With a personality every bit as sweet as a serving of pomegranate frozen yogurt topped with Fruity Pebbles, Pinkberry creative director Yolanda Santosa charmed the audience at the Y Conference with her secret recipe to branding the great small business phenomenon of our time.
Santosa wasn’t always the Queen of FroYo. She worked for years in motion graphics at Yu+Co, on a team that designed the opening titles for Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty. But Santosa (who everyone just calls “Yo”) was also “obsessed” with branding, namely Apple. When she found out she had the same birthday as Steve Jobs, that got her thinking she might have a higher calling.
One day she walked by a tiny West Hollywood yogurt shop. She was so entranced by the experience (and she loved the puckery sourness that’s signature of Pinkberry yogurt) that she took a week off her motion graphics job to prepare a 90-page branding pitch for their business that included her personal branding heroes. She got the job on the spot. Two years later, Pinkberry has grown from that one shop to 70 locations nationwide.
Pinkberry was unusual in that the branding was actually defined by the look of the store design, not the other way around. Santosa’s work played upon the colorful transparency of the plastic Philippe Starck chairs and the sleek, space age countertops. The website is extremely minimal, accenting this white yogurt-on-white background, with only the colors of the toppings punctuating the space. It made the yogurt the hero; almost a character.
The fans loved it, obviously, so Santosa proposed creating the Pinkberry Groupie, equating Pinkberry to a rock star. Her choice to describe the yogurt as “Swirly Goodness” represented a more fun way to communicate what exactly was happening inside. They even have Groupie events where hard core fans get free Pinkberry for five hours to create masterpieces out of their yogurt (cue yogurt snowmen and Christmas trees). Pinkberry’s story is so legendary, Santosa actually created supergraphics for some of the stores that show its history in visuals. Santosa’s site has more about the Pinkberry case study.
It’s hard not to think that Santosa’s enthusiasm is responsible for some of Pinkberry’s runaway success. Her joyous embrace for the design work wouldn’t have been possible if she hadn’t started out as a Pinkberry fan. Her secret to branding? “You want to design something that you yourself is in love with.” Spoken like Pinkberry’s #1 Groupie.