To differentiate its brand advertising and in-store marketing materials, and to better articulate its brand positioning as “the restaurant that best understands and promotes the passionate, personal, and emotional connection that the people of Greater Cincinnati have with their very own hometown dish, Cincinnati style chili,” Gold Star Chili commissioned a nationally known artist, C.F. Payne to visually tell the Gold Star/Cincinnati-style chili story.
Best known for his portraits of the famous and powerful and for his cover illustrations for publications such as Time, Sports Illustrated, Readers Digest, The New York Times Book Review, and The Atlantic Monthly, as well as his book illustrations for celebrity authors such as John Lithgow and Steve Martin, C.F. Payne is recognized by many as, “the Norman Rockwell of his generation.” But even more important than those credentials, Payne is a Cincinnati native and life-long lover of Cincinnati-style chili; therefore, he is familiar with the city’s attachment to chili, spaghetti, hot dogs, cheddar cheese, onions, and hot sauce.
“C.F. Payne was the natural choice for a project like this for the brand that is known as The Flavor of Cincinnati,” says Charlie Howard, Gold Star Chili director of marketing. “Mr. Payne a life-long resident of Cincinnati neighborhoods and a Cincinnati-style chili fan. And even though he is best known for his illustrations of famous personalities, the heart of his work is the depiction of everyday people; the kind of regular, hard-working individuals and families who have been Gold Star’s core customers for the past 45 years. This illustration is really a tribute to them.”
After recruiting, posing, and photographing real Gold Star Chili customers and employees as illustration models, Payne’s final product is a panoramic mural depicting a daily slice of life in a Gold Star Chili restaurant. From kids having their first cheese coney to teenagers on a first date to family night dining to returning veterans craving a taste of home, this original painting captures the essence of the Cincinnati-style chili dining experience.
The illustration will be reproduced and installed as a wall mural in select Gold Star Chili restaurant locations throughout the Greater Cincinnati areas. Additionally, five to six close-up out-takes from the illustration will be framed and installed in Gold Star Chili restaurants to help provide an in-store ambiance that visually depicts Gold Star Chili’s brand position. Gold Star Chili will also use the illustration and out-takes in future advertising and marketing initiatives as well as the cover art for the next generation of Gold Star menus.
Based on the success of this project, Gold Star Chili is planning future collaborations with C.F. Payne. Next up, to better leverage Gold Star’s NFL sponsorship status as the “Official Chili of the Cincinnati Bengals.” During the next four years, Payne will create a series of paintings that offer a “tribute to Cincinnati Bengals fans.” The art will then be applied to upscale Bengals collectible merchandise that will be promoted and sold during football season with the purchase of specific food items targeted to the football fan.