Bolstering a Brand with Many Moving Parts

Spice Companies

by Muse Content Group

Over the last seven years, Muse Content Group has worked to build content on behalf of the Spice companies, helping transform a basement start up into a multi-million enterprise with thousands of engaged fans.

Spice of Life Catering Co. was founded in 2006 as a boutique catering firm serving locally sourced fare at upscale events. Through stellar product and service, Chef Ben Bebenroth and his team earned a reputation as the go-to caterer for many of the best events in town.

Editor’s Note: This case study earned us the illustrious title of 2012 Content Marketing Leader of the Year. Thank you, Content Marketing Institute, for rewarding the methods behind our madness.


When Chef Bebenroth opened Spice Kitchen + Bar in January 2012, he was faced with the challenge of building awareness beyond the region’s upper echelons with a restaurant brand that appealed to a broader audience: the middle- to upper-class demographic with an interest in local food, memorable dining experiences, and creative presentation.


We started the planning process by outlining objectives:

  • Establish and maintain a position of authority in the local foods arena among an increasingly crowded marketplace.
  • Leverage the equity in the catering company brand to build awareness for – and drive traffic to – the new restaurant.
  • Encourage audiences to participate in the local foods movement by providing practical advice on purchasing and growing.
  • Elevate brand value and enhance credibility by supporting marketing claims with engaging content.

The content plan had its own set of directives because it involved a hefty investment in time and resources. From Facebook to Twitter to Instagram, eNewsletters to blog entries, Muse used fun and inspiring content to:

  • Repurpose into additional marketing/PR avenues (ex: using blog entries to pitch journalists on feature stories, etc.).
  • Increase organic rankings by infusing captions and blog entries with keywords.
  • Acquire audience feedback to optimize restaurant services and offerings.

Within a little over a year, Spice Kitchen + Bar was rewarded for its efforts with overwhelmingly positive restaurant reviews and a nod for Cleveland’s Best Restaurant.

Cleveland Magazine Cover

Cover girl.

Read on to learn how Muse employed a holistic approach to content strategy and development, transforming restaurant guests into engaged brand advocates.


The Spice brand landscape has a number of moving parts, including three companies and two product brands with seven different content feeds that must be continually maintained and cross-promoted. This complexity is simplified and strengthened through the identification of a central brand position:

The Spice companies promote economic vitality and physical wellness across Northeast Ohio by growing, purchasing, and preparing local, sustainable foods.

All businesses tie into the central position of economic vitality and physical wellness.

Read more about how clients benefit from the Muse brand positioning process.


Once the business objectives and brand positioning were clearly defined, the content strategy aligned in support. Here are some tactical highlights that resulted in real returns:

Brand Hub: We designed as the digital brand hub for all three companies, based on an interrelated brand architecture. This “all under one roof” strategy allowed the company cross-promote, encouraging audiences who may have been interested with in one Spice company to passively engage with other companies and activities.

Content Aggregation: served as the content hub, auto-aggregating all primary content feeds, including a blog, Flickr account, and Facebook feed. The company could feature timely updates on the site without the expense of the web developer; the modules used have helped grow the fan/follower bases on a daily basis, simply through strategic on-site placement.

Content aggregation saves time and aggevation.

Content aggregation saves time and aggravation.

Brand Voice: While the catering company voice is formal and eloquent to suit upscale audiences, the restaurant voice is approachable and fun. It’s like as the snarky little brother in the brand family. Captions and posts expressed this personality to help Spice stand apart among dozens of restaurants fighting for attention. Note the differences in tone between two brands of the same family:

Catering sophistication.

Catering sophistication.


Quick Spice snark.

Quick Spice snark.

Strategic Hyperlinking: Blog entries are hyperlinked to specific pages within the main website (i.e. The catering web page dedicated to the client’s wedding approach is linked to Spice blog entries tagged “Cleveland Weddings” and vice versa). This drew the digital visitor deeper into the brand experience, and supported the sales team with demonstrative evidence of sales claims.

Reputation Management: Content is consistently used to reinforce claims. For example, when a Yelp critic complained about the size of a sea bass dish, Muse stepped in to publicly respond with a link to the picture of the dish on the Spcie Flickr feed, which both accepted and discredited her complaint.

Our response to a rare poor review, linked to specific pages of content that support our position.

Our response to a rare poor review, linked to specific pages of content that support our position.

The sea bass in question, which lives in the Spice Flickr Dinner Special set.

The sea bass in question, which lives in the Spice Flickr Dinner Special set.


Feel-good Partner Features: The Spice blog features stories about other organizations; when we send them the entries, they promote it to their own fan/follower groups, which broadens reach and awareness. This has generally resulted in a few new quality followers.

Content Repurposing: Upon requesting images to support this feature article, the journalist was sent a link to this Spice flickr set to review a collection of images. High res files were quickly sent upon request.

Blog Share

Paid Media Extension: Spice has invested in traditional print advertising to reach audiences outside social media platforms. All print ads were designed to pique interest and draw the audience into a broader story on The Spice Blog. The performance was measured by direct hits to the URL featured in the call to action.

The "War on Deer" Spice Blog entries had the highest traffic and engagement rates of the year.

The “War on Deer” Spice Blog entries had the highest traffic and engagement rates of the year.


It’s essential to note that the Spice case study is one of quality over quantity. The client does not have 1,000 seats to fill, or thousands of product SKUs to sell on an eCommerce site. Therefore, intensive direct marketing and paid media initiatives were not employed. Instead, the content plan burned low and slow, allowing the fan/follower base to grow on a daily basis. Interaction and share rates have been exceptionally high compared to similar restaurants with larger fan bases.

The site analytics show lengthy time on site, with patterns in visitor behavior demonstrating deep engagement across all brand channels and external content platforms. The client has also used metrics to measure audience preferences, optimizing menu development based on extremes in response. Overall, the efforts have resulted in direct sales (“I saw your special on Facebook and I changed my dinner plans tonight!”) as well as building a solid culinary reputation in the local foods arena.

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