How to take branding to the next level? Step into the Bao universe
Bao’s branding has its roots in fine art and Erchen took us through the evolution of the character which has been refined over the years, conceptually and stylistically. In time, the parallel universe where the Lonely Man exists gradually grew, fuelled by Erchen’s imagination. She took us through the extent of this universe, detailing the architectural inspiration behind each of Bao’s venues which emulate Taiwanese bbq joints, Japanese bars and so on. The specific details of this branding story are all part of a sprawling narrative arc. From the interior design to the posters hanging on the wall (which are all by Erchen), the menus, packaging, labels, aprons and more, each carefully considered design has a purpose and adds a further layer of detail to the Bao universe. “We always had a vision of creating a Bao world beyond a restaurant,” she said on the artwork which “exists for a far deeper meaning than to sell food.”
When Erchen Chang first appeared on our online events platform, the creative director was poised with a well-situated green cocktail in a dainty martini glass. It was at London’s prestigious Slade that Erchen met her husband, and one of the Lonely Man’s first public appearances occurred during Erchen’s degree show. Originally created in 2012, the character arose from this idea of the lonely man, a hint to the Asian salary man, something she expressed through a performance piece that she shared with the audience in the intriguing opening of her talk.
Delving into several other characters which also appear throughout the Bao universe, Erchen’s highly entertaining and insightful talk was a testament to how exciting branding can be. “Bao is more than just a place to eat,” she went on to remind us, “when you sit in our restaurant you’re sitting in a story.” And this story is not one to miss. Catch the full talk in a couple of weeks here on It’s Nice That.
A significant part of Erchen’s talk leant into the characterisation of the Lonely Man logo and how the character, which plays on ideas of male fragility and the scarceness of male tears, developed through the application of different outlets. The creative director even took us through a brand guideline for Lonely Man which encapsulates all aspects of his personality from his eye contact to the length of his beard (each hair must be the length of a sesame seed).
Erchen explained how the branding was created with “a sense of melancholy without being sad, but rather humorous.” It’s an unusual adjective to use for branding but one that works exceptionally well in the case of this wry visual language. She then went on to discuss this unconventional balance of emotions in the work.