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Posted October 26, 2015

Driven to serve: activating the Miniat brand from the inside out

Jell has just completed the first phase of an exciting, whirlwind branding engagement. Moreover, it’s in a sector we haven’t visited in nearly 20 years: the food ingredients industry. Everyone on our team learned a lot, and we met some wonderful people along the way.

First, some background: it all started with a phone call from Liz Sartain, marketing manager at The Miniat Family of Companies. Liz said she was seeking a long-term partner — a branding and marketing firm that could help her achieve some ambitious goals in the coming year. We set up a meeting with Liz and Chuck Nalon, president of the Ed Miniat company, to learn more.

Heading into the meeting, we knew this much: the family-owned business had been around for five generations, founded over 100 years ago by a Lithuanian immigrant peddling meat in the South Side neighborhoods around Chicago’s stockyards.

Chuck and Liz filled us in on the rest of the company’s history: how Miniat grew along with the stockyards in the first part of the 20th century and how the collapse of the stockyards in the 1950s led to the creation of two new Miniat companies: Ed Miniat, which prepares custom cuts of meat at large scale for national food brands and restaurant chains; and South Chicago Packing, which focuses on producing animal fat products like oils and shortening. If you have ever eaten at a fast food or chain restaurant, microwaved a frozen meal, or enjoyed fried chicken or donuts, you’ve probably consumed something produced by a Miniat company.

Back to the challenge at hand: over the past 20 years, the Miniat companies have been on a tear, growing their workforces and expanding facilities. Chuck told us that at one point he knew every single employee, but that wasn’t possible anymore. They were hiring so quickly, how could they restore that all-important family feel?

For the past year, Chuck and Liz had worked with the rest of the company’s leadership to articulate their mission and values — a unifying manifesto they would be able to share with all employees at both companies. The first opportunity to unveil the mission (dubbed “Driven to Serve™”) was in late September at the CEO Address, so we had a little more than a month to get everything ready.

Immersion was the first step. We visited the Ed Miniat and South Chicago Packing facilities, talked with management, learned about their businesses, and toured the plants — as clean and modern as laboratories, with abundant food safety processes in place. What stood out most to us, however, were the people. Everywhere we went, we were greeted with smiles and hellos from employees in every department. That friendly, family-style culture we had heard about? It was truly authentic and wholly energizing.

Our next step was giving life to the “Driven to Serve” initiative and activating it in every way we could imagine at each of the employee launch events — one event for each of the three shifts at each of the four plants.

As employees arrived to begin their days, they encountered gigantic Miniat-red banners and balloons, cryptically announcing “D2S.” Since no one had been informed of the “Driven to Serve” brand rollout, there were many people asking each other what was going on and what D2S meant. The effect was perfect: tons of curiosity and a sense that something big was about to happen.

We were there bright and early for setup each day and helped Liz make every event sparkle. In each session, after CEO David J. Miniat explained the mission to each employee group and premiered their new “Driven to Serve” video, he directed employees to help themselves to a celebratory spread of food and swag. It was a blast. On each of the brand rollout days, we personally handed out hundreds of meals, D2S cupcakes, “mission memo” cubes and magnets, and “Driven” T-shirts.

Per the “Driven to Serve” credo, top Miniat management worked right alongside us, serving their employees and making sure the entire experience was both fun and meaningful. It was great for us too: being so hands-on in helping to activate the Miniat brand.

Branding doesn’t get much more gratifying and “real life” than this.

The next step is to communicate Miniat’s mission to the world. We’ll post an update once we complete the rollout. We are eager to continue our partnership with our friends at Ed Miniat and South Chicago Packing.

UPDATE POSTED April 3, 2016

We’ve gone live. Learn more about Jell’s launch of a new family of websites for Miniat.