For over 40 years, Lino’s has been a family restaurant favorite and Italian food staple in Rockford, Illinois. Family-owned and operated, Lino’s started as a pizza and Italian restaurant in 1972. Since then, they have expanded their restaurant through a catering division and pizza takeout.

Coining the slogan, “Come Home to Lino’s Tonight,” the restaurant earned a reputation for their family-friendly environment. Over the years, Lino’s consistent service and quality food has attracted an impressively-large following in the community and devoted group of regular customers.

Expanding Lino’s Devoted Customer Base

In the summer of 2017, Lino’s reached out to Thinker to update their brand, knowing they needed to freshen up their logo. As Thinker began diving deeper into Lino’s brand identity, we discovered the key reason why a brand refresh was so important: the customer base at Lino’s had been the same for years, and it was time to reach a new segment of patrons.

We worked with Lino’s to begin defining who they wanted to reach and how to effectively capture the attention of a younger group of eaters. Thinker conducted market research and surveys to identify unique ways to position Lino’s to a new generation of customers.

With an expedited timeline and core team of brand experts at Thinker, we delivered on phase one of a brand refresh which included the following activities:

  • Conducted market surveys to determine audience segmentation and eaters’ preferences
  • Completed research analysis to hone in on new brand and market positioning
  • Designed new logo to combine Lino’s core identity with updated aesthetic
  • Defined a new slogan and restaurant tagline
  • Developed social media graphics for ongoing promotion
  • Created digital signage and printed materials with new identity elements

Phase two of Lino’s brand refresh will continue in the coming year and will include making additional website changes, updating menu designs, and rolling out new marketing communication tactics.

Research-Driven Approach to Lino’s Branding

Unique to Lino’s brand refresh project was the need to maintain a brand continuity between the old and the new. For Lino’s, it was critical to retain their decades-old customer base while simultaneously attracting a new, younger demographic. This was a challenge that required a 360-degree view of their customers which could only be attained through market research.

Taking a research-driven approach, Thinker was able to define which elements of the current branding needed to change and which needed to remain. Creating a synthesis of the two was a challenge that Thinker’s team worked diligently with Lino’s to define.

One of the results of the market research revealed the need for a new tagline. Survey respondents in the younger age range that Lino’s was attempting to target were indicating Lino’s was not the place they would come for drinks and food with friends.

A tagline change was one of the most direct ways to reposition Lino’s in the market. By changing the tagline from “Pizza and Italian Restaurant” to “Spirits & Ristorante,” Thinker was able to create an appeal to this new audience with the mention of “spirits” while retaining the authenticity of Lino’s Italian cuisine with the word “ristorante.” This edged Lino’s away from the mom-and-pop restaurant toward the place where millennials and young professionals come straight from work for happy hour.

Unveiling the Updated Lino’s Identity

The final logo design played off the original marquis wine-glass-shaped sign that all patrons look up to see while walking in the front door of the restaurant. The new logo captured the ¾ tilted view to reflect the angle at which everyone looks up to view the sign. Plus, by mimicking the original font while modifying certain characters for better digital and print rendering, the new logo successfully struck a balance between the old and the new.

Additionally, Lino’s famous slogan was modified and updated to attract the new generation of patrons that was more interested in a fun time out with friends versus a hometown, family restaurant. The slogan became, “Your Friends are Here.” These updates were unveiled in the early fall of 2017, and have been added to their website as well as their in-house print and signage.

Targeting New Restaurant Demographic Worked!

The initial branding changes began to receive community-wide positive feedback. Lino’s has seen an increase in catering after wrapping their van with the updated branding. Also, Thinker worked with Lino’s to design a seasonal pizza box with the new branding and target demographic approach which contributed to a significant boost in sales as well as gift card purchases.