As Longitude LLC delves into the rebranding options for Springfield Diner, agency officials say a naming strategy session is high priority. They’re not too keen on the eatery’s name.
“If I heard the name Springfield Diner, my first thought is it’s a place that’s been established for a really long time,” CEO Dustin Myers said.
Springfield Diner opened in 2018. Myers said the name conjures a “hole-in-the-wall,” classic-American vibe. It’s a name he thinks would have been chosen 50 years ago.
“For a name like that to work, because it’s so generic, it almost has to have some sort of history of brand equity behind it,” added Jeremy Wells, the agency’s chief marketing officer. “It’s a challenge to introduce that concept without the history behind it.”
Springfield Diner owner Omer Onder said he chose the name to tie a classic diner concept and history together to create some nostalgia.
“I didn’t want to put the name cafe or Omer’s Place,” the native of Turkey said. “Diner is historic. Diner has a history in the United States. In 1950s, diners became very famous.”
A large portion of the menu focuses on classic American diner fare – think hamburgers, sandwiches and breakfast dishes – but also includes a handful of Mediterranean plates.
When Myers first visited the restaurant in April with Wells and colleague Tyler Barnes, he said the “greasy spoon” vibe he envisioned in his mind didn’t match his experience. He enjoyed the food but noted the Mediterranean mix on the menu didn’t provide clear communication of the restaurant’s identity.
Work with names
While Longitude has embarked on numerous rebranding projects, Myers said a name change isn’t often part of the process. Wells estimates only one or two out of every 10 clients seek a renaming.
On those occasions, Myers said the client usually has considered a name change in the past. Sometimes, they just want validation and an outside perspective. However, the business and the branding agency need to be on the same page, he added.
“They definitely have to be responsive to the idea, because it’s a really big deal. In the past, it’s typically been a bug planted in their minds,” he said of some of their renaming efforts.
Among Longitude clients are Chicago pizza franchise Slice Factory, which had a rebrand but retained its name through the process, and Springfield-based Mouery’s Flooring, formerly operating as The Carpet Center. The agency worked with the family-owned business on a name change as part of a company rebrand. In that case, the name change was guarding against confusion with a flooring competitor, The Carpet Shoppe Inc.
Longitude also helps startup businesses create a name, often via a naming workshop that Wells said can last anywhere from 90 minutes to several days, based on scope.
“It’s a very collaborative process,” Myers said.
Time is spent brainstorming to try and narrow down options, even including those deemed as terrible names, just to get them out in the open.
‘Moment of synergy’
One of the names Longitude developed was Spring Branch Kombucha, Springfield’s first and only commercial kombucha brewer. It started production in March 2018. Owned by Chris and Jessica Ollis, Myers said the married couple came to the agency with a name they had been thinking about but didn’t really love.
“We were like, ‘We either get through this process and know that you love that name and know why you love it, or we’ll come up with something better,’” Myers said.
The Ollises first considered the name Ozarks Kombucha.
“We are here in the heart of the Ozarks and we wanted something that said iconic Ozarks family,” she said. “That not only spoke about where we were and our values, but a design that spoke to that.”
To Chris Ollis, the iconic Ozarks experience was time spent at his family farm on the Huzzah Creek in Crawford County. The family called the spring on the property “Spring Branch.”
When family memories were discussed during the naming workshop, Jessica Ollis said the business name came together “in a moment of synergy.”
“We all just loved it,” she said.
“It had a lot more character and local flavor,” Myers added.
Ollis said the most valuable part of the process was talking about and defining the business identity of Spring Branch and incorporating it into the daily operations.
“The name is sort of the icing. It’s the message communicated to the public,” she said. “What’s valuable to us is having a set of core values we can go back to when things get busy or get harried in the business.”
Originally, the kombucha was available at MaMa Jean’s Natural Foods Market and Lucky’s Market, but Spring Branch’s distribution has grown to serve 18 locations with more in the works, Ollis said.
When it comes to renaming businesses, Myers said there are some aspects to retain. A logo change alone, for instance, can throw off some people.
“Usually, if we are rebranding a company that has built up a good history and good perceptions to a certain extent, we want to be able to evolve off of those and not just erase history and try to start over,” he said.
Such a challenge doesn’t really apply to Springfield Diner, he said, which just hit its one-year anniversary in March.
Next up for the agency is conducting surveys with Springfield Diner customers to solicit opinions about the restaurant, including its name.
Wells said his gut reaction is to recommend a new name, regardless of other changes to the diner’s concept or menu.
“We’re kind of taking the approach of looking at his concept and seeing if there’s room for improvement of the concept as a whole and starting from scratch,” he said. “There’s likely going to be a need to break away from the name Springfield Diner.”
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