December 16, 2014 Jen Maltby

Lessons from the Kitchen: Brand Management and Mise en Place

One of my favorite chefs is Anthony Bourdain, so you can imagine my delight when a friend recently posted an article inspired by him and his book, “Kitchen Confidential,” on her Facebook feed (can you believe it, something useful in my Facebook feed?!). In the article (and the book) Bourdain reveals the secret to a chef’s seemingly “effortless dance” in the kitchen – it’s their mise en place.

Mise en place, at its most basic translation, means “put in place,” and it is used to describe the practice of chefs carefully preparing their work stations and kitchens so that everything is in place before they begin to cook – thus ensuring a perfect execution of their meal. Essentially, they consider the end goal and work backwards to get there. The article goes on to recommend that the approach is applicable to those of us who work in offices. Consider the following paragraph:

“What’s the first thing you do when you arrive at your desk? For many of us, checking email or listening to voice mail is practically automatic. In many ways, these are among the worst ways to start a day. Both activities hijack our focus and put us in a reactive mode, where other people’s priorities take center stage. They are the equivalent of entering a kitchen and looking for a spill to clean or a pot to scrub.”

It almost seems too brilliantly obvious to not have thought of it before, right? I mean why wouldn’t we approach our day with the end goal in mind, and set up our space to help us get to that execution? Well, let me tell you, that seemingly obvious thought inspired me today – so much so that I spent most of the morning mise en place-ing the heck out of my office. I organized, re-organized, cleaned and recycled all with my end goal for the day in mind.

This also got me thinking about how we apply this same theory to the larger world of brand management. As our marketing budgets, targets and media channels become more fragmented and complex, the time has never been more important to ensure that you have applied the theory of mise en place to your brand strategy. Is everything “put in place” for your brand? I would challenge you to take a step back from your day-to-day grind and really think about your end goal for your brand and then ensure that all the pieces and parts that build your brand story are in place to serve that end goal. Because if they aren’t, Anthony Bourdain and I agree that “you’ll soon find yourself spinning in place and calling for backup,” not only making your job harder but making the job of your customers harder as they try to figure out who you are and what you stand for.

So when you walk into the office tomorrow, before you open those emails and listen to those voicemails, think like a chef and ensure that you have everything for your brand in order.

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