Kudos to the Design Agency for TokyoSmoke

Written by Tim McLarty

December 1, 2017

What do you do when you’re the ad agency assigned to promote a hip new coffee house that is just a bit out of the way.  To be more precise, it’s up and out of the way.  Coffee chain TokyoSmoke opened their 3rd Toronto location in the rapidly hipsterizing neighbourhood of Riverside at Queen and Broadview.  The challenge?  Their location is not readily available to instant walk in traffic.



My video studio is right next door and I walked by several times before figuring out you need to go inside the front entrance of 100 Broadview, stickhandle down a hallway past uber agency Brightworks, past Formefitness  and up to the left.

Solution?  Buy a small billboard just a few feet up the street in clear view of a major transit stop.  What seals the deal for me is the caption that ties together the problem with the product; meet us up high.   “High”.  Insert snicker here.  Tokyo Smoke is not named for a new charcoal infused coffee.  It combines a high end nectar of the bean with paraphernalia that plays into the soon to be legal cannabis craze.



It should be noted, my praise is genuine.  I do not know any of the principles.  But I know clever marketing and applaud the approach of building a headline into the main vertical of the business.  I droned on for years in to my Humber copywriting students, “Don’t let the sell get lost in the weeds”.   Entertaining and humorous messaging generally gets attention.  But if you lead the viewer/listener down a path that doesn’t point back to what you’re selling, you’ve made your client involuntarily fund entertainment that doesn’t lead back to impressions, brand building or ultimately sales generation. For that 5% who retain everything, they may relate the smile back to the advertiser.  But the last time I looked, today’s heads down, thumbs of fury text generation are not looking to set any records for altruism.  And frankly, the most effective advertising always remembers that the audience is ultimately thinking  “Ummmm… okay but how does this benefit moi?”

Kudos to the Design Agency for TokyoSmoke. This was beautiful out of the box thinking.   But in the bean eat bean world of coffee culture, clever advertising doesn’t build longevity. Further accolades to Regina based “Leo’s Hospitality Management Group.   I was impressed with the young barista who served me.  She was “fired up” on the brand and the product, spoke articulately and was knowledgable about, well, coffee.   She was well chosen and treated the business as though it were her own and was passionate about it.  When a company has its act together and builds a solid product from the ground up, employees buy in and everyone wins.

Oh, and my mantra of not letting the message get lost in the weed(s)?   I’ll take cannabis jokes for 20 Alex.


#thedesignagency  #tokyosmoke  #leoshospitalitygroup

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Tim McLarty - Ontrack Communications Inc.

About the author

Tim McLarty is creative director at Ontrack Communications in Toronto. He’s a podcaster, and his background includes 9 years as professor of media creation at Humber College and 17 years as a broadcaster across Canada.  Ontrack is a media studio creating video, motion graphics, audio and podcast content.  In his spare time he makes short films and travels to any country that will have him.