JR's SouthPork Ranch

JR’s SouthPork Ranch: How to build a brand with your bare hands





JR’s SouthPork Ranch is an Iowa State Fair experience like no other. And so was building the iconic, fun-loving brand. Let’s go behind-the-scenes and take an in-depth look at the Red Dot branding process that helped launch the phenomenon. We’re talking ‘bout how we built the brand platform, what goes into creating the voice, how we bring it all to life in the building and more. So, grab your 10-gallon hat and hitch up. You don’t want to be the last one to the chuckwagon.

+ JR’s went from 0 to 2,677 followers on Facebook in just a few short months.

+ More than 5,000 lobster rolls were sold in 10 days at the Iowa State Fair.

+ Became a member of the Million Dollar Club its first year by selling over $1 million dollars during the Iowa State Fair.

Step 1: Branding Platform

Say it with us—a brand is not just a logo. It’s a position, a promise, a voice and a look. (And also, a logo.) Now, let’s talk about how we built a brand for JR’s SouthPork Ranch with nothing but rawhide, bailing wire and our branding process. Giddyup!

We started with the location. And talked about how our client planned to remodel the iconic space. We talked about the audiences. Thinking about who’s going to spend time at JR’s—and why. Then, we talked about the menu. And how the food was going to be homemade and deliciously groundbreaking.

Then, we combined the insights, the dreams and the 10-gallon hats to develop a position that was full of swagger, a voice that was sassy but endearing and a look that was totally 80s cowboy kitsch—exactly what our client wanted.

Brand Color Palette + Graphic Elements

Now that we knew what JR’s SouthPork Ranch stood for, it was time to see what it looked like. We developed a Southwestern color palette straight from the glamorous 80s to give the brand a retro cool vibe that popped. We also developed unique neon-centric illustrations and a secondary logo reminiscent of a cattle brand.

Brand Voice

A little bit country. A whole lotta sass. The brand voice we developed for JR’s is rural and unapologetic. It has western attitude, foodie knowledge and a little mayo on the corner of its mouth. It conveys the brand’s swagger—sure, but it’s welcoming and friendly, too.

Step 2: Web

Next, we brought the JR’s brand to life on their website. We started with our Discovery and UX process to make sure visitors to the site could find what they were looking for quickly—whether it was the event schedule or a fanny pack full of bacon. Then we applied the brand look with a mix of custom illustration, photography and type design—all using our brand’s unique color palette. The voice? Well, it speaks for itself.

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Step 3: Merch

Every good brand (like every good cowpoke) needs the proper gear. And JR’s SouthPork Ranch provided a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create it. We designed everything from koozies and t-shirts to belt buckles and handkerchiefs. We even wrote and designed the staff shirts, which were a hit with staff and guests alike.

Step 4: Public Relations

Everybody was talking about JR’s SouthPork Ranch even before it opened. That’s because our PR team was writing press releases and using media contacts to get our client’s story in the news from groundbreaking day to opening day. We told their unique story and helped build buzz across broadcast outlets and print media. And our client helped out by bringing “color” to our media days as well.

Step 5: Environment

Red Dot designed it all. (That’s more than 100 signs, if you’re counting.) Not only that, but we assisted with installation, too. Even the wallpaper was custom designed by our team to convey a feeling of kitchy, sassy attitude with a bit of glamor, of course. And when one piece had to move due to logistical challenges, we were on-site, working with the client on options.

SHOUTOUT to our printing partner Christian Edwards for great work and even greater patience under pressure.  

Step 6: Photography

Every good restaurant needs extraordinary food photography. So, naturally, we did that, too. From deliciously beautiful photos of chicken sandwiches to mouth-watering pictures of pork rind nachos, we took ‘em all.

Step 7: Even More

The Red Dot team was part of the JR’s team from brand platform to opening day—and then some. Designing, writing, painting, installing, moving, correcting and yes—sampling all that amazing food—to make sure our client was the talk of the fair. And we’re honored to say we accomplished our goal as JR’s took home the Iowa State Fair 2021 Excellence in Innovation Award. That’s what a good brand can do. ‘Til next year, y’all!

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