My Muscle Chef

My muscle Chef

Meal prep companies have exploded recently. You can probably name three without thinking too hard.

Go on, try it.

When My Muscle Chef visited the team at Chello with a folder full of consumer insight, we were excited. This was a company in a quickly evolving category. They were seeing enormous growth, with an excellent product, but they weren’t so sure about their brand. It had definitely served them well so far. After all, it was all about health, freshness and ease, translating into bright colours, a friendly voice and a Chef character.

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Yet so many brands in this category was doing the same thing. Just think back to those three brands you named and the way they sell themselves.

My task was to translate the research into a brand strategy that would eventually become a distinct verbal identity.

The people behind the purchase

We dived into the research and found some unusual things. The most loyal customers relished routine. They tended to be in time-intensive jobs but prioritised staying fit and tracking their nutrition above most other commitments in their life. People who relied on these meals were very fixed in their eating and exercise patterns. For instance, one customer brought a My Muscle Chef meal to a wedding reception.

At the same time, customers considered themselves ‘foodies’. If anything, customers were insulted by the suggestion that ready-made meals were for undiscerning palates. They knew that to really sustain a long-term diet, you need it to taste good.

They were also, unsurprisingly, an image-conscious group. And this seemed to extend to the packaging of the meals. A few customers mentioned that they were a little embarrassed when their deliveries would show up at work, or they’d recommend My Muscle Chef to friends and add the caveat that, “It’s much better than it looks”. This wasn’t universal feedback, but it suggested that the brand could be more authentically articulated for all customers.

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From food to fuel

The strategy for the brand started to become clear.

The product was speaking for itself, after one order customers could decide that it tasted good and offered convenience and variety. Even though the brand had some unique packaging techniques for maintaining freshness, we didn’t see this as the first selling point. We saw quality, convenience and variety as a minimum standard of the category. Word of mouth would do more there than us telling people a meal tasted good.

‘Old brand’ social media posts used contrived images and written content was at odds with the product

‘Old brand’ social media posts used contrived images and written content was at odds with the product

Where My Muscle Chef could step up was by being a product built for routine, that focussed on strength and not the broader idea of ‘being healthy’. We found that customers needed to be empowered, not patronised. Most of them knew enough about nutrition and what worked for them. We imagined the product as critical infrastructure for upholding a routine; for creating an intentional process and not just a goal. This was fuel, not just food.

The talk to fit the walk

With all that insight, I had the terrific fun of designing a verbal identity. It needed to be powerful, a little bit serious, deliberate and motivational. We wanted to be closer to a personal trainer than a chef.

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My Muscle Chef could use a strong turn of phrase, but never a twee inspiring quote. It would champion the effort to push physical limits, not just for ‘eating right’. We took inspiration from sportswear brands rather than food brands, because it better reflected the aspirations and lifestyles of customers.

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At the same time, the graphic design team got to work. They nixed the Chef to bring a little more gravitas to the brand, and they emphasised the word ‘Chef’ in the wordmark. We’d found that female customers and large retailers were sometimes put off by the prevalence of the word ‘muscle’, even if they liked the idea of being strong. A muscle fibre pattern became a subtle backdrop and photo imagery became a little bit grittier and more severe.

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The finish line

To help launch the brand, I wrote the initial copy for the website, a series of ‘transition’ eDMs to bridge the old and new brand while hinting at some coinciding new products and create anticipation. I also wrote the print collateral included with the first deliveries in the new branding, to clearly re-define My Muscle Chef in the eyes of existing customers.

My Muscle Chef saw a 27% increase in sales within the first two months of their rebrand.

My favourite thing about this project is seeing customers on social media adopting some of the brand language themselves when they recieve a new delivery. It’s a subtle example of words influencing people’s thinking and behaviour.

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