Sweetgreen and Brand Ballast.


The Sweetgreen brand strategy is a little bit like one of their salads. Lots and lots of healthy things. Take for example the Curry Cauliflower salad, made with blackened chicken thighs, curry roasted cauliflower, shredded cabbage, cilantro, raisins, warm quinoa, organic arugula, Sweetgreen hot sauce, cucumber tahini yogurt dressing. This amazing assort of ingredients provides the tongue with rich tastes and wonderful flavors. Also crunchiness. Sweetness. Warmth. Coolness. In cooking, this approach works brilliantly when done with finesse.

In branding, however, too many ingredients can cause the brown effect. The color that results when adding too many colors together. Sweetgreen, bless their hearts, tries to do so many good things that their insular message is lost. Or watered down.

It’s weird because Sweetgreen does many things so right. But from a brand organization perspective it needs to boil it all down…to three, manageable ingredients.

Here are a couple of lifts from the website:

“We want to make an impact and leave people better than we found them, and we tailor our approach in each market to reflect the needs of the community.” This is a non-endemic mission with no place in brand strategy.

“Create experiences where passion and purpose come together.” Marko-babble, though well-intended. Again, not endemic.

I could go on. This company is well positioned in the marketplace owing to pent-up demand for healthier food options and sustainability. The clientele is loyal, the product outstanding. But those things are replicable. What isn’t replicable is brand ballast. Sweetgreen today needs to double down on it’s brand focus. If so, it will paint a way forward that is indelible and timeless.