Events Interviews Tech

Tangoo Talks, Episode Two: Digital Branding

By on May 13, 2017

For this edition, we decided to focus more deeply on digital marketing. After overwhelming feedback from our guests, we decided to take our next Tangoo Talk to a stronger focus on digital marketing. We looked for the businesses we looked to for inspiration – we wanted to invite panelists that had done it well, innovated and spoke with confidence on the topic. Our panelists were Damon Holowchak, Marketing Director of Donnelly Group, Mark Brand, founder of Save On Meats, Angela Luo of Melu Health & Juice Bar, and Stephen Irving of Stephen Irving Communications Inc. Damon spoke about scalability, old school strategies and how they adapt to modern world. Angela focused on the customer connection and using social media to build community. Mark focused on bold ways to support the community.


Learnings & Takeaways

Below are some of our favourite snippets from the evening. Follow along – we hope you pick up some new tips!

On Instagram content:

“A year ago, if you asked what I’d want for social content, I’d say cheap wings. But I’ve learned through experience that that’s not what people are looking for. They’re looking for a beautiful juice by the window, an experience with their friends. Also, a burger or chicken wings are nice, but they just don’t look that good in photos. It gets old. Right now, any content should be good enough to share with your uncle in Winnipeg, so we gotta step things up and make it worthwhile. If it doesn’t hit that level it’s not that meaningful. They could Google us if they’re hungry for wings but that’s about it. It’s a big brand play. Is our shit cool? If it’s not cool, I’m wasting my time talking to them about it.

This culture didn’t used to exist five years ago.

It’s important to have good food but it’s more important to focus on what we are showing people. Less is more for us. Quality is most important when it comes to content. It’s more about the experience we’re creating than the burger. It’s a good looking burger, but it’s not that important.

On the Nature of Social Media

Damon (bold names to stand out, lots of text here): Social is the most interesting part of online. It’s not an easy thing to do and its not fun. But you can define where it goes. It’s a unique animal. If I had one pub, I could be the social media manager for it and I’d either run everything or have my hands buried deep in it. I have 10 pubs doing different things. They have to talk about the same thing every day and I have to push that content out, forever. You’re saying the same thing, but not the same thing.

Mark: People will support what they co-create. Get your staff and your audience involved, engaged. Regram them to give them that rush. Help them leave an imprint on your business. Talk about everyone but yourself. That’s how you get people to care about your business, in many ways.

On customer service:

Angela: When we first opened, I worked from 6 am to 8 pm. I dealt with every single customer that entered the store. I really got to know everyone. I believe in customer service more than the quality of our product – it can overwhelm everything. People will have different opinions on your product, but if you can talk to them and make a connection, they still leave happy and open to trying something else.

Damon: If you create a truly social experience, people will like it. It sounds easy but it isn’t. Especially when you get to restaurant 10 and employee 669, it’s hard for it to trickle down – that exact perfect experience that you want. Some places just crush it. Think what you want of the Cactus Clubs and the Earls, but they nail it every time. If I want that burger, it’ll be perfect every time. It’ll be the same type of person, the same quality – and the consistency is very high. We get spoiled here. We don’t know a world without Earls. For your birthday you go to the Keg and it’s awesome. So when you have a pub, it’s casual. You come in, you seat yourself, and if you don’t hit that bar it’s not good. We’re a pub – we’re a high five, a handshake and beer. But we have to offer an exceptional experience.

It can’t just come on time, be hot, and taste good. People are going out to eat, and they’re sharing it on their personal social media. It has to be important enough to share it with their uncle, who’s in Winnipeg.

If it doesn’t hit that level it’s not that meaningful. This culture didn’t used to exist five years ago. We think about this when do photos. We look at things, we ask why it’s there.

Offline Vs. Digital Marketing


Damon: It’s a tough animal. I want to support, but I can spend the same amount of money and see who the person is, what they did. I can put the face of the person I want to reach. It’s hard to quantify offline print. At the same time it’s cool working with the Railway Club. We’re doing promo budget, hand to hand stuff. I’m traditional, old school, so I love doing stuff from the ‘90’s.

Digital can get stale too. Offline culture was fun because you were high fiving everyone. Now it’s just clicks and scrolls.

Mark: We avoid paying for offline marketing. We focus on making ourselves worth writing about. How do we get the coverage? Impact. We’ve probably had a million dollars in free advertising. Do a project you will care about and trust it will get coverage.

Angela: An offline advertising budget is too much for us to handle. We can’t see the impact. Honestly, if you don’t have the budget I think offline marketing is not worth it, especially a small budget. I can’t emphasize enough using social media. When you advertise offline, you are reaching people who may not be hungry. But when you have Instagram, it’s like you’re carrying around a magazine. It’s a continuous reference for them.

On Brand Voice

Damon: The voice has to sound like a person is behind there. It’s so important to have a human behind there. Some people want it to have grit and some think it’s too much. Hopefully they don’t sound too robotic but it’s hard to shake that.

On Content Strategy

Damon: Social is the most interesting part of online. It’s not an easy thing to do and its not fun. But you can define where it goes. It’s a unique animal. If I had one pub, I could be the social media manager for it and I’d either run everything or have my hands buried deep in it. I have 10 pubs doing different things. They have to talk about the same thing every day and I have to push that content out, forever. You’re saying the same thing, but not the same thing.

It matters less what you’re trying to say, but more what people like about what you post.

Mark: Support everyone else but yourself. Be excited to support your neighbourhood spot. Do this for other businesses and people will get excited. I want to sell really hot photos but I also want my staff to be stoked on the special. So you have to give them something striking to be involved with. People will support what they co-create. Make it a place that’s iconic to visit. Regram people who take photos with you – that digital high makes them feel so good.

We get our staff to post three times a day. Once at 10, once at noon, and once at 430. And they go, can I also do my job? Yes they can, but we have to find a way for them to enjoy the task and be excited to be involved.


Angela: The layout needs to be good. We have followers from all over the world because they like the content we post. Instagram is also a huge community, there are so many foodies on there. When you don’t know what you want you can just go on Yelp or Zomato and figure it out from there.

You only have so much product – we carry 10 juices. So I keep it fun by posting animal photos (I like to be funny). You can post something that’s relevant to theme of your page. It’s fun to experiment on your social. It’s free. If you feel it looks wrong you can always just take it down.  I post stuff sometimes and ask people to tag their friends and it gets a lot of engagement.

Damon Holowchak Quote


Damon: I come from old school. If I spend this much I can get this much reach and that would be that. Before you could go to your boss and say what you can do with flyers. But with digital, you go to your boss and say if we do this we could get some likes and that’d be it. And they’d say, what, are you kidding? That’s not enough. It’s a necessary evil and the analytics have gotten more sophisticated. Now if I post a photo of a beer will people come barreling through the door? It doesn’t work like that.

People are understanding there’s branding equity there. If you have authenticity, and people care it’ll have impact. The impact isn’t in dollars anymore – it’s in, I tagged my friend, I liked it. We’re starting to get some numbers back on this.

On Giving Back

Mark: What does your customer care about? They know they’ll get the same burger, packaged in xyz, it’ll be served the exact same way. It’ll be from Two Rivers. What’s that third layer? It’s if they feel good for what they did. Seeing the popularity of Mealshare is really exciting to me. People are like, oh – this. I get it. It’s metrics, it’s not just talking about it. What is it that your staff want to achieve? It shouldn’t be a top down thing. It should be if your staff care about something, you should reflect that in your business.

Your customers really care, and more importantly, if you don’t do this, your customers will open their phone and go, oh, you don’t do anything? I’ll go to your competitor.

Final thoughts:

Mark: Do shit that you care about. You could go to an event and spend $250 wearing too tight jackets with people you don’t really want spend time with. Or you could come to Greasy Spoon and support the community, and probably have a better time. It’s up to you. We have broken china so you know all the profits are going to support the needy.

donnelly group

About Donnelly Group

John Donnelly’s restaurant group is a home grown success story. After starting the infamous Bimini’s pub in Kitsilano, John Donnelly’s business got a boost during the 2010 Winter Olympics. He went on to open more and more bars. Today, Donnelly has 10 businesses, ranging from pubs, cocktail bars, night clubs, restaurants and barber shops. They run a variety of different businesses, from casual to high end. In Gastown alone, they have three businesses in one corner – a pub, cocktail lounge and a barber shop all combined.

Damon has been at the helm of their marketing operations since the beginning.

Melu Juice Bar

About Melu Health & Juice Bar

Owned and operated by Melissa Woo and and Angela Luo, Melu came into existence from Instagram inspiration! Located in Coal Harbour, this spot offers cold pressed juices, vegan meals, and cleanses. All the décor is set up to be “Instagram-friendly” – a special spot for the juice shot, good natural light, and bright, healthy products. Both ladies opened personal Instagram accounts and got connected to the community through the platform. After attaining high followings, they decided to open the business together to offer busy people options to stay healthy. We were thrilled to bring together someone who had knowledge of the power of social media personally and professionally.

Save On Meats

About Save-On-Meats

Iconic and bold, this Gastown restaurant is owned by Mark Brand. He is a vocal advocate of hiring those with employability barriers and loves inspiring other business owners to do the same. Save On Meats houses a classic diner, full service butcher, catering department, and a community commissary kitchen. It is considered a social enterprise and known in the North American business community for its cutting-edge employment models and focus on local food security. They work with many community groups, educational institutions, and non-profits.

Missed out? Here are some photos from the event For a full album, click here. To watch a video of the highlights, click here.

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