When the recession comes….buy a new suit and hat

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(first published in British Baker)

Well, I’ve heard your comments, and a few readers will be pleased to know that the photograph above the page will soon be changing soon. Some felt that a picture of a denim clad baker in a wheat field sent the wrong impression, an alarming and somewhat puzzling response. So I’m open to suggestions as to what sort of backdrop and apparel would make a suitable impression on us.

Many years ago I used to be an advertising photographer. My work was to create images that sent a message to a particular consumer, a set of values in a picture that specifically outlined the emotional appeal of the product. No campaign was ever intended to sell to everyone, but rather to appeal to the consumer that was most likely to enjoy the product.

Enjoy rather than use, since if it could create an emotional bond between the consumer and the product, the campaign would be deemed a success. Aiming to increase the number of consumers that bought the product because they believed the image reflected the way they felt about themselves. The price of the product was the icing on the cake.

I am happy to apply these values to the small, almost insignificant picture at the top of the page. But I want you to think of the images we in the baking industry send to our customers, and ask whether they too send the right message. From the packaging, to the look of the shop window, to the catalogue of bakery products, to the advertising that appears in the pages of this magazine, every printed image must be seen as an opportunity to differentiate our products from the competition. Please don’t try and make products and their promotion look like that of the competition. If you want to join a club, do so. But if you want to sell, tell me and every other consumer what is different about you, what is special, and why I would want to buy your product above all others.

There is a book out in the U.S. at the moment, called “Artisan baking across America”. I must admit I have only just glanced at the recipes. But what is inspiring is the way that bakeries look and are photographed. It’s not particularly American, and many older bakers will recognize the ovens and bakery layout. The interesting thing is, no bakery is old either. Clearly all have been designed to present an image, of tradition, craft values, and local style, as well as being workable and practical. From the uniforms the bakers wear to the layout of the store, all are designed to send coded messages to consumers about the values of each company. Remember, these are new bakeries trying to be both youthful yet suggesting tradition. If you like, a very Hollywood view of the baking industry.

Soon, this magazine will undergo a redesign, and I salute Sylvia (the editor) for that. I hope that it sends a message to all in our industry that even the oldest bakery trade magazine can both be comfortable about its heritage as well as lead the way in presenting a relevant visual image to its readers and advertisers. I know many of you having been working this industry for longer than me, and some are perhaps despondent and tired from fighting. But we must renovate our appearance, and rejuvenate our approach in order to go forward, and this will make the future easier.

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