out and can sound boring. In Vegas last week, I discovered a really good brand name for a restaurant, Craftsteak.  Bold, simple and descriptive. I love this name and how they have built out the environment and all of the touch points around the notion of the art of the meat. They have a beautiful, consumer-friendly website too.

Craftsteak- great restaurant brand name

5) Hot Gluten-free trend.
Gluten-free is big. From cupcakes to handcrafted beer, restaurants that don’t incorporate gluten-free into their menu and food preparation will miss out. I tasted and enjoyed both of these products.

 Gluten-free cupcakes are from Antoninas Bakery

Gluten-free cupcakes, branding

Gluten-free beer was from Joseph James Fox Tail Beer

Branded beer

6) Big things are excellent photo opportunities that get attention.
Arvco container company was thinking big.  They created a giant pizza box that grabbed the attention of convention goers by simply taking their product and supersizing it. What can you do that’s big and over the top to earn media attention and to entice passersby to come in and dine at your restaurant?

Brand with photo opps

7) The reds have it – glam up your equipment and your personnel.
Dressing up your culinary equipment is another way to differentiate your restaurant and you’ll get a bonus point if the chef’s eye glasses are a matching red. Many pizza ovens I saw were covered in colored and textured surfaces and complimented the brand’s identity.

Pizzeria branding

8) Priciest splurge steak – worth it!
The economic downturn is so 2007 in Vegas.  Looking to drop a few Benjamins on dinner? There is no shortage of excellent options there. I was craving red meat and Jean George’s Steakhouse at Aria Hotel was recommended. The space is brilliantly designed using its cow brand mark in the interior; the food was delicious and memorable. My Australian pastured 6-ounce Wagyu beef steak was $67.00 without sides. Turns out the Wagyu breed enjoys luxury feeding of beer or sake and regular massages before their trip to your favorite market.  I really loved their sauces, too and how they were displayed. This one was basil, jalapeno and garlic olive oil.

Nice food presentation builds brand


9) Only Trump would brand his trashcans.
I stayed at the Trump Tower which is one of the few non-casino hotels. It was a great experience and I would definitely stay there again. The rooms were large, elegantly appointed and the in-room kitchen gear was all Wolf brand appliances. It was a nice touch, although I can’t imagine too many guests wanting to cook in their room.  What I did use and liked were the trashcans. Each was branded inside with a black and white Trump logo reflecting sir Donald luxe himself.

Trump trash cans -nice branding

10) Location is not everything.
The Pizza Expo was held at The Las Vegas Convention Center. The LVH is adjacent to the complex and I was booked there my first night. Thinking it was conveniently located, how bad could it be? It was conveniently located and bad beyond my imagination. I would not recommend this place to anyone. It’s old, tired and depressing. With so many choices in Vegas, don’t let any meeting planner tell you the location it’s worth it.  I’m not suggesting every place needs to be 5 star hotel, but claiming your property is world-class and luxury, when it’s clearly not, is not cool.

Do you a question for us? We’d love to answer it here on the blog. You can email us jring[at]restaurantbrandingroadmap[dot]com or reach us on our Facebook page or Tweet to us.

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