After cranking out high-tech projects for fashion and retail brands since 2008, Gin Lane Media is bullish on the food industry as the next big market to rise with ecommerce and mobile technology.
The New York creative agency counts fashion names like Michael Kors and Harry's as clients. But it's this year's work with Sweetgreen—a chain of East Coast restaurants that specializes in local and organic ingredients—that is fueling the shop's business plan in 2015. Earlier this year, Gin Lane Media partnered with Sweetgreen to launch an online ordering platform that lets people skip the store line by placing an order from a laptop or smartphone. The chain's four New York restaurants are piloting the program with plans to roll it out to all locations in January.
Beside helping to figure out the behind-the-scenes technology, Gin Lane Media also photographed everything on Sweetgreen's menu so people can customize a meal before ordering it.
"I think that [the Sweetgreen work] is [an example of a] Gin Lane project—we had to do a lot of discovery and technical [work] to figure out what systems and partners to work with, and at the same time do a lot of brand exploration about how it should look for customers," said Emmett Shine, Gin Lane Media's founder and president.
"Because of the work that we've done with Sweetgreen, we've really seen an emerging market for us. We've historically done a lot with fashion and retail, but what we're good at is creating intuitive and efficient digital experiences. [It] makes a lot of sense in terms of what that offers fast casual [businesses]."
Shine cited convenience and a new crop of young entrepreneurs that position food as a lifestyle trend (think about the rise in high-end fast casual restaurants and Instagram food photographers) as the reason why his company is bringing in more food business.
Despite its recent successes with dining brands, Gin Lane Media (which employs 25 full-time staffers and a handful of contractors) still stays close to its roots with fashion and startup names.
In November, the team helped launch a shoppable Instagram program for Michael Kors called #InstaKors. After setting up an account, customers click on items they want on the retailer's Instagram page that are tagged with the #InstaKors hashtag. Then, they get an email with links to shop the products from Michael Kors' e-commerce site.
And this fall, Gin Lane Media helped build an iPhone app to launch Alfred Club—an app akin to a virtual butler that helps users hire people for housecleaning or grocery shopping.
Going into 2015, Shine said his company is in talks with larger brands interested in the same nimble tactics that startups are know for.
"[They're] looking to emulate the kind of startup-thinking and ideology when it comes to brand positioning and brand communication," Shine said.
All told, Gin Lane Media put out six to 10 projects this year—split between small management work and some larger projects, like the Sweetgreen one.
Setting Up Shop
As part of its shift to new areas this year, Gin Lane Media opened a studio space in Brooklyn, where it shoots photo, video and multimedia content for brands.
The idea for the studio came up after working with fashion label Opening Ceremony in 2013.
Gin Lane Media built an app called The Annual, a digital magazine that features work from different artists. Collaborating directly with the artists, the agency shot photos and videos to make the app as interactive and visual as possible.
"I think that really informed our mindset for 'content first.' We want to have a studio set up where we can shoot the content with our partners that's digitally-focused," noted Shine. "The studio is an R-and-D lab for us to work with our brand partners that are creating this more digitally-rich content."
In another example, the team worked with J.Crew to develop an app where people can tap photos of clothes to virtually spin them around.
Everything made in the studio is built with responsive design, meaning it will look the same on different devices and screens.
For Tom Ford, Gin Lane Media shot a Gif series with stop-motion animation.
"We shot it in a very specific way so that it compresses all the way down to look great on Tumblr, but it also can work in the windows on [London's] Oxford Street at Selfridge's or their installation in Macy's as a projection in New York—it has a lot of dynamics, motion and movement that can be used in different ways," Shine said.
Photos courtesy of Bond Street